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Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World's Most Seductive Sweet Hardcover – April 1, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: New Press (April 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595583300
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595583307
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #308,678 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

People in the First World consume chocolate with no qualms save what the confection might be doing to increase their waistlines. But, in fact, the manufacture of chocolate depends on its cultivation in Third World nations by citizens condemned to live in general poverty and with little control over their futures. Off describes the migration of the cacao tree from its Mexican homeland to West Africa, the land that now dominates its production. Off travels to the tropical Côte d’Ivoire, where the laborers who harvest cacao pods have never even tasted the final product into which they have poured their lifeblood. Off draws an even more sordid picture of the relationship between the institution of slavery and the rise of British chocolate capitalism under such magnates as Cadbury. Worse still, Off asserts, slavery continues to be a vexing, intractable problem in these West African regions. --Mark Knoblauch

Review


"Bitter Chocolate is less a book about chocolate than it is a study of racism, imperialism and oppression as told through the lens of a single commodity."
—THE GLOBE AND MAIL

"An astounding eye-opener that takes no prisoners in its account of an industry built on an image of sweetness and innocence, but which hides a dark and often cruel reality. You’ll never look at chocolate the same way again."
—QUILL & QUIRE (STARRED REVIEW)

"Astonishing. . . a wrenching story and one well-researched by an investigative journalist who has proven she knows the ropes. . . . Bitter Chocolate is a compelling and important book."
—THE LONDON FREE PRESS

"In the style of Mark Kurlansky's Salt, Bitter Chocolate unravels chocolate's glittery packaging and uncovers an industry tainted by war and genocide."
—OTTAWA EXPRESS

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Carol M on October 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Researching the poor working conditions in third world countries, I thought this book would only give me the history of chocolate. Instead I discovered a comprehensive look at the abuses in the cocoa sector primarily in the Cote d'Ivoire. A combination of the developed countries demand for cheap chocolate, corrupt government, corrupt police and avaricious manufacturers, the true losers are the farmers and the "indentured" workers who produce my favorite food source. Carol Off presents an unbiased look at the world's favorite confection.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Philip J. Graham on February 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover
As an anthropologist, I found the topic of this book fascinating. Once you get into it, you will never look at chocolate the same way again. Sadly, most of the info in the book was not all that surprising given what I already knew about the practices of various post-colonial countries around the world. It is a good example of the Modern World System gone awry.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Alan A. Elsner VINE VOICE on August 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book is half history, half passionate 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 leaders and officials in the countries themselves who cynically exploit their own citizens and of course we, the consumers.
France comes in for particular condemnation for its behavior in Cote D'Ivoire.
I learned from this book that it has always been thus. Major companies like Cadbury and Rowntree were founded by Quakers devoted to the ideals of treating their employees well and did so -- in England. But they turned a blind eye to the horrible slave-like conditions of those who grew and picked the crop in Africa. Likewise, Milton Hershey was an enlightened though paternalistic employer in America -- but did not care about the poor Africans who actually produced his raw materials.
It's an interesting, though depressing book. It's well-researched and well-written but it can't be called real investigative reporting since it relies mostly on the fruits of others' labors and a bit too much on Canadian sources. It spreads its condemnation a little too wide as well on occasion. I sometimes felt the entire capitalist system was under assault. However, still very much worth reading.

I guess I'm weak. I still like chocolate occasionally. I guess I'll try to find "fair trade" and "organic" products in future.
For more on me and my book The Nazi Hunter: A Novel go to [...]
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Levitate107 on March 18, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I would give ‘Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the Worlds’ Most Seductive Sweet’ by Carol Off 3/5 stars. The book was overall fairly well written and extremely eye opening, however, there were times where the book seemed to drag on. She stated some of the same points multiple times; this in addition to her passion on the subject gave the book a very ‘preacher’ tone. I am not a huge fan of that style in a research/ history book, so that was a definite downside for me and at it times it made the book difficult to read. Despite this flaw, the book is really quite good, it is a study of oppression and racism and it shows how dark the history of chocolate really is.

This book caused me to debate things that I had never even thought of thinking about; it helped me to realize connections between children’s movies and reality. For example, in the most recent version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) there is a scene where Willy Wonka has a flashback of when he went to Loompa Land. He mentions how the Oompa Loompas worshipped the cocoa bean and how receiving one was a great honor. Shockingly, this is fairly accurate to how rare the cocoa bean was in some areas and how in some cultures it was considered to be such a spectacular thing.

Another part of this book that amazed me what the corruption of the chocolate business. At one point Carol Off brought up the ‘Cocoa Cartel’, which basically stated that people wanted more cocoa beans for less money, which caused poor farmers to turn to the most inexpensive labor pool that they could think of, children and women. They ended up working in terrible conditions and were treated extremely unfairly and with such great injustice.
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