Celebrating Social Enterprise Day at No.10

19 November 2009

Post from Sophi, direct from Downing St!

At lunchtime today Downing Street was crammed full with Social Entrepreneurs – a fitting way to celebrate Social Enterprise Day and all that Social Enterprise does every day of the year. Gordon Brown made a lovely speech. He thanked Jonathan Bland the departing CEO and founder for Social Enterprise Coalition, Campbell Rob the Director General of the Cabinet Office who is off to become the CEO of Shelter, and he thanked all the guests from social enterprises for the impact that they make on peoples lives and the communities around the UK and across the world. Tessa Jowell spoke and Angela Smith gave out awards, for the Best English Social Enterprise, and a newcomer and three school were also selected. You will be able to vote on line for the best school and the Best Social Enterprise in the UK at Social Enterprise Awards.

The Social Enterprise Ambassadors turned out in force and Sunlight Trust did us proud with fantastic canapés, delightful micro shepherds pies, fish and chips, beef with Yorkshire pudding, the piece de resistance was of course the double chocolate pots which were simply Divine ….

MasterChef and the chocolate challenge

16 November 2009
Gregg Wallace, John Torode, Andi Peters try the winners dish

Gregg Wallace, John Torode, Andi Peters try the winners dish

Divine was the chocolate of choice at MasterChef LIVE at the Invention Test at London’s Olympia last weekend so we just had to go along and take a look. Fans of BBCs MasterChef will know the Invention Test only too well. Contestants are presented with a tray of ingredients and given 30 minutes to create a tempting dish to impress the stars including Terry Wogan, Nadia Sawalha and Andi Peters – all in front of a live audience! One of the chosen ingredients was our 70% Dark Chocolate which is great in cooking because of its rich, intense flavour. The best three dishes were judged by MasterChef presenters John Torode and Gregg Wallace who were a lot of fun on stage. The contestants created some ambitious dishes, one contestant created a prawn risotto in the half an hour time limit which I thought was pretty impressive.

Dan and James, two contestants

Dan and James, two contestants

The chocolate was used in lots of creative ways, savoury dishes, sauces and of course in desserts and puddings. The whole event looked pretty nerve racking, I know I wouldn’t have wanted to be up there. Andi Peters was telling us that your mind just goes blank when you see the ingredients. There were some disasters, some burnt apricots with pork and some over cooked rice in another but it all looked great fun. I said hello to the lovely Gregg Wallace at the end who is one of our favourite TV stars and who is partial to a piece of Divine.

Follow Gregg Wallace, Andi Peters and Divine Chocolate on Twitter

Watch John and Gregg talk about MasterChef Live

Experience MasterChef Live

Divine at The Spirit of Christmas fair

5 November 2009

Divine is exhibiting at The Spirit of Christmas fair at Kensington Olympia until Sunday.  Run in association with House & Garden magazine this hugely popular event attracts shoppers in their thousands.  Laura and I were manning the stall yesterday and had a great day chatting to chocolate lovers at the show.   It’s incredible to see so many people being so organised about their Christmas gift buying already!  We were really thrilled that so many visitors had tried our bars when they bought Marie Claire magazine last month as well as trying out our fantastic recipe for Rich French Torte that was featured in Waitrose Food Illustrated magazine last month.  We sampled Divine’s newest flavour, Dark Chocolate with Raspberries and if our sales of that flavour are anything to go by, it’s a winning flavour!  You’ll find this zesty bar at Waitrose and Ocado if you’re not able to attend the fair. 

Come and get yourself in the Christmas mood at Spirit – there are literally hundreds of stands selling everything gift idea you could possibly imagine.  Click here for details: http://www.spiritofchristmasfair.co.uk/

You’ll find Divine upstairs in the food area on stand FD52.  Come and say hello, sample some of our fabulous flavours, and take a little chocolate respite from the crowds downstairs.

Spending time on Comfort’s farm

4 November 2009

I travelled to Ghana last week for meetings with Kuapa Kokoo (we’re working on more synergy between our Ghana, UK and USA communications, and I had an update on the workshops Kuapa has been running on climate change). I was also meeting up with Comfort Kumeah, the Chair of the Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Trust, at her village an hour or so west of Kumasi.  There will be many people both in UK and USA that will remember meeting Comfort – as she’s become a well-travelled ambassador for Kuapa Kokoo and Divine, and has shared all her learning about the chocolate market and attitudes to ethical shopping with her colleagues and community back in Ghana.

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Adim Mensah, President of his local Kuapa Kokoo society, in his funeral robes

There was a big funeral and a big wedding going on in the village on the same day so everyone was dressed up – either in black for the funeral, or in the Sunday best for the wedding.  Funerals are a very big deal in Ghana – with people all but bankrupting themselves to buy a good coffin, put on a really good ceremony, and invite the whole community.

Within minutes of arriving all the kids in the village were excitedly drawing us pictures of what they had been doing at school – lots of detailed diagrams of plants (particularly cocoa trees) with all their parts clearly labelled. 

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The walk to Comfort's farm

We spent most of the day on Comfort’s farm which was about a mile and a half’s walk out of the village. We’d had to wait till Saturday to go as there is a taboo preventing women crossing the stream between the village and her farm on Fridays. It was beautiful walk and we were glad of the wellies we’d been given – at the bottom of the valley it was pretty muddy – there’s been some heavy downpours recently.

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The palm nut crusher bought with Fairtrade premiums

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Comfort's cocoa farm

We walked around the farm – with Comfort pointing out the boundaries, marked by evergreen bushes, and sometimes with pineapples.  The harvest is well and truly underway, with the first batch of ripe pods already mostly picked – and the next wave starting to turn yellow now.  Nicholas pointed out how there was a particular good distribution of tall rainforest trees across Comfort’s farm – giving the right amount of shade and protection above the cocoa trees.

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Cassava, plantain and a machete

We had chicken, tilapia, plantain and jollof rice for lunch with some very good spicey sauces. Comfort showed us some ‘sweet apples’ – some very nobbly fruits about the size of a small melon – I’ve tried to look it up since I got home but haven’t found it yet.  For afters we handed out bars and gold coins of Divine for everyone.

We left with everyone preparing for the evening’s parties – and were sent off with all the drawings the children had done.

Back in Accra, waiting for our flight home, we saw a glimpse of a different slice of Ghanaian life – a cosmopolitan group of young Ghanaian students, Lebanese business men, NGO representatives and diplomats’ wives and families – all enjoying a day off on Sunday round a swimming pool.