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

Carol Off
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Oct. 10 2006
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 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 Côte 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 exposé of the workings of a multi-billion dollar industry that has institutionalized misery as it served our pleasures.

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Praise for The Ghosts of Medak Pocket, winner of the Dafoe Book Prize:

“A first-class account . . . her prose is lively and her tone impassioned.”
The Globe and Mail

Praise for The Lion, The Fox and the Eagle:

“This is an explosive look at what really happened in the failed peacekeeping missions in Sarajevo and Rwanda.”
Ottawa Citizen

About the Author

Carol Off has witnessed and reported on many of the world’s conflicts, from the fall of Yugoslavia to the US-led “war on terror.” She has won numerous awards for her CBC television documentaries in Africa, Asia and Europe. She lives in Toronto.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Belongs next to your copy of Fast Food Nation Nov. 13 2006
What is most appealing about this book is that you will recommend it to friends and co-workers because it is short enough, and written in a style that is neither impersonal nor condescending, but has factual insights and brief-to-the-point historical backgrounds next to straightforward gut-wrenching analyses that will haunt you.

This is an extremely commendable work, with many astounding and horrifying facts juxtaposed (and rightly so) with the popular canon of names and facts we are all tenuously familiar with - from the Central American colonialist conquest to Milton Hershey's paternalism to the current fair trade discussion.

You can't help but transform your habits in a small way after the few hours you'll have invested learning of the injustices around a luxury so ubiquitous in our culture that has "an inconvenient truth" (i.e. labour practices) associated with its production. Carol Off is an eloquent story teller, but has a raw journalism "embedded" in this work that is, appropriately enough, written to engage the average reader who does cares more about about a better world beyond so-called dithering - illustrated quite profoundly in the case of the Cadbury family! How we can live with nonchalance and ignoring blatant exploitation for our cravings is really up to us, isn't it?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a must read July 26 2010
I read this book and it opened my eyes on the world of chocloate industry (from the raw material supplier world), it's well written and researched book. Good work Carol.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Aweful truth. Feb. 11 2013
By Wade
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Wow, what an eye opener. The author leads one from ignorance to knowledge on a difficult, hidden topic, in an interesting book that will shock you.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unjust Desserts! May 11 2007
By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
As an investigative report par excellence, Carol Off provides her reader with a very disturbing insight into the commercial world of big chocolate.

What she finds is an industry that both exploits it workers - mainly children - betrays its producers, and de-stabilizes its host third world nations in the name of making big profits. The story is a tragic replay of what other multi-nationals have done in diamonds, sugar, coffee, and rubber. The book spends a considerable time in showing where this practice began back in the l8th century, with the opening free trade and the development of the British Empire. The latter portion of her efforts zeros in on the great political, social and economic upheveal the Big Chocolate concerns have caused in the Ivory Coast with the hiring of young children to harvest the cocoa crop. I highly recommend this book for its effective focus and level-headed reportage. Lots of useful and easily confirmable evidence to back up her claims that the Third World is paying dearly for the West's demand for cheap chocolate.
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