Our Divine rider completes the course – in Condor style

22 May 2013

She did it!!! Here’s Sara’s post after completing the whole MITIE Revolution 180 miles over the weekend…

OK. I had planned to get this blog done on Monday but the aftermath of completing a 180 mile bike ride (yes we did it!) was more than I’d anticipated. Apart from my achy bits and creeky knee which decided to give up 5 miles before the end of the MITIE London Revolution ride  (it made for an interesting cycling technique), I’ve had a general feeling of complete disorientation. More like having been on the moon for 2 days rather than London’s home-counties. And dare I say it, a sense of sadness that it’s all over, even though I had wished that very thing on more than one occasion over the weekend!

All set to start

All set to start

It’s funny coming out the other side. As I unpacked I realised that I had momentarily lost my mind in preparation for the ride. My extra supplies of food ‘just in case’ were ridiculous. So now we have cupboards full of peanuts, crisps, biscuits, chocolates and sweet drinks (my daughter Isla thinks all of her Christmases have come at once). And I had to find a home for my giant tub of Vaseline. Not to mention all the sweaty lycra to deal with – items that seem a bit alien now the ride is over.

Finishing on day 1 and 2

Finishing on day 1 and 2

But it was definitely an incredible event  to be part of and memorable in so many ways. Peddling a beautiful Condor bike was a joy (and life-saver!). The feeling of camaraderie with other cyclists and the Revolution staff kept everyone going; camping at Windsor racecourse was surreal; I got to experience the beauty of London’s home-counties as I’ve never done before, and I got the pleasure of my brother’s company for 2 days. We made good cycling partners, although I spent more time than I’d ever imagined possible in my life staring at his backside!

Camping at Windsor Racecourse

Camping at Windsor Racecourse

The sense of achievement is something to cherish too. The endless hills on day 2 didn’t break me (including Tandridge Hill for those who know this particular beasty) and I can proudly say I rode every one without pushing the bike. A small dream was realised when we made it to the top of Box Hill too. It was all unexpectedly … enjoyable. Would I do it again? Yes, absolutely. But not next week.

Reaching the top of Box Hill!

Reaching the top of Box Hill!

So a big thanks to Revolution Rides  and Condor Cycles for making this possible, Divine Chocolate for fuelling the riders with delicious chocolate, and for all the encouragement of friends and family and unlikely sponsors for showing their support.

Divine breakfast!

Divine breakfast!

I couldn’t end this blog without sharing a little confession to Condor Cycles . Despite my best efforts, that racing saddle never did come on the ride with me. A few necessary modifications were made in that department and my faithful saddle for many a commute came instead. As they say, you can take the commuter out for a cycle, but you can’t take the commuter out of the cyclist. Or something like that.

A saddle too far

A saddle too far

Sara, her new Italian lover & the lunch of shame

17 May 2013

Here’s Sara’s last post before she cycles off into the distance! 

Crikey – my last post before the MITIE London Revolution ride after a couple of days of getting to know my new Condor Italia. I hadn’t anticipated a summer romance this year (well any year actually) but I think I’m falling in love with this Italian.

Sara's new Italian love

Sara’s new Italian love

Aside from the fact that it looks incredible, it’s unbelievably light (I can literally lift it up with one finger) and has the most amazing gears which change without the merest suggestion of effort. I’m suddenly filled with confidence about Box Hill and some of the other slightly alarming looking hills on the Day 2 profile. In fact I glide up Croombs Hills with such ease now, it’s not so much the prospect of the circuit that’s making my eyes water any more, but the prospect of completing it on a wafer thin racing saddle! I’m definitely a commuter in this department. Sorry Claire (I have tried) and thank you Sonja for the nice padded gel cover.

Other than upping my laps of GreenwichPark, my training schedule has involved upping my calorie intake. This has been an unexpected fringe benefit of riding 180 miles in 2 days. My ‘lunch of shame’ was snapped by my incredulous boss (it was my second lunch of the day) and my chocolate covered Brazil nut and new Divine Caramel bar consumption has gone through the roof! I’m going to miss my guilt-free munchies next week.

Sara and her lunch of shame

Sara and her lunch of shame

I couldn’t start the ride without thanking everyone for their generous sponsorship  and introducing you to ‘Team Divine’ who will be doing the 2 day circuit with me. The pit crew, Tony and Isla, will be following us around the circuit with back-up supplies, chocolate samples and my old saddle just in case! And my brother Cameron will be riding with me. He was the only person I knew other than my husband who would be up for registering for a 2 day cycling event just as the training schedule had ended.

Tony and Isla test driving the Condor

Tony and Isla test driving the Condor

So what’s left for today? I’ve made my ‘to do’ and packing lists – a surprising amount to do and bring before a crack of dawn start tomorrow.


1. Collection of my repair kit from the Post Office.

2. A crash course in changing an inner-tube from Team Divine’s chief engineer (Tony).

3. One last trip to the Divineoffice to pick up some chocolate samples and Usherette tray for all the deserved cyclists at the Windsor Racecourse on Saturday night (look out for the woman in the Divine t-shirt walking like John Wayne).


1. A giant tub of Vaseline!

Et Viola. I’ll be all set. See you on the other side!

Sara will be tweeting her way around the MITIE Revolution Race from @dubblehq

Sara gets a rather super bike – MITIE Revolution post no.2

15 May 2013

Dubble‘s Sara Barron with her second post as she prepares to cycle 180 miles this weekend with Mitie Revolution and goes to Condor Bikes to pick up the bike they are lending her for the event….

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect at the Condor shop this morning. I’ve never been ‘fitted’ for a bike before. It was actually quite physical. More like being at the osteopath’s than a bike shop. Once I’d stretched and rolled my head around, James had the task of talking me through various adjustments, gears and body positioning. We established that I had wonky shoulders and longer than average legs (I never heard that before!) although I wasn’t sure if the size of the seat was an indication of being larger than average in other areas.

James at Condor sorting out a bike for me

James at Condor sorting out a bike for me

Once fitted, Claire checked my tyre pressure and attached my bottle cages. I was intrigued to hear about the history of Condor as she worked on the bike. They design all of their bikes in London as they have done for the past 60 years, and they continue to produce all of their frames by hand in Italy. It struck me and how akin the values of Condor  and Divine Chocolate actually are – basically, no compromise on quality or ethics in favour of cheaper products.

Claire took me through the last few items on my checklist. We talked about the merits of various performance gels (baffling) and soon established I wouldn’t need any given the banana fuelled pit-stops along the MITIE Revolution circuit. She gave me a supply of inner tubes and a multi-tool and with some good luck well wishes I was sent on my way. With the bike!

Despite the fact that I REALLY hate cycling in the City I managed to navigate my way safely from Gray’s Inn Road, along Chancery Lane and Cheapside and over London Bridge back to the office. I have to say that I’m over the moon with the Condor Italia in my possession. Claire couldn’t have picked me a better partner and I’m itching to get to know it better on a more familiar and quieter ride along the Thames when I head home this evening.

Sara with her Condor near our offices

Sara with her Condor near our offices

Our Divine cyclist at Revolution this weekend – post no.1

13 May 2013

Sara Barron (Dubble HQ Online and Product Manager here at Divine) is getting ready to complete the Revolution ride this weekend – here’s her first post….

Sara Barron before the upgrade!

Sara Barron before the upgrade (the bike I mean)!

When Tal told me about Divine’s sponsorship of the Mitie London Revolution cycle ride this year my ears pricked up. But when she asked me if I wanted to do it as one of Divine’s ‘keen cyclists’ my initial thought was ‘Am I?’. Yes, I cycle to work every day come rain or shine and yes I love it but I’ve always thought of myself as a commuter rather than a cyclist. I actually avoid roads and other cyclists as much as possible on my commute along the Thames Path from Greenwich to Tower Bridge. I don’t own lycra shorts or any other cycling gear, apart from a helmet and some toe clips (which my husband bought me for Mother’s Day). And my bike is only still roadworthy due to the constant vigilance of my husband who frequently disappears into his shed with it and emerges with something that doesn’t squeak and feels 10 times more comfortable to ride. But even he declared it ‘unfit for purpose’ when I floated the idea of a 180 mile bike ride past him.

Tal brushed these reservations aside and told me to go ahead with my training programme, get the necessary gear and she would sort out a bike. Low and behold a collection of parcels of new equipment – including lycra shorts – are piling up at home, and today our lovely friends at Condor Cycles told us they have a bike ready for collection which they are generously loaning me for the summer. Incredible!

Lizzie at Mitie London Revolution  took care of my last minute registration, and so here I am on Monday afternoon with the prospect of a 180 mile bike ride ahead of me at the weekend. That too is incredible!

I have a knot in my stomach. I can barely contain my excitement at the prospect of completing this iconic circuit on an iconic bike. But so far the extent of my hill climb training for Box Hill (which despite my commuter mentality I’ve always had a secret passion to cycle) has involved a few circuits of Greenwich Park and Croombes Hill en route to work. A sense of competitive determination to finish the course in a decent time and enjoy the ride is bubbling up. I’m just hoping my old bike is the only thing that’s ‘unfit for purpose’.

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.


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

Fairtrade Fortnight offers at the supermarkets

18 February 2013

pile of bars_smallBecause it’s Fairtrade Fortnight we’ve set up some fabulous special offers at the supermarkets. Here are all the details!

Sainsbury’s: It’s buy two bars for £3 on all 100g bars at Sainsbury’s. Sainsbury’s stocks our dark chocolate with raspberries, 85%, 70%, ginger & orange chocolate and our milk chocolate bars. The offer is on now until 5th March.

Tesco: There’s 25% off all our 100g bars at Tesco. Tesco stocks our 70%, ginger & orange chocolate, dark chocolate with raspberries and our white chocolate with strawberries. The offer is on from 27th February until 26th March.

Waitrose: There’s 25% off all our 100g bars at Waitrose. Waitrose stocks the following flavours: 85%, ginger & orange chocolate, white chocolate with strawberries, milk chocolate, orange chocolate, 70% and dark chocolate with raspberries. The offer is on now until 12th March.

Kuapa Kokoo salutes the great work of Gordon Roddick

22 January 2013
Gordon Roddick receives the Citation from Kuapa Kokoo

Gordon Roddick receives the Citation from Kuapa Kokoo

The Body Shop founders, Gordon Roddick and his late wife Anita, played one of the most crucial parts in Divine Chocolate‘s birth – not only by believing in and promoting this new kind of business model where farmers have a significant stake in the company, but in giving the real and immediate commercial support needed to get it off the ground.

Gordon Roddick continued to support Divine Chocolate, sitting on the Board for 11 years, and seeing his vision bear fruit.  He retired from our Board this year – and Kuapa Kokoo made sure of a fitting tribute to him to show the appreciation of the farmer members for his invaluable help and influence over so many years.

In true Ghanaian style, a citation was created for him – and it was presented to him on behalf of Kuapa Kokoo last week by Divine Chocolate’s MD Sophi Tranchell and our ex-Chair Sandy Balfour – both of whom worked with Gordon Roddick from the start.  Here is what Kuapa Kokoo said in tribute:

“If any organization could stand the test of time, then one of such organizations is Kuapa Kokoo.

The success story of Kuapa Kokoo would therefore be meaningless without the acknowledgement of your invaluable contributions.

One thing that makes you unique is your entrepreneurial spirit which gave birth to ‘The Body Shop’. Such a feat could not have been materialized without the unflinching support of your late wife, Anita. But for your investment from The Body Shop, the Day Chocolate Company, later Divine Chocolate Ltd. would not have been born. 

Kuapa Kokoo would like to pay a special tribute to you and your late wife, Anita – for being a pioneer in advocating fairer trade with farmers, for establishing a long term contract with The Body Shop – and for having the vision to support and invest in Divine Chocolate Ltd. Being a giant in the movement to ensuring a better deal for farmers and producers around the world is an inspiration for today’s social entrepreneurs who believe business can be done better.

Because it was The Body Shop’s Mission to dedicate it’s business to the pursuit of social and environmental change, it was manifested in your decision to hand over all the Body Shop shares in Divine to Kuapa Kokoo.

Also, the alacrity with which you chaired the Board of Divine Chocolate and the possibility for the Body Shop to buy Kuapa Kokoo products at the Fairtrade price; and your long stay at the chair of Divine Board has attracted the compliment of the Board, Management and Staff of Kuapa Kokoo Ltd.

The dedicated service you rendered to the course of Kuapa Kokoo and Divine Chocolate vis-à-vis Fairtrade ever since our friendship is greatly appreciated.

Sir, the Kuapa fraternity salutes you!!!”