Equal Exchange Review and Giveaway


I wrote about Fair Trade yesterday and told you that I was contacted to review some products by a company that does great work with numerous small farmers around the world.

Let me introduce you to a worker-owned co-op called Equal Exchange Co-op, based in West Bridgewater, Massachusetts. It is founded by three visionaries who wanted to change the way food is produced and how the food business is operated. The co-op embodies  democratic principle  – one-person, one-vote workplace without a corporate hierarchy that partners with co-operatives of small independnet farmers who make their own decisions on business and community matters.

Take a look at how we get our coffee from Equal Exchange without all the middlemen. This illustrates about coffee but the principle is similar for other foods that are Fair Trade Certified. This model not only empowers the farmers but it also decreases the chance of food contamination since there’s less handling of foods before they are delivered to the consumers.

How do we get our foods from Equal Exchange

How do we get our foods from Equal Exchange

Equal Exchange’s mission is “to build long-term trade partnerships that are economically just and environmentally sound, to foster mutually beneficial relationships between farmers and consumers and to demonstrate, through our success, the contribution of worker co-operatives and Fair Trade to a more equitable, democratic and sustainable world.” Their domestic co-op organic farmers are from California, Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Georgia. All are family farmers with commitment to their communities, quality products, nutritious crop and responsible farming methods.

Equal Exchange Cooperative farmers

Equal Exchange Cooperative farmers

That sounds great and noble but how do their products taste? Well, my entire family reluctantly volunteered (actually, dived in, is more like it!) to test the various goodies in the Fair Trade Mixer’s Basket from Equal Exchange.

Organic French Roast

Organic French Roast

Coffee :::: you know that there is a strong connection between coffee consumption and a reduced risk of death from heart disease, cancer, and other inflammatory conditions. But aside from those reasons, my husband loves the taste of a strong cup of coffee. Me? Give me any black coffee with two teaspoons of sugar (to cut the acidity) and I’m happy. So, I let my husband take the coffee challenge of tasting Equal Exchange’s Organic French Roast. He said the coffee was not as bitter as some French Roast and it was nutty and smooth. It was a little acidic but he said that was OK. He made the coffee in French Pressed coffee maker but automatic coffee maker might taste a little different. All in all, he liked the taste of strong French Roast that didn’t have the burnt taste like some others. (Even Starbucks’ coffee sometimes tastes burnt.)

Nuts ::::  this was my son’s task. He’s loves anything salty so I knew he’d love this task. He reported back by giving me the empty Almonds bag. Do you think he liked the almonds. He said they were not overly salty and he asked, quizzically, “Were these seasoned with soy sauce?”, without knowing that Tamari is soy sauce based. When I told him what Tamari is, he said he can actually taste the little hint of soy sauce but did not overpower the almond taste. He didn’t like the pecans as much because he rather have pecans in pies and as crunches but not as separate snacks. Of course, after devouring the bag of almonds, how can he eat another nut?

Very Dark Chocolate by Equal Exchange

Very Dark Chocolate by Equal Exchange with 71% Cacao

Very Dark Chocolate :::: I love dark chocolate. And the fact that chocolate contains antioxidants, lowers blood pressure and keeps inflammation in check also gives me more reasons to love dark chocolate. So, needless to say, I took this challenge. The way I eat chocolate is to rip off the wrapping, break them into the biggest chunk I can fit in my mouth, chew and swallow as fast as I can. And repeat. But did you know that there is a “correct” way to inspect and taste chocolate? Read here. After reading the article, I felt I needed to give proper respect to the chocolate it deserves, so I followed the instruction in eating it properly. And I’m surprised to report that there is a difference in the way chocolate tastes. Who knew? This Very Dark Organic Chocolate was shiny, smooth without any pit marks, and even colored. The dark and dense bar snapped (as they should) cleanly and the pieces melted in my mouth. (OK, I couldn’t wait to eat it so I didn’t smell it as the instruction suggests) I can taste the cocoa bean’s nuttiness and it left no taste other than chocolate on my tongue – no waxy taste like I was chewing a piece of a candle and no bitterness that resembled burnt bean taste. It was just the way I like chocolate – simple chocolaty bitterness without after taste or sugary sweetness that clouds the chocolate taste. Yum!

Milk Chocolate by Equal Exchange

Milk Chocolate by Equal Exchange

Milk Chocolate :::: my daughter gleefully took this challenge, as she loves milk chocolate. Her conclusion? – she didn’t think it was sweet enough (I think it was great that it wasn’t nauseatingly sweet, like the commercial milk chocolates that you’d find in Halloween treat bags). But she said she could really taste the chocolate and it was smooth. Isn’t that what chocolate should taste like – chocolate? So I tasted a piece. It melted in my mouth and all I can taste was the nutty chocolate taste and subtle velvety taste of milk and sugar. I loved it! If you are not into dark chocolate and prefer milk chocolate, you should try this. You’ll never buy chocolate from your local grocery store’s checkout counter.


Organic Hot Cocoa

Cocoa Powder :::: this type of weather is perfect for a hot cup of cocoa…especially those of you who are buried in deep snow right now. My daughter made a hot mug of cocoa with this cocoa powder and said the same thing as the milk chocolate – not sweet enough but she can taste the chocolate. I think the average hot chocolate powder has more sugar than chocolate so you can’t taste the chocolate. I took a sip and yes, there was definitely a lot of cocoa powder in it and just enough organic sugar mixed in to make it perfectly sweet. But if you are used to syrupy sweet hot cocoa, I guess you can add some marshmallows (who thought of that idea in the first place? What a way to kill the chocolate) but honestly, do you really need it? No.

So what do I think of Equal Exchange? Given all the morally and ethically right reasons why they are in the food business, and the quality of the goods that they produced based on what I (my family) tasted so far, I think Equal Exchange is truly an honorable organization. The cooperative concept works and it is thriving, adding more farmers to its growing number of cooperative communities they already have. And what I like the best about their products is the prices. I always thought Fair Trade means expensive prices. But that’s not the case with Equal Exchange. Their prices are competitive with non-Fair Trade and while some things might be slightly higher, I can appreciate the benefits of paying a few dollars extra for fine quality products.

I wish I can give more than five green hearts but based on my guidelines, I have to give them maximum of five big green hearts for all the good that they have done for the small independent farmers globally and feeding us the right healthy foods as a result. So glad someone is looking out for us.


For your pleasure, they are having a great sale on many of their gift baskets. And for my readers, they are giving away the Fair Trade Mixer Basket, the one that I reviewed here, worth $47 (originally $55) to one winner. Incidentally, the kaisa grass basket that is pictured is imported by Ten Thousand Villages from Dhaka Handicrafts, a non-profit that works to improve the lives of children and rural families in Bangladesh. The basket is a beautifully hand crafted and very functional.

Fair Trade Mixer Basket by Equal Exchange

Fair Trade Mixer Basket by Equal Exchange

Here are the rules for the giveaway:

  • The give­away is open to those who are my subscribers only. If you are not my current subscriber, you must subscribe by using the feedburner subscription for e-mail or RSS. Your e-mail address will NOT be shared with anyone or posted anywhere.
  • You must be over 18 years old who lives within US.
  • This giveaway will end at 11:59 PM EST on Fri­day Decem­ber 18, 2009.
  • One win­ner will be cho­sen at ran­dom, gen­er­ated by a random.org, and will be announced on Sat­ur­day, Decem­ber 19, 2009.
  • No pur­chase is nec­es­sary is to enter the giveaway.
  • There is no limit as to how many times you can enter. Each com­ment is one entry.
  • SRP is $47 for the basket and the prize will be shipped from Equal Exchange in Massachusetts, USA.

Here is how you can enter and please only leave me a com­ment related to this prod­uct and giveaway:

  1. Visit Equal Exchange and leave me a com­ment what other prod­uct you would like to try.
  2. Fol­low Equal Exchange on Twit­ter
  3. Be a fan of Equal Exchange onfacebook
  4. Sign up for newsletter, What’s brewing?
  5. You can also enter by tweet­ing about the give­away! Please use @ecokarenlee so that I know you tweeted
  6. Blog about this give­away. If you do not have a blog then you can post on any social media instead. (Face­book, MySpace, etc.)
  7. Add me as a friend or fan on Face­book (see the side­bar on the left for the button)
  8. Fol­low me on Twit­ter (see the side­bar on the left for the button)
  9. Grab my but­ton and put it on your blog.

Remember you must be a subscriber to enter this giveaway.

Thanks for participating and good luck!

(nom…. nom…. nom…..finishing my work on reviewing the chocolate. It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it.)