Tips for Hosting a Coffee or Chocolate Tasting
Mix it up. Plan to sample various types of Rainforest Alliance Certified chocolates and coffees. Go online to find out which brands carry the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal.
Provide variety. For chocolate, sample several types -- including dark chocolate with 70% cacao content, dark with 55% cacao, milk chocolate and even cocoa nibs -- to highlight the differences in flavor and texture.
Showcase different origins. For coffee, choose beans from various countries of origin, such as Ethiopia, Sumatra, Costa Rica and Brazil. This will give you an opportunity to compare flavor variations by region. This will also allow you to talk about coffee production in different countries. Other options include variations in the roast (light to dark) and preparation (iced versus hot).
Ask for donations. Try to get the coffee or chocolate donated by a local supermarket, or contact the manufacturer directly. Tell them who you are and what you’re planning, and offer them an opportunity to provide marketing materials to distribute at the tasting in exchange for the donated goods. (Bonus: If you fall in love with one of the products you taste, you’ll know where to get it in your area!)
Use our multimedia resources. Please check our website for videos, fact sheets, brochures and posters to promote your event and help explain the benefits of Rainforest Alliance certification.
Talking Points for a Coffee Tasting
- More than 1.4 billion cups of coffee are consumed every day around the globe.
- In the U.S., the fastest-growing demographic of coffee drinkers is 18-to-24-year-olds.
- More than 25 million farmers, workers and their families are involved in the coffee industry worldwide.
- Coffee is farmed on more than 30 million acres in the tropics -- nearly the size of England!
- Coffee was traditionally grown in harmony with nature, under the forest canopy, and harvested by hand.
- In the 1970s, a new hybrid coffee plant was developed that required the intensive application of chemicals and exposure to full sun, prompting many farmers to cut down their forests in order to increase yields and use mechanical harvesting.
- Coffee beans are actually seeds nestled within the berries that grown on the coffee tree.
- When the berries ripen and are ready for harvest, they turn red and are known as coffee “cherries.”
- Annually, a coffee tree yields only about one to two pounds of roasted, ready-to-sell coffee (i.e., it takes many coffee trees to produce all the coffee we drink!)
- The conversion of forests to farms -- also known as slash-and-burn agriculture -- is a leading cause of deforestation. Farmers who resort to these practices may not have the knowledge or tools to earn a living by farming sustainably.
- Rainforest Alliance certification helps farmers manage their natural resources more responsibly, protect wildlife and the rights and well-being of workers and be more efficient and productive.
- Farmers who earn certification for their farms often receive a price premium for their beans. This additional income provides them with an incentive to farm sustainably and to protect their forested coffee farms.
Talking Points for a Chocolate Tasting
- The Mayan people of ancient Mesoamerica were the first to grind cacao seeds and make a drink from them.
- Richard Cadbury (the founder of England’s Cadbury chocolate company) introduced the first Valentine’s Day candy box in 1868.
- The average American eats about 12 pounds of chocolate per year.
- Chocolate contains tryptophan, a chemical that the brain uses to produce serotonin, which can generate feelings of ecstasy or love.
- Cacao trees grow in the lowland tropical region of Africa, Asia and the Americas. Approximately 70 percent of the world’s cocoa comes from West Africa.
- The trees produce pods, which are harvested for their white pulp-covered seeds. One cacao pod contains about 30 to 50 almond-sized seeds -- enough to make approximately seven milk chocolate candy bars.
- The seeds are fermented for three to nine days until they turn a rich, deep brown. Once fermented, the seeds are spread out and left to dry in the sun for about a week.
- Dry seeds are sold and shipped to chocolate manufacturing companies, where they are processed into the sweet candy we know and love.
- Farmed on over 18 million acres of tropical land, cocoa production provides the primary source of income for an estimated 40 million people. This includes five million farmers, 90 percent of whom are smallholders, laborers or the employees of processing factories.
- The Rainforest Alliance -- in collaboration with cocoa and chocolate companies, public institutions, local organizations and farmer associations -- encourages and helps sets the rigorous standards for sustainable cocoa production. Rainforest Alliance Certified farms mean a healthier environment and better working conditions.