What Divine did for Fairtrade Fortnight – a pop up chocolate shop story

19 April 2013
The Divine Pop Up Shop

The Divine Pop Up Shop

Click here to see  a lovely short film packed with all the fun we had during Fairtrade Fortnight – our pop shop in Covent Garden, visits to BudgensWhole Foods and Oxfam with Kuapa farmers Mary and Esther – and lots of chocolate tasting…. and dancing


A story of cocoa farmers in London

14 March 2013

As well as offering a fantastic range of chocolate, Divine is here to give cocoa farmers a voice – and it’s so great to see the relish with which they take up that opportunity each Fairtrade Fortnight!

Mary & Esther

Mary Appiah and Esther Mintah Ephraim at Kuapa HQ

This year we were delighted to host a visit by Kuapa Kokoo members Mary Appiah and Esther Mintah Ephraim – both from the Western Region of Ghana, and both first time travellers to UK.  Mary is 60, and comes from Enchi where she has a 7.5 acre farm. She’s been a member of Kuapa Kokoo for 6 years.  Esther is 28, from Agyedum, and her family farm is 38 acres. She’s been a Kuapa member for 8 years.

As you can imagine, arriving in the freezing cold, and emerging from the plane in Heathrow Terminal 5 is quite overwhelming!  But Mary and Esther not only took everything in their stride, but were open for all experiences and interested in everything they saw and heard.  We had a very busy schedule arranged for them – ensuring they addressed really diverse audiences, and in turn discovered as much as possible about the UK chocolate market they supply (and lots of sight-seeing too).

Sampling Divine at Liberty's chocolate shop

Sampling Divine at Liberty’s chocolate shop

The farmers attended Fairtrade events at St Mary le Bow Church, at St Paul’s Cathedral, in Crystal Palace, and in Haringay – telling audiences about their lives, about the impact Fairtrade and owning Divine has had on them and their fellow members, and their hopes for the future.They toured a real mix of shops where Divine is stocked – delighting customers who weren’t expecting to meet cocoa farmers when they bought their chocolate – from Liberty’s to Budgens in Crouch End, and Whole Foods to Oxfam in Covent Garden.

Oxfam

Esther and Mary visit Oxfam in Drury Lane

 8thMarch is InternationalWomen’s Day – and once again the Kuapa farmers were given the opportunity to participate in the international Women of the World Festival (WOW) at the Southbank Centre – amongst amazing women from all backgrounds and circumstances.Primary school St Barnabus in Tunbridge Wells, and Imperial College and Royal College of Art all hosted lovely events where Mary and Esther narrated a film showing how cocoa is grown, harvested and prepared to ensure it is “pa pa paa” and answered many questions about how belonging to Kuapa Kokoo has changed their lives.  We also visited Hadlow College where Esther and Mary were able to share knowledge and experience with a whole theatre of farming students, including many international students from Africa.  We were given a tour of the College farm – and the size of all the animals amazed them!

Esther & Mary visit the lambing shed at Hadlow College

Esther & Mary visit the lambing shed at Hadlow College

Last – but absolutely not least – Esther and Mary were very special guests at our fantastic Pop Up Shop in Monmouth Street WC2 – talking to customers, speaking at our discussion event “Can smallholder farmers save the world?”, and throwing some shapes at our fabulous free Azonto dance sessions – the Ghanaian dance craze sweeping the world.

We were very sorry to see them go (but they were extremely glad to miss the sudden big dip in temperature!).  They said everywhere they went how proud they were to be here and to be representing their co-operative – and that their very presence here was a demonstration of how things were changing for cocoa farmers.  They loved fish & chips, but hated escalators, they were amazed by Tower Bridge and the fact it could open, and blown away by the size of the Thames. They were delighted by the glimpses of countryside through the train window on the way to Kent, and impressed by buildings, roads, and automatically opening doors.

They will be taking all their experiences back with them – and most importantly the impression that growing cocoa is worthwhile, that we in UK love chocolate, and everyone they met loved Divine.  In turn they have inspired so many more people here to support Fairtrade and to cherish and value the favourite foods we buy – especially chocolate!

Esther dances Azonto at the Divine Pop Up

Esther dances Azonto at the Divine Pop Up


A gathering in the world of chocolate

28 November 2012
Sophi meets one of her brand heros - Boyd Tunnock

Sophi meets one of her brand heros – Boyd Tunnock

It’s good to have a forum where everyone in the chocolate business can get together and share knowledge and discuss issues. So it was great to be invited to speak at Kennedy’s Chocolate Network event – organised by Angus Kennedy, owner of Kennedy’s Confectionery magazine – fantastic to see a great mix of big and small in the audience – from Nestle & Barry Callebaut to Elizabeth Shaw and House of Dorchester.  Sophi Tranchell, Divine’s MD, agreed to talk about “Why should cocoa farmers carry on growing cocoa?” – a Divine perspective on what will incentivise a future generation of cocoa farmers, and how that is key to maintaining a supply of good cocoa in the future as demand for chocolate grows around the world.

It was inspiring to hear the stories from other independent companies like Willie’s Cacao (Willie Harcourt-Cooze told his story of the farm he bought in Venezuela) and the iconic Scottishbrand Tunnocks,  (Boyd Tunnock still runs the company which sells 5million of its famous caramel wafers every week, with a distribution to die for). You can hear the passion in their voices and total immersion in what they do.

The event finished with some startling psychological insights about the habits of different kinds of chocolate eater, and Angus Kennedy (dressed in a purple Willy Wonka coat with a chocolate flower pinned to the lapel) giving his predictions for 2013, ending with a reminder that chocolate enhances sexual stamina.  He said he himself has five children to prove it!

The best part was catching up with friends and colleagues – Malachy McReynolds from Elizabeth Shaw, bloggers MostlyAboutChocolate and Chocablog, sampling some fabulous hand-made chocolates made with California raisons by William Curley – and then best of all Sophi having her photo taken with brand hero Boyd Tunnock (who kissed her hand very gallantly and invited her to sail on his boat!). 

We went home very happily with a goodie bag containing a huge selection of chocolates – still exciting after all these years !


A Divine chocolate cruise to Bruges

23 November 2012

Divine’s Wendy Rowan reports on a Divine Trip to Bruges:

I’ve just had the pleasure in accompanying the winners of a Divine competition for students on a mini cruise to Bruges in Belgium.

Meeting at the P&O ferry

Meeting at the P&O ferry

We all met up at the P&O ferry port in Hull and boarded the Pride of Bruges. The 3 students and their companions had made their way from Leeds, Derby, London and Cambridge.

David, the Divine chocolatier, started the evening off with a fabulous presentation telling us about the history of cocoa & chocolate – how cocoa has been around for some 4000 years but used as a currency and as a drink. It’s only in the last 200 years that chocolate has been produced in bars and individual chocolates for us to enjoy.

We were also guided through the technique to taste chocolate using all 5 senses – the look of the chocolate, the smell & feel, the “snap” and the taste. With the Divine story, the benefits of Fairtrade and farmer-ownership highlighted everyone learnt why Divine is so divine.

Discovering the chocolate museum

Discovering the chocolate museum

Next morning we docked at Zeebrugge – (I discovered that means Bruges-by-the-sea) and after a short bus ride we were in the heart of the town. Bruges is beautiful, full of character, with stunning architecture, grandiose churches, bustling market squares, and tranquil meandering canals. We all went to visit the Choco-Story chocolate museum which brought to life all the history of cocoa & chocolate that we had been told by David the evening before.  What I loved the best was the room full of chocolate drinking paraphernalia including the most delicate of bone china cups with a moustache guard to prevent the creamy froth from ruining one’s tache! At the end of the tour was a demonstration of making chocolates filled with ganache which we all got to taste.

Beautiful Bruges

Beautiful Bruges

A lunch of moules frites and then free time to walk canal side, wander the cobbled streets, visit all those famous chocolate houses and do plenty of shopping. Ever shop offered a mouth-watering selection of chocolate in all shapes, sizes & flavours. A chocolate lover’s paradise!

Back on board we re-grouped and made sure our competition winners had enjoyed themselves. “Brilliant” was the general consensus of opinion. We docked back in Hull the next morning and all went on their way home clutching a Divine goody bag full of treats and now knowing how to taste chocolate to appreciate the full flavour. Eating a bar of chocolate will never be the same again!


Kuapa President sees Divine chocolate being made for the first time

13 November 2012

Latest post from Sophi:

If you want to guarantee a good turnout at a board meeting, I can recommend holding it in a chocolate factory!

The owner of the factory that makes Divine, Mr Cord Budde, invited us to have the next Divine Board meeting as his guests in the chocolate factory.  So the Divine Directors made their way from five countries to gather in Northern Germany. It was the final link in the chain, seeing how the chocolate is actually made.

The room where the board meeting was held had been Cord’s grandparents’ dining room. He had fond memories of Christmas dinners around the table .  On the table now were plates piled high with every flavour of chocolate to tempt your tastebuds.

Members of the Board of Divine USA with the portrait of the factory's founders

Members of the Board of Divine USA with the portrait of the factory’s founders

On the wall was a painting of  Ludwig and Luise Weinrich, who founded the factory in 1895.  Cord is the 4th generation to run the factory.  I remember attending Kuapa Kokoo‘s 10th AGM in 2003 with him in Ghana; it was the first time he had seen where the cocoa came from.  Cord and his team have been amazingly supportive of Divine, developing delicious new flavours and helping unpick problems for example, when our chocolate got stuck in the chocolate coin factory!  But he has also supported the farmers directly, building a school house for the teachers in the new school that Kuapa built in Amankwatia.

Christiana Ohene-Agyare, Emmanuel Arthur and Andy Goode - happy in the chocolate factory!

Christiana Ohene-Agyare, Emmanuel Arthur and Andy Good – happy in the chocolate factory!

Heading into the factory, we all had to don paper overalls and hair nets, a style challenge for anyone!  Then we had to wash and disinfect our hands to make sure we didn’t carry in any germs.  As you enter the heat hits you , then the low hum of the vats and finally the pervading smell of chocolate.   Throughout the visit  we see the whole process from roasting and grinding the beans, making cocoa mass, adding the sugar and milk, conching for hours in big vats to ensure the smooth consistency, nozzles depositing liquid chocolate into molds which are chilled, and the bars turned out, wrapped and packed in boxes through a maze of conveyor belts, pipes, machines and busy people.  Watching bars with whole hazelnuts being checked and turned over manually was thoroughly mesmerising.

Cocoa mass on its way to be made into chocolate

Cocoa mass on its way to be made into chocolate

It was really good to see President of the Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union Christiana Ohene-Agyare and Kuapa Kokoo Ltd MD Emmanuel Arthur finally getting to see how Kuapa’s own chocolate is made. They smiled a lot and I suspect they enjoyed the warmth and the increasingly sweet smell of the hot chocolate. It reminded me of the humid heat and distinctive smokey smells of the cocoa farms in Ghana.

As we started to make our way home, loaded down with chocolate, Hurricane Sandy hit the USA coast and USA Directors had the negotiate their way on to the next available plane.

Another mammoth journey and a great adventure for the Divine Board, and another reminder that this is really a very different way of doing business.

Divine bars wrapped and ready to be packed

Divine bars wrapped and ready to be packed


Fast cars, wild women and Divine Chocolate – it must be Norway

23 October 2012

Latest post from Sophi Tranchell:

New Friends Fair Trade shop in Mathallen Oslo

New Friends Fair Trade shop in Mathallen Oslo

Last week I was in Norway for the DLF (the Norwegian food trade body)  50th Anniversary Conference.  The theme was sustainability.  One of the morning speakers drove into the auditorium in a red  Koenigsegg.  I don’t know what it had to do with sustainability but apparently it’s the fastest car in the world – I wasn’t sure how to follow that!  In the evening they had a grand dinner with entertainment, the highlight was Katzenjammer,  a raucous band of women playing a fusion of folk & rock.

Arriving at Oslo Central station the next day, I was delighted to find the full range of Divine small bars in three different shops and even the florist was selling beautiful bunches of Fairtrade roses and Divine chocolate hearts. 

Onto the newly opened Food Court Mathallen  where Friends Fair Trade have a fantastically located stall near the entrance selling the full range of Divine gifts and bars.  I gave a presentation telling the story of Divine Chocolate and the farmers in Ghana who grow the cocoa and own the company.  After a delicious lunch we were given a guided tour of the food court, a cornucopia of food from around Norway to tantalize the taste buds, I would certainly recommend it to anyone visiting Oslo.

Divine gifts at the Friends Fair Trade shop

Divine gifts at the Friends Fair Trade shop

Back to the Friends Fair Trade  shop to discover a whole world of Fairtrade, as well as everything Divine has ever produced, Pants to Poverty, towels from Gossypium, hoodies from Epona, Dr Bonners Soap, tea from Hampstead Teas and Clipper, coffee from Cafedirect, and a massive range from Traidcraft.  They definitely get the prize for the biggest range of Fairtrade marked products any where in the world!


From the archive: Dubble trouble in Edinburgh

13 August 2012

As we in London bask in the glow of Olympic sporting glory, up in Edinburgh the world’s best creative performers are showing what they’re made of at the Fringe .  It’s this time of year I get to remember fondly the three glorious years  that the Dubble Act Award made headlines at the Fringe – an award we created in collaboration with the great Mervyn Stutter,  host of probably the longest running review show at the Festival. This is how it worked – Mervyn’s hard working team spends the entire duration of the Fringe looking out for some of the best shows, and inviting them to do a five minute taster for the Review.  Together we formulated an award as part of this process – so at the end of the show, unbeknown the acts on show that day – one great double comedy act was chosen to win the coveted Dubble award (sponsored by Divine‘s cheeky little sister brand).  The audience in Edinburgh is notably Fairtrade friendly and the link with our partner Comic Relief added extra resonance to this comedy-loving crowd. 

Mervyn Stutter gets his teeth into Dubble

Mervyn Stutter gets his teeth into Dubble

Being in Edinburgh during the Fringe is a real buzz, there is no public space that isn’t being used to perform, or plug a performance (possibly a few private spaces too).  It was a very special perk to be able to go up there to sponsor the Award (a serious competitor to the famous Perrier Award!) – but the whole process turned into a mini-comedy of its own.  I think my relationship with the wonderful hand-made Dubble Trophy, which was made specially for us each year, was jinxed. It was a large eccentric, but very delicate construction – totally full of Dubble bars. The problem was that, despite every attempt to protect it,  it broke in transit.  The first year we ran the award I only discovered the award trophy was broken hours before the show.  Mervyn looked decidedly unamused.  I managed to find a very kind techie bloke who spent a couple of hours gluing it back together for me.  Come the time for the show – all we could do was pray and cross our fingers that it wouldn’t fall apart on stage. I think I may have lent over and whispered “be careful with it, it’s fragile” to the winners.  It was ok – relieved drinks all round afterwards. 

The next year…. it happened again.  This was seriously not a joke.  I called HQ in a panic – and Sophi guided me to the nearest DIY/model-making store – where I bought my own hot glue gun. Not an implement I was that familiar with.  I spent most of that night working out how to use it, and applying liberal splots of hot glue to the broken trophy.  Success – it didn’t fall apart on stage – disaster averted again.  The following year I took the glue gun with me,  and with an experienced hand, applied a few blobs to all the weak looking points.  I felt like an Edinburgh veteran.

The winners of the Dubble Act Award have all gone on to be really successful – in 2003 it was Laurence and Gus (Laurence Howarth and Gus Brown – both behind some great comedy writing for TV) and the great Barry Cryer handed over the award.

Barry Cryer presents Laurence and Gus with their Dubble Act Award

Barry Cryer presents Laurence and Gus with their Dubble Act Award

In 2004 the winners were the extraordinary and very physical Japanese mime act Gamarjobat – who have gone on to be internationally famous. Top comedian Dara O’Briain presented this one – and Gamarjobat mimed their surprise and appreciation!

Dara O'Briain presents Dubble Act Award to Gamarjobat

Dara O’Briain presents Dubble Act Award to Gamarjobat

And the 2005 Dubble Act Award winner was US comedy duo Pajama Men – who have also become a comedy phenomena all around the world – and have just been back in Edinburgh where they first had their big UK success. Comedian and TV Presenter Sue Perkins joined the show to present the Award.

Pajama Men win the Dubble Act Award 2005

Pajama Men win the Dubble Act Award 2005

Sadly we then decided, despite having so much fun with the Dubble Act Award, we needed to focus our time and resources on more children-oriented initiatives – Dubble’s heartland – so 2005 was the last time a comedy duo could bag this prestigious award.  It would be great to know if some expert gluing has meant these extraordinary trophies are still adorning mantlepieces in pride of place – or at least being extremely efficient much-loved doorstops. 

But we haven’t stopped celebrating other great Dubble Acts!  Dubble fans will know that last year we started a smashing partnership with Dennis and Gnasher of the Beano.  We’re delighted to say Dubble and Dennis & Gnasher are still big pals – and look out for another Dubbly brilliant new launch PLUS a really famous TV duo getting in on the act in the Beano this autumn!!

Dubble gets together with another cheeky double act

Dubble gets together with another cheeky double act


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