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The Magic of Chocolate Chips

Have you ever thought about why there are chocolate chips at the grocery store?

I mean really stopped to think about it. There you are, just a single person in need of some chocolate chips. And there at the store is a bag just waiting for you.

Well, let’s think about it. First, you are not unique in wanting chocolate chips. In fact, there are thousands (millions?) of people who want chocolate chips on a daily basis. Some people will want and be able to pay a lot for chocolate chips. Others have lower budgets and can only buy chips if the price is low enough. Collectively, all of these people (including you!) represent the consumers of chocolate chips. The demand.

Ok, so we have people who want to buy chocolate chips. Who are the benevolent souls who are willing to grow cocoa beans and then make them into chocolate chips JUST FOR YOU? That is so kind of them! Well it turns out that they aren’t just in it for the warm glow (as I think you already knew). They get paid to grow cocoa beans and turn them into chocolate chips.

Who pays them? Well, you! Indirectly of course. You pay the grocery store, who gets some of the money. They give the rest of the money to the company who produced the chocolate chips (let’s say Hershey’s). Hershey’s then pays for the cocoa beans and the machinery and the workers in their factories. Who pays the people who grow the cocoa beans? Well when Hershey’s paid for the cocoa beans, some of that money goes to the people who spent hours farming cocoa beans. So on and so forth.

When you go to buy chocolate chips, you are probably not thinking about the people in Ghana or the Ivory Coast or Indonesia growing the cocoa beans (Top Cocoa Producing Countries). And, let’s be honest, they aren’t thinking about you either. So, it’s pretty crazy that you can get chocolate chips anytime you want.

It all comes down to prices. You are willing to pay for something. Someone else is willing to make something in exchange for money. It all works out!

As Milton Freedman would say, “It’s the magic of the price system.” Or as Adam Smith coined, it’s driven by the “invisible hand.”

Is there more to economics? Of course! What price will you pay? What trade agreements exist between Ghana and the U.S. to get the cocoa beans here? Why are there trade agreements? What happens if prices are too high? What happens if they are too low? What happens if cocoa production is harming the environment? Or if there is a fire that destroys cocoa trees. Or suddenly people hate chocolate (doesn’t seem possible). Or people’s incomes rise or fall. How much should cocoa growers be paid? Should they grow cocoa beans if there is something else more profitable? If chocolate chip prices rise, will you still by chocolate chips? Is it fair if people are born into families that can buy more chocolate chips than others? …. The list goes on…. These are some of the never-ending questions that economists tackle.

But, at its core it all relates to demand, supply, and how and why people make decisions.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I've been making this chocolate chip cookie recipe for a couple of years now. And -- to be honest -- if I or someone I'm hanging out with has a craving for cookie dough, this is the recipe I use (warning: it has raw egg and flour, so if you are consuming just the dough - it's at your own risk. I live on the edge a lot.)

The cookies come out amazing: slightly crispy on the outside and soft and gooey on the inside. Really, the perfect chocolate chip cookie.

I got the recipe from Smitten Kitchen, but according to her post, she got it from Ashley Rodriguez’s Not Without Salt and cookbook: Date Night In


1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature 2 tablespoons (25 grams) sugar 2 tablespoons (25 grams) Raw Sugar (you know the stuff in brown packets at Starbucks?) Substitute with white or brown sugar if you do not want to buy it. 3/4 cup (165 grams) packed brown sugar 1 large egg 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 3/4 teaspoon baking soda 1/4 teaspoon sea salt 1 3/4 cups (220 grams) all-purpose flour 1/2 pound (225 grams) semi- or bittersweet chocolate (cut up some bars or use some chocolate chips!) Sea salt, to finish

Heat oven to 360 degrees (not sure why it's not 350, but like Deb, I'm not going to question it).

In a mixing bowl combine the sugars and butter. Blend and blend until completely mixed and light. Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix again. Then throw in your baking soda, salt, and flour. Mix again but at a lower speed. Finally, stir in your chocolate chips.

At this point, you can chill your dough in the refrigerator overnight or make your cookies right away.

For this recipe, I always make big cookies (approx 1/4 cup).

Before putting them in the oven, sprinkle the tops with sea salt.

Bake for around 11 to 12 minutes until lightly brown on top.

Resist the temptation to eat immediately. Wait until the chocolate won't burn your mouth and then dig in!


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