Bitter Chocolate

Investigating the Dark Side of the World's Most Seductive Sweet

Publisher: Vintage Canada
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.

From the Hardcover edition.



In the Garden of Good and ­Evil

“In my dreams I gorge on chocolates, I roll in chocolates, and their texture is not brittle but soft as flesh, like a thousand little mouths on my body, devouring me in fluttering small bites. To die beneath their tender gluttony is the...
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“In the style of Mark Kurlansky’s Salt, Bitter Chocolate unravels chocolate’s glittery packaging and uncovers an industry tainted by war and genocide
and child slavery.”
Ottawa Xpress

“[Off] makes her case so strongly and with such nuanced flavour that the book becomes as hard to put down as a bar of Toblerone.”
Shared Vision

“We know chocolate makers have their secrets–like how they get that caramel in there. That one, though, is pretty tame compared with the stuff unearthed in . . . Carol Off’s new exposé, Bitter Chocolate.”
Toronto Star

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