How Is Organic Chocolate Different

Organic chocolate products begin with growing and harvesting cocoa according to organic methods.

The Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) of 1990 and regulations in Title 7, Part 205 of the Code of Federal Regulations define and govern “organic” production. This pertains to foods grown anywhere that are imported into the United States. These regulations seek to promote an integrated approach to growing and harvesting, which conserves natural ecosystems while at the same time prohibiting the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Organic production methods have the added benefit of fostering sustainable conditions by preserving natural resources (for example, a tropical rainforest).

In the United States, “100% Organic” means all the ingredients are produced in accordance with organic methods. For a product to be legally labeled “Organic”, at least 95% of its ingredients must be organic. A product can be “Made With Organic Ingredients” if at least 70% of its content is organic. “Certified Organic” means a product must be grown and manufactured in accordance with specified standards determined by the country where the product is sold. Thus, “Certified Organic” means different things in different countries and is not necessarily a guarantee that the product is pesticide free.

The EPA regulates food products sold in the United States that have been exposed to pesticides. For chocolate (non-organic) made from imported cocoa, the EPA allows up to certain levels of pesticide residue in the cocoa powder. Among these chemicals are Methyl Bromide, Pyrethrins, Hydrogen Cyanide, Naled, and Glyphosate. The EPA bans Lindane as a treatment on food cops, however trace amounts have been found in some European chocolate products. The US Food and Drug Administration works to see that chemical contaminants within imported food products do not exceed the levels set by the EPA. These chemicals are hazardous to crop pests, but are deemed acceptable for human consumption at some level.

So, why are chemical fertilizers and pesticides used anyway? The answer lies in how each producer evaluates the balance between the cost of using chemical fertilizers and pesticides and the yield of product obtained. Natural pests compromise and lower harvest yield, thereby decreasing profits. Chemical fertilizers have the initial benefit of maximizing yield per acre.

Many cocoa producers rely heavily upon chemical pesticides and fertilizers to boost and maintain crop production. Cocoa pods are one of the world’s most heavily sprayed food crops. The use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers is controversial because of its adverse affects on human cultivators and harvesters, on surrounding vegetation and ecosystems, on other non-production related species, and on soil and local water.

There are also longer-term consequences to consider. High yield plantations replace natural rainforest with income producing crops. Long-term focus on production has had the unintended consequence of tending toward limiting biodiversity, making producing species less resistant to pests and disease. As trees become less resistant over time due to limited genetic diversity, producers tend to become more reliant on chemical pesticides to protect crop yield.

As a consumer of chocolate products, your purchases equate to your vote as to how cocoa is cultivated and harvested. There is no right or wrong, but there is a choice. Buying organic chocolate does not guarantee that the upstream producer will support sustainable production methods. Buying organic does, however, send a clear message to the retailer that you choose to spend your money on organic products. Ultimately, consumer demand drives the worldwide market and shapes the choices producers make.

Is It Better to Drink Tea or Coffee

Coffee in the last few years has really stormed the world as a beverage that has been ingrained into our lives. It was only forty or fifty years ago that coffee seemed to be on the decline. I was briefly in the business at the time and product quality was hardly an issue; it was all about who had the best price. Then brilliant marketers took the product, reinvented the coffee shop concept, and by the 1990s coffee was on the upswing. Today coffee is the most popular drink in the world.

But other than the fact that many people love the taste, it gives us a caffeine kick and can be combined with an infinite number of enhancers to provide a variety of beverages. But is it truly good for our health? Right now it depends on what report you read. It seems on a weekly basis there are conflicting reports as to the effects coffee has on the human system. Almost all reports do not deny that drinking more than about four cups a day is harmful for most people.

Now we have another beverage that’s been around for centuries but has the start of a trend toward taking on coffee as the world’s number one beverage. There are probably more choices from the tea family as with coffee, especially if you throw in the herbal tea varieties. Most of us prefer that robust power of coffee to tea, but at least certain types of tea have unmistakable ingredients that will make you healthier.

If you want to zero in on one type of tea that is above the others, green tea would be your drink of choice. It is abundant in what has been called nature’s miracle compound: catechins. Its fantastic antioxidant properties help with digestion, fights viruses and protects the liver and brain from oxidation. They are important in combating aging diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Not the least of the interesting findings is how it can have an effect on fat metabolizing. As we age anything natural we can take to burn fat is worth it.

One other area that green tea and any tea for that matter can help is possibly a rather surprising area. There is still quite a lot of discussion as to what tea can do for muscle and joint pain, but a recent study has demonstrated some potential benefit. The reasoning for this goes along the following lines.

With intensive workouts microscopic tears develop in the muscles. This is the root of the muscle soreness and inflammation in the muscle tissues. It is thought that the antioxidant properties in all teas reduce oxidative stress, and that would directly impact on reducing inflammation. It is unclear with these tests just how much tea is necessary, but it does point out that the catechins in tea probably have some effect on muscle repair.

With the advent of tea bars opening in many areas of the United States in elsewhere, we may be in the beginning stages of another social trend. Personally, it may be hard for me to pry myself away from my coffee, I will be like many people looking into tea as another alternative

Doughnuts – The Lighter Side

The word doughnut needs no explaining, it is common throughout the world. It is called “sufganiyah” in Israel and the Malaysians have a similar dish called “Kuih keria”. Nevertheless, it is a simple and delicious dessert with unique variations. A particular type of doughnut, The Boston Cream is so famous that it made its way far away to Pakistan and is called as “Navaz Sharif” variety, funnily after the current Prime Minister of Pakistan though.

Now that I’ve said all about the fame of this simple little dessert, what actually is a doughnut? Flour is made into a dough and then deep fried, but that doesn’t make it a doughnut quite yet. What’s unique of the doughnut is that it has a circular shape with a circle cut out from the centre, it’s actually a baked flour ring. To give it this ring shape, a doughnut cutter is used which will cut out a circle from the centre and make sure it is perfectly round from the outer side, or the dough can be simply kneaded into a rope like structure and the ends joined to form a circle. Baking times vary from types and variations, but that’s just another thing.

There are countless variations of the doughnut and it’ll take another read to talk about them, but fortunately there are primarily only two types of this creative dessert, the cake doughnut and the yeast doughnut. As the name suggests, yeast doughnuts have yeast included in the dough and swell up to give a nice fluffy doughnut, but they take longer in the frying pan and are 25% oil. On the other hand, the cake based doughnuts are made from a special cake batter and take less oil to fry, but they get their share of fats already included in the batter.

Doughnuts are also recognised without the centre part cut out, well the centre part that I’ve been referring to is actually called a doughnut hole, this doughnut hole after being cut out, can be added back to the mixture or be fried and served itself. Doughnuts have actually made these one-bite doughnut holes quite famous! With or without doughnut holes, doughnuts have a lot of variations and by a lot, I really mean like a lot! They can be topped with icing, cinnamon, granulated sugar or whatever confectionery you could think of. Aside from topping, filled doughnuts are quite popular too. Cream or flavouring of any colour can be injected and you get yourself a delicious juicy doughnut. Doughnut holes are also very popular and can be similarly treated, but people like George Jean believe in the classic doughnut as he is famously quoted to have said, “An actor without a playwright is like a hole without a doughnut”.

Doughnuts have been massively popular in the United States where they are written as donuts, and are a popular breakfast for many when coupled with a coffee. No doubt doughnut chains like “dunkin’ donuts” have made a fortune out of this dessert and can be regularly seen advertising coffee with doughnuts for breakfast. Care needs to be taken with doughnuts because though they may be appealing to the taste buds, they are high on fats and calories. Nevertheless, they are very much of a tasty treat and popping them up occasionally wouldn’t harm. Happy dunking!