Bitter Chocolate: Investigating the Dark Side of the World's Most Seductive Sweet

Award winning author and broadcaster Carol Off reveals the fascinating and often horrifying stories behind our desire for all things chocolate.Whether it s part of a Hallowe en haul, the contents of a heart shaped box or just a candy bar stashed in a desk drawer, chocolate is synonymous with pleasures both simple and indulgent But behind the sweet image is a long histAward winning author and broadcaster Carol Off reveals the fascinating and often horrifying stories behind our desire for all things chocolate.Whether it s part of a Hallowe en haul, the contents of a heart shaped box or just a candy bar stashed in a desk drawer, chocolate is synonymous with pleasures both simple and indulgent But behind the sweet image is a long history of exploitation In the eighteenth century the European aristocracy went wild for the Aztec delicacy In later years, colonial territories were ravaged and slaves imported in droves as native populations died out under the strain of feeding the world s appetite for chocolate.Carol Off traces the origins of the cocoa craze and follows chocolate s evolution under such overseers as Hershey, Cadbury and Mars In C te d Ivoire, the West African nation that produces nearly half of the world s cocoa beans, she follows a dark and dangerous seam of greed Against a backdrop of civil war and corruption, desperately poor farmers engage in appalling practices such as the indentured servitude of young boys children who don t even know what chocolate tastes like.Off shows that, with the complicity of Western governments and corporations, unethical practices continue to thrive Bitter Chocolate is a social history, a passionate investigative account and an eye opening expos of the workings of a multi billion dollar industry that has institutionalized misery as it served our pleasures.From the Hardcover edition.
Bitter Chocolate Investigating the Dark Side of the World s Most Seductive Sweet Award winning author and broadcaster Carol Off reveals the fascinating and often horrifying stories behind our desire for all things chocolate Whether it s part of a Hallowe en haul the contents of a

  • Title: Bitter Chocolate: Investigating the Dark Side of the World's Most Seductive Sweet
  • Author: Carol Off
  • ISBN: 9780679313205
  • Page: 324
  • Format: Paperback
  • 1 thought on “Bitter Chocolate: Investigating the Dark Side of the World's Most Seductive Sweet”

    1. This book is half history, half bitter condemnation of "Big Chocolate." As a chocolaholic myself, it did make bitter reading. Apparently, the international chocolate industry is fueled by the cruel exploitation of child labor in Africa. These children are treated no better than slaves. Others who are complicit in the many sins of this industry include the Europeans and American companies who profit from it, the IMF and World Bank who impose impossible conditions on producer nations, the corrupt [...]

    2. Could not finish. The author's preachiness turned me off. I get it: eating chocolate is bad news. Cacao bean farmers use slaves and are at the root of all evil. I got it in the first few chapters. By the middle of the book, I think I had the point and returned this one to the library.

    3. One of my favorite movies as a kid was Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971). What child did not want to win the golden ticket? Who didn't want to see the mysteries hidden behind the tall walls of the factory? Who didn't feverishly ride their bikes to the Penny Candy Store at every chance and buy sweets with grubby hands and hungry eyes? Isn't this why we worked for our allowance money? It was not until 15 years later in college that upon watching the film again after many years that I re [...]

    4. I thought this was an excellent book. I appreciated the thorough history of cacao and chocolate, from its first known cultivation and use, through centuries of export and trade, colonialism, world trade, cash cropping, slavery, industrialization, corporatization, post-colonial West African power, wealth and politics, and so on. I was very interested in the link to the Quakers, efforts to develop model communities around chocolate factories, the origins of all the great chocolate mass-producing c [...]

    5. Yes, it reads like a very long newspaper article. But get past that and you've got one entralling true story on your hands. If it doesn't move you to think about your next grocery store purchase, whatever it may be, you might want to consider the idea that you're dead inside. Read it.

    6. An excellent, well-researched and thorough look at the cocoa supply chain. Off addresses every aspect of the issue and her prose had me sucked in. Vivid writing. Bitter Chocolate was published more than a decade ago, and true to Off's assessment, the issue has not improved, in fact, it may be worse with more child slaves harvesting cocoa. The only thing left unaddressed that I would like to know is what do the children who do not work on the cocoa farms do? If school is not an option due to a la [...]

    7. I love chocolate. It's the one thing I crave, when I crave anything. But after reading this book, I'm reconsidering my love affair with the cocoa bean.CBC journalist Carol Off digs deep into the history of chocolate, from its use as a stimulant and an offering to the gods by various Meso-American tribes to its introduction to Europe, to the modern incarnation as a symbol of love. She also examines the problematical way cocoa trees are farmed, the labour practices in many of the areas where cocoa [...]

    8. I have never been a big chocolate consumer. According to some people I know, this is my most glaring character flaw. It is only that I don't have much of a sweet tooth and would prefer some salty cheese and a glass of red wine over a bit of chocolate any day. It wasn't until a year or two ago that I realized some of my chocolate avoidance came from just never being exposed to the right kind of chocolate. My friend Rachael began my education with some creative picks she found at our local natural [...]

    9. Wow.I had a fairly good idea that chocolate, like coffee, had a history steeped in blood, violence and slavery. As with coffee (and reading Coffee: A Dark History; /book/show/3) , I didn't realize just how bad those problems continued to be into modern times.The biggest thing I guess I take away from this is that I need to do a bit more research into what I am buying. I have long been a purchaser of fair trade coffee and chocolate, but perhaps not as religiously as I need be. There is also the i [...]

    10. What a fantastic account written by a Canadian journalist. This book tackles many sub-topics of the chocolate industry seamlessly. The chapters are well organized and the information is easy to follow, even as it descends into political and bureaucratic chaos. The beginning of the book was least interesting (I must admit I skipped a chapter) as the ancient, ancient history of chocolate felt a bit all-of-the-same to me, and I was much more interested in the contemporary issues. The last third, ho [...]

    11. Since this medical condition has come along i've been craving chocolate a lot more than ever before. It seems to have some stabilizing effect on my whacked-out blood sugar. But i've seen rumors that chocolate production involves horrible slavery and corruption.Carol Off, a Canadian writer (of course) went into the entire history of how chocolate production has worked. From early times, it has always been associated with elitism and slavery, even during the Aztec Empire. Now there are problems wo [...]

    12. Carol Off is a good writer, making history seem tangible and accessible. She's able to call people corrupt, greedy liars without ever really using those words, instead using their words to say it for her. Her opinions on issues are apparent without being didactic. Although the book focuses on the the history of the cocoa bean, and the capitalism it's rapped up in, it's also a study in globalization through a particular product. It was a fascinating read.The reason I only gave it 3 stars is becau [...]

    13. This book really depressed me. From this book, I learned that children/slaves mostly farm the cocoa for the chocolate we mostly eat. The book itself was hard to digest. Perhaps, because I was stuck in a doctor's office waiting room for 3 hours, I found many of the chapters barely edible for my eyes. I got lost a number times in a world of names and events.The rise of power of Hershey and Cadbury I found most interesting. That rise of power came with a rise of disgusting practices on their part ( [...]

    14. This book is definitely a good base to learn about the history of chocolate production as well as the current political / corporate ethical quagmires. The beginning of the book started with a good pace, but the middle was saturated in details about Mali and Cote D'Ivoire. Although it was interesting, it took me weeks to get through this section. The end of the book regained the tone of the first sections and I read the remaining 100 pages in 2 days. I was hoping that this book would go into deta [...]

    15. Only read this book if you are willing to change your habits of decadence. Looking at history, society, and current events through the lens of one idea - in this case, chocolate – often opens a whole new world to view. That’s the case here. It's a history - sometimes fascinating, sometimes slow (there’s a reason I didn’t study business!), but always intriguing. It’s a look at globalization – through a detailed examination of the development of one slice of it. It’s a global social, [...]

    16. This is an excellent book, yes a few sections drag on but it's worth getting through those parts which aren't too many. Most of the book is filled with exciting information. The best part is that Carol provides real context and historical background to everything she writes about so it doesn't feel like you are learning a bunch of disconnected facts. You learn so much about how international economies work, how public relations works and about world history. I think Carol hit it out of the park. [...]

    17. This was especially helpful to read as someone whose race/gender intersection is socially stratified at a statistical "bottom" within a country that still positions me to readily contribute to the needless poverty of others. The full circle story of the Spanish crashing into the world of the Maya (oh the predictable triumvirate of greed-religion-oppression) all those centuries ago and Europeans/Americans doing it yet again via the organic & fair trade movements now run by big business is bri [...]

    18. A real eye-opener into the politics and exploitation involved in getting beans to the first world. A fascinating history of chocolate consumption too. Interesting how it started out being consumed as a bitter drink with no added sugar.Also was interested to learn that cocoa trees grow naturally in the shade of a larger tree with lots of undergrowth/mulch. Yet intensive monoculture farming relies of lots of artificial fertilisers and water for tree health. And yet they succumb to disease so the t [...]

    19. So much of this book is disappointing. I generally enjoy topical works, especially if they pertain to human rights or consumerism. However, if you have a general grasp of western history, much of this book is redundant. Off spends a lot of time (poorly)exploring important historical "milestones" in an attempt to to provide context to the larger tale of the growth, both literal and symbolic,of chocolate. Also - and I'm aware this is totally nitpicking - there was SO MUCH alliteration in this book [...]

    20. I am not too sure how I feel about this book. It reads as part history, part here and now. I did not finish it as I felt it was very dry and the last half seemed to repeat itself. It just seemed to go on and on about child laborers/slaves and the appealing conditions they were living in. Yes it is sad but the big chocolate corporations are doing NOTHING about it! I feel as a single, normal person I can do nothing. Plus the world we live in is almost catered to those types of situations -not that [...]

    21. If I wasn't so much a chocaholic, this book could have put me off eating chocolate. However, it did encourage me to look more for fair trade chocolate. Carol Off, co-host of CBC Radio's As It Happens, has produced an well-written book that traces the history of chocolate from the Aztecs to the modern era, and its affect on economics and social development around the world, especially among the people who grow the beans that make one of the world's favorite treats.

    22. Heavy duty expose of the shocking (and yet no one responds)trade in cocao beans at the expense of many many peasant farmers. Sadly so many are at the mercy of despotic regimes, selfish greedy officials, and corporations promoting graft and corruption so you and I can have our indulgence. Truly disturbing. The writing was a little choppy, the subject carried it, I appreciated her extensive research.

    23. A journalistic exploration of the global chocolate industry and it's past and present connections to conflict, slavery and genocide. This book provides a fascinating and sobering introduction to one of the darker sides of globalization and modern capitalism, that of the ongoing worldwide devaluation of human beings (and of children in particular).

    24. This book really made me think about how I spend my money. It matters. This book also made me realize that, even though I think of myself as well-informed, there is MUCH I do not know about how the things I buy are made. It's easier to remain ignorant of that, but it's not okay with me. Not anymore.

    25. My daughter is a passionate chocoholic and inspired by what she has told me about some of the dark aspects of chocolate production, I decided to read this book. Written by an investigative reporter, it's very well researched. It paints a very brutal tale of chocolate production, human exploitation, and power grabs with the poor farmer caught in the middle.I would definitely recommend it.

    26. History for Cocoa bean, from currency to food of gods to worldwide usage. Focuses on the dark side, the exploitation of farmer, slavery, warlords around it. As per this book, Fairshare and to a lesser extent organic are the 2 terms to look for when buying chocolate.

    27. Didn't think when i started reading this book that our simple, sweet, mundane chocolate could have such bloody history. But the worrying thing is that although slavery is no more, there is still serious exploitation of small cocoa growers.

    28. The history of chocolate is covered very briefly until the mid 19th century, as the book is really concerned with the state of today's chocolate industry and the terrible conditions suffered by the farmers and their labourers. Truly disturbing as it ought to be.

    29. This talked about the history of Chocolate from central america to modern day. It also talks a lot about the child slavery used to pick the raw cacao beans. It talks about the corruption in transnational corporations and in the countries involved especially Cote d'Ivoire.

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