Hello and good day!
I was out there playing football after school with a bunch of guys.
I'd say I must have been eight or nine years old.
We always played on the big grassy park next to Ulysses S. Grant elementary while we waited for our parents or rides to pick us up.
This was in San Diego, where it is sunny, but temperate, all year round.
"I'm open Hamp! Throw it!" I shouted.
I looked back to see that Hamp had floated me a beauty.
The ball spun through the air and dropped perfectly into my outstretched hands on a deep route. Unfortunately, Neal was covering me, and Neal was fast.
After my initial move off the line that got me open, Neal caught me from behind and threw me down near the goal line. I got up from the ground wiping dirt and grass off my clothes.
"Good one Neal," I said.
Our teams lined up for the next play, but before Hamp could say hike, we heard a horn honking from the street.
I looked over and saw Irv, my ride.
"I gotta go guys. See you tomorrow."
I picked up my backpack from the side of the field and walked over to Irv's white Datsun hatchback.
Irv was the bartender at my dad's hotel the Horton Grand.
He picked me up every day after school on the way to his shift.
God, I loved Irv.
And I loved being the son of a hotel owner, at least until my dad lost the hotel to a crooked investor and had to declare bankruptcy, which caused him to fall into a deep depression and in turn caused the dissolution of my parent's previously happy marriage.
Before all of that though, it was the best.
What other kid ever hitched a ride after school with the bartender from his dad's hotel?
Irv was lean and compact, in his early thirties, with tight skin, and pitch-black hair.
His hobby was archery, and one time he and a friend put on an archery exhibition in one of the hotel's ballrooms. I saw him shoot an apple off a mannequin's head with a crossbow from across the long banquet hall.
Nobody was cooler than Irv.
Since my dad worked late in the hotel and my mom owned a theater right next door where she also put in long days, I spent most afternoons at the hotel waiting for my parents to finish and take me home.
I was able to sit at the bar and do my homework while Irv organized and got ready for the after 5 happy hour crowd.
"Want a drink Adam before I start working?" asked Irv.
"What'll it be today? A Shirley Temple? A Roy Rogers? A hot chocolate?"
"Let's do a hot chocolate Irv."
Irv was so cool that he even had a cool way of making hot chocolate.
There was a plug-in electric water heater behind the bar. He pushed the power button, and it lit up green when activated.
Thirty seconds later, he poured the steaming hot water into a tall, fancy, thick cone shaped glass with ridges around the outside. Next, he pulled out a packet of Swiss Miss hot cocoa from a box underneath the bar and ripped the top off.
He poured the powder into the hot water which had fogged the glass. Before stirring, Irv layered on a thick swirl of whipped cream.
Then came my favorite part.
Irv had a long, metal, stirring stick with a wide, flat circle at the bottom. He put the metal circle into the liquid and rubbed the stick back and forth between the palms of his hands.
The cocoa mixed in, and the circular swish of the water pulled down a bit of the whipped cream into the mixture.
I took a sip. Delicious.
"How is it Adam?"
"Always the best Irv."
"That's why your dad pays me the big bucks kid."
Irv flashed his classic white toothed smile, with a click of his tongue and the wink of an eye.
Meanwhile, 7,000 miles away in West Africa, a kid my same age was walking in the jungle, under an oppressive equatorial sun, swinging a machete 14 hours a day, slapping mosquitos off his neck, harvesting cacao.
The kid had been working that job since he was five and would probably grow old out there in the jungle.
There aren't too many career paths out that way.
Every couple of weeks, a buyer came around to buy cacao harvested by the kid, paying the lowball government price mandated by the government price setting committee.
That buyer sold to another buyer in the closest town.
The buyer in the closest town sold the cacao to another buyer in the capital.
The buyer in the capital sold the cacao to an international commodities broker.
The international commodities broker sold the cacao to Conagra, the maker of Swiss Miss.
Conagra pressed cocoa butter out of the cacao and sold it to makers of shampoo, lotion, and cosmetics.
They used the remaining cacao solids to make cocoa powder.
They bathed the cocoa powder in an alkaline bath to neutralize acidity and combined the cocoa powder with sugar, corn syrup, hydrogenated coconut oil, nonfat milk, salt, dipotassium phosphate, and mono- and diglycerides.
The mixture was packaged and sold to an international distributor.
The international distributer drove the shipment from the factory to a port, where stevedores loaded it onto a cargo boat. The boat hauled the hot cocoa to the United States where a domestic distributor purchased it.
One day, a truck with toilet paper, cleaning supplies, liquor, printer paper, boxes of Swiss Miss hot chocolate, and many other things a hotel needs, showed up at the loading dock in the alley behind the hotele .
Irv took his allotment. He made me a hot chocolate and I drank it.
There is a better way to do all this.
Get rid of the middlemen and distributors.
Process cacao conscientiously so that it doesn't need to be alkalized.
Give all the eliminated markups back to cacao farmers so that they'll have more options for how to live their lives.
The upshot of all this is you get our hot chocolate that is vastly more delicious.
I'd like to think that my dad the boss would have opted for our Javier's Hot Chocolate mix if it was around back then (it's available on our website by the way).
Here is the article that got me on this line of thought.
Mars, maker of M&Ms and Snickers, uses cocoa harvested by 5-year-old kids in Ghana.
Mars isn't the only company doing this.
Unfortunately, the supply chain for cheap mainstream chocolate makes this an almost inescapable reality.
Thank you so much for time today.
I hope that you have a truly blessed day!
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