Chocolate Lab: Tasty and World Conscience

Valentine’s Day has long been associated with giving chocolate to one’s sweetheart. So much so, in fact, that during the week leading up to Valentine’s day, Americans will spend an estimated $345 million on 58 million pounds of chocolate!

But is there a way to create chocolate and be globally conscience at the same time?

Executive Chef Francois Kwaku-Dongo (pictured below) thinks so and so does the United Nations.

Dongo, who recently launched the Chocolate Lab, a unique chocolate shop and café located in the Eleven14 Kitchen Restaurant in Greenwich, CT, serves as the Director of Culinary Services for The Omanhene Cocoa Bean Company.

The Omanhene company is a fair trade company using only cocoa beans from small family farmers in Ghana, West Africa. The company also moved the process of converting the beans into chocolate to a factory in Ghana. The company sells the chocolate all over the world including to the Chocolate Lab in Connecticut. By doing this, they can get a higher price for the chocolate than the Ghana farmers could just selling it locally. Everyone from the farmers to the chocolate factory workers make more money.

Prior to the Omanhene company coming to Ghana, most cocoa farm workers did not earn enough money to even be able to buy a chocolate bar, which is a luxury item in Ghana, the very product they were picking the cocoa beans to make.

The Omanhene for-profit, value chain business model has been showcased by the United Nations Global Compact as a model of economic sustainability. The company gives 95 percent of proceeds back to factory workers and family farmers.

The word 'Omanhene' comes from the Twi language in Ghana and is a term bestowed upon the paramount king who is the symbol of moral and ethical authority in Ghana. 

The inspiration for the Chocolate Lab was drawn from Dongo’s upbringing on his grandparents’ cocoa farm in West Africa where he himself worked picking cocoa pods from the trees. "My grandfather predicted that one day cocoa would pay my way," Chef Dongo shared looking around the Chocolate Lab smiling, "and his prediction came true."

The Chocolate Lab is located in the Eleven14 Kitchen Restaurant 1114 East Putnam Avenue, Greenwich, CT.

Happy Valentine’s Day and here’s to being globally conscience!