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Chocolate Prices Rising: Is Chocolate like the Spice of Arrakis? A Colonial History of Chocolate

March 22nd, 2024

Spice of Arrakis: “He who controls the spice, controls the universe”

Dune: Part Two has just premiered in cinemas around the world. It’s vast landscapes of endless amber deserts, undulating worm trails and stark rock has harnessed the imaginations of its audience.

Denis Villeneuve, the director of Dune is the perfect choice of director to adapt the  best-selling novel ‘Dune’ by Frank Herbert.  It is clear to see the parallels between his other cinematic works. Dune is a fusion of sci-fi film ‘Arrival‘, which features the arrival of aliens onto planet Earth and his heart-wrenching film ‘Incendies‘ about political conflict in the Middle East. This is essentially Dune – violent political conflict on an alien planet.

Yet this world is not just a beautiful backdrop, it is a focal point of the story-line.

Desertscape with rocks and two moons Arrakis

The world of Arrakis is in and itself the main character. The “spice” that is generated by worms initiates the power struggle and massacre of the Atredies family by the Harkonnens. This sets the wheels of fate in motion for protagonist Paul. What commences is an imperial struggle between different agents of Empire with one aim – power.

Power is spice. And power makes Kings.

Dune Part 2 Timothee Paul

Spice is Chocolate

The conflicts of Dune reflects historical processes such as colonization, imperialism, and resource extraction. This is where we turn to the real world.

Like many things, chocolate as a popular commodity has its roots in colonialism. Chocolate has been around for centuries, native to the huge expanse of the amazon rainforest, cocoa was consumed by Mesoamerican civilizations as a ritual drink. Dark, infused with chilli spices and vanilla, it was seen as a powerful drink, the food of the Gods.

Dark Cacao chocolate with spices in a wooden cup

Chocolate’s Colonial History

The arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century marked a turning point in the history of chocolate. The Spanish conquistadors, led by Hernán Cortés, were the first Europeans to encounter chocolate, and they quickly became enamored with it.

The history of chocolate from a raw cacoa drink to the global product we eat today is a long one. You can read about it in our blog
A Brief History of Chocolate. But essentially it follows the same pattern as of Spice in Dune. It was discovered as a powerfully delicious ritual drink that was consumed by the Mayan people in the depths of the Amazon and had religious properties. Just like the Fremen in the desert who consume spice with their everyday meals, but also respect it as a powerful vessel for spirituality.

Then the Harkonnen attempt to exert control over the Spice, creating huge harvesters and extracting the Spice from Arrakis for profit. When met with resistance from the Fremen, the Harkonnen drive the Fremen out of their homes, incite violence and attempt genocide. Unfortunately this colonial pattern reflects that of the history of America and hence the early history of chocolate.

Old Map illustrated representing the history of chocolate

Addicted to Chocolate

Like Spice, chocolate is addictive. We start eating it at a young age, and the cravings never stop.

Chocolate is a global commodity. According to the GITNUX market data report About 4.4 million metric tons of chocolate were consumed in 2020. It is clear that we are all hooked on spice.

However, like Arrakis, the Spice production relies on the health of the planet and the worms that produce it. Currently we are facing a chocolate crisis. Due to shifts in global weather patterns, high temperatures and unprecedented rainfall in high-growth areas of cacao like Africa, the production of chocolate has dramatically dropped.

Spice Harvesters Dune

Therefore, according to the Economist ‘The price of cocoa began creeping up in the second half of 2022. Since then it has doubled, reaching an all-time high in January 2024’. The production of chocolate is going down, the price of chocolate is going up, and our cravings remain the same.

The End of the Story

What’s at the end of the story? For those who have read the books know how the Dune trilogy ends. But for those watching the movies we have to wait what happens to the fate of Arrakis. Whether Spice production under the Empire destroys Arrakis as an unsustainable extraction practice, or whether the Fremen prevail and control their spice in their own hands… we will have to see.

However, on planet earth, we can influence the future. We can choose sustainable chocolate, that support local farmers, is ethical sourced and eco-friendly. We can choose quality over quantity. We can choose to save our planet from the empire.

Dark Chocolate Slab





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