Divine does Glastonbury

29 June 2011

Like other performers doing Glastonbury for the first time, we were all set for the most exciting gig of our lives.  After fretting over weather forecasts for weeks, we had crammed waterproofs, boots, Divine t-shirts, chocolate, summer gear, some items of ‘festival chic’ + tent and sleeping bag into bags and backpacks we could hardly carry – and we were on our way.

Divine had been invited to be the official chocolate bar at Glastonbury – a perfect union of ethical values and delicious fun – and we – Tal Drori, Simone Lindsay, Asi Sharabi and me – were going to see how the whole thing works.

The Divine team

I don’t know quite what I was expecting but the sheer scale is what knocks you out first. And then there was the mud. Mud that developed from the first day, when your footsteps hardly made a mark, to the deep, sticky, sucky mud that you sink into up to the top of your boots and have to beg people to pull you out.


Over the five days we explored most of the site (you had to factor in hours to get from one part to another) – from the sea+fish theme of the Greenpeace field, to the surreal shanty town of Shangri-La.  We made regular trips to Essential who were the wholesalers selling Divine on site – and to all the stores stocking Divine for the Festival.

Some of the Oxfam team

Met up with the Oxfam team – promoting the Grow campaign and inviting passers by to ‘get their hands dirty’ with green paint, and said hello to the Fairtrade Foundation team with their stand in the Greenpeace Field. 

The Fairtrade Foundation stand

Handed out the exclusive Glastonbury Divine bars in the Press Tent – where News of the World and Times, mingled with local SW press and journalists from all around the world – from Toronto to Buenos Aires.  Met up with long time colleague Ken Gascoigne who introduced me to Billy Bragg – who has always been a great Divine supporter (Ken got a Divine Glasto t-shirt signed by Billy and by Phil Jupitus which we’ll be offering as a prize soon!).  Caught up with Katy Stephens and Clive Jones

Billy Bragg gives thumbs up for Divine

from The Guardian (who along with Orange were providing Festival necessities –  mini-guides to the Festival, and tents where you could charge up your phone).

We had passes to the Hospitality Area for which we are eternally grateful – a (relative) zone of tranquility away from the heaving masses outside (with the chance of a bit of celeb spotting – Bono, Will Young, Alexa Chung, Fatboy Slim amongst others) .   Arriving there early on Sunday morning after packing the car – we were surrounded by police and heard the news of a death… soon to be identified as Chris Shale…

Sunday was HOT.  We were waiting for someone to call to say they had found the Golden Ticket giving them a stage-side pass on the Pyramid Stage…. but no call came.  So we decided to choose someone at random… and spotted Joyce Henderson sitting with her friend Ellie Cox having a cool drink of Pimms.  We must have Fairtrade radar, because Joyce turned out to be a local primary school teacher, who introduces her pupils to Fairtrade! Cue huge excitement and a flurry of phonecalls telling family, friends and anyone else they could think of – at 5.45pm we escorted them through the stage side gate – and they went off to see Plan B – right there on the stage with him.

Lucky winners Ellie and Joyce

And yes we did see some bands – including bits of Metronomy, Aloe Blacc, Elbow, Laura Marling, Coldplay, U2, Jessie J and more.   Feeling pretty tired we set off before Beyonce – very sad to miss her – but the desire for a bath, loo without a layer of mud, and comfy bed was too strong…..

Check out more from Glastonbury on our Facebook and Twitter pages

Painted boys enjoy a Divine treat


What was so nice about Fairtrade Fortnight

14 March 2011

Fairtrade Fortnight is the most full-on and extraordinary two weeks of our year (not to mention all the time planning it) and we, and the farmers, meet more fantastic people in 14 days than one would hope to in a whole year. It’s exhausting – but amazing.  (And big thanks to Tal for co-ordinating the whole thing)

Catching up with some sleep on the train to Oxford

While the wonderful events and brilliant audiences are what we hope and aim for – it can be some of the small things that create some of the best memories.  Here are some of mine….

Harriet and Fatima learned to say “Fabulous”, “Marvellous” and “Outstanding!” while they were on this trip – for example when they really mastered going up and down on the escalators – Harriet announced they were “Outstanding!!”

It was some of the people we just bumped into by chance that gave us a real feelgood experience – like the ticket man at London Bridge tube who was really interested in who the farmers were and why they were here, and said how many of his friends were Ghanaian and how great he thought Fairtrade was.  And Giles the sound engineer at BBC who connected the interview down the line with “Costing the Earth” – who confessed he was an enormous Divine fan.  And the Hungarian girl working in the Bermondsey Street Teapod who was amazed to be introduced to two of the cocoa farmers behind Divine – “it’s my absolutely favourite chocolate,” she cried, “and I should know, I have tried them all!”.  (Nice to be able to tell her you can now buy Divine in Hungary).

Meeting up with other producers is always special too – Harriet and Fatima were introduced to Dyborn from Malawi (where the nuts for Harry’s Nuts come from) – and there’s an instant affinity between fellow Africans and fellow farmers.

And finally – on our last afternoon together (returning from a mega shopping session in town) – great excitement behind me and lots of pointing.  They had spotted a squirrel and their immediate response was to ask if we could kill it for bush meat.  I had to concur about the frequent desire to kill squirrels (from a gardener point of view) but not so sure about the bush meat part of it…. we left him to cause more havoc in South East London.

Fairtrade and Women and Pancakes

9 March 2011

Fatima and Harriet in their Kuapa dresses at Oxford Town Hall

In Oxford today – this morning as guests of Mid-Counties Co-op at their Fairtrade Fair in the gloriously ornate Oxford Town Hall. After a Fairtrade fashion parade featuring models from 6 months to 60, and their first taste of pancakes, Kuapa farmers Harriet and Fatima presented their experience of farming and Fairtrade. There were lots of questions, photos, and then African drummers from Guinea (via Stourport).

Harriet and Fatima try their first pancakes

In the afternoon we jumped into a cab up to Oxfam GB (divine’s long time supporter and customer) to join their celebration of International Women’s Day. They were involving the staff in a day of talks and displays about gender issues worldwide (Oxfam is one of the NGOs contributing to the EQUALs compaign). Harriet and Fatima drew a big crowd, standing room only. This time they both gave much more personal stories about how membership of their co-operative had empowered them. They have achieved such great things and are inspiring role models for other young women in their communities. They were asked if there was any male backlash (sometimes men are jealous they say), about the size of their farms and cocoa prices. Later they were off to dinner with the buyers for all the Oxfam shops.

Fatima and Harriet at Oxfam GB
Fatima and Harriet with the Oxfam buyers Inma Andres and Sophie Brill

The secret to the Divine cocoa flavour is in the fermentation and drying

7 December 2010

The latest blog from Swedish graduate Emilie Persson:

John, the Recorder, took me to his brother Lot’s farm which was just a short ride from Assin Akonfudi, along a dirt road. Then we walked about a kilometre into the forest. The landscape was varied, with cocoa farms, bamboo trees and small swampy areas, all looking very green and lush.

At Lot’s farm, there were already a group of people sitting around a large pile of colourful cocoa.  For the last few days all the cocoa pods that had been plucked from Lot’s trees had been carried in baskets to this collection point. Ready for the task of breaking open hundreds of cocoa pods (!) we started the work. The farmers were experts and opened the pods, took out the cocoa and threw away the empty pod at speed! 

Esi and her son

It was also impressive seeing how some of the women managed to work, while at the same time having their small children along with them. The children rested giggling in the shade on some banana leaves that had been covered with a blanket, while their mothers worked. Two of the women also had their smallest children on their backs.

Inside each pod the purple cocoa beans are covered in a sweet tasting white slimy pulp (a bit like lychees). All the fresh cocoa beans were collected in trays, which then were carried away to the fermentation place. The beans are piled on banana leaves that have been spread out on the ground, and the leaves are then wrapped over them to make a kind of tent. Here the beans will get hot and ferment for at least five days before they being carried back to Lot’s house where he will dry the beans on bamboo mats turning them regularly in the sun for seven days. 

Pouring the fresh beans on to the plantain leaves

Allowing the fermenting and drying to take up to two weeks is very important to get the high quality cocoa that Kuapa Kokoo is known for. John explains – “You cannot dry the cocoa without fermenting it, because it will remain purple and will become mouldy.” He continued by describing what negative impact that would have on the chocolate. – “If you do not ferment the beans you would need more sugar when you produce the chocolate, to get a good flavour.” The hard work and passion of the Kuapa farmers is a crucial reason to why Divine chocolate tastes so divine!

Emilie watches Kuapa cocoa being checked for quality

26 November 2010

The third blog post from our friend Swedish graduate Emilie Persson out in Ghana:

Checking the quality of Kuapa cocoa

One of Kuapa Kokoo’s district depots is located in Assin Akonfudi. The depot is used to store a large quantity of cocoa in jute sacks, before it is being transported to the Tema harbour for export. The depot collects cocoa from around fifteen villages. At the depot the quality is checked by people from the ‘Quality and Control Division’, a branch of a governmental board (COCOBOD) that controls cocoa production in Ghana.

Instrument to measure levels of moisture

One day I was able to watch a quality control officer working at the depot. One of the first steps was to check the dryness in each of the four hundred bags. Each of the bags has been given a number that indicate the village of origin and can be traced. The dryness is checked with a metal instrument called aqua-boy. The next step is to take cocoa samples from four sides of each bag to make sure the cocoa in the bag is uniformly mixed in terms of colour and size. The officer then mixes all the sampled cocoa beans and takes a smaller sample that he manually cuts open and checks for mouldy beans or beans that have germinated or in some cases have not been fermented long enough which results in a special colour. Based on the results, the officer will reject or seal the cocoa and it will be take to the port on a large trailer. Another quality control officer then does the same procedure one more time at the Tema port.

To produce good quality cocoa the farmers need to make sure that it is well fermented and well dried, two processed that demands at least two times six days. And because each bag of cocoa for Divine Chocolate can be traced back to the village of origin, the recorders are very particular about the cocoa they buy from the individual Kuapa farmer, which ensures that the cocoa in Divine  is pa pa paa! – the best of the best!

Taking a sample from the cocoa sacks

What makes Divine special?

23 November 2010

Nine bars from Divine

I recently ran a competition for our Twitter followers asking them to answer the question ‘what makes Divine special?’.  The prize was two £50 vouchers to Pizza Express.

I thought I’d share just a selection of the answers received.

– Divine is special because it keeps the kids quiet while they have a mouthful of delicious brownies that I make with Divine Chocolate so I can have five minutes peace after a hectic day!

– I love Divine because of it’s commitment to fairtrade and farmers. Also because it is a rich, smooth chocolate that when it melts in your mouth warms and comforts you on a cold miserable day like today.

– Divine chocolate is special because:
The wrapper’s ornate, like rich Ghanaian textiles,
The chocolate within engenders nothing but big smiles,
And these beautiful smiles come not just from me,
But farmers like Comfort, who own near half the company!

– What makes Divine to me is the taste, the ingredients, the way the chocolate melts in my mouth and puts me in a really good mood. To me Divine Chocolate is exceptional, no other chocolate tastes like Divine.

– 2 words *best chocolate* x x

And here are the two winning answers:

1. It’s rich, irresistible, fair and true  (If only Divine made men too!). Well done Emma Clarke!

2. It’s rich, tasty and scrupulously fair.  Such a package is truly rare! Well done Anna Aird!

Thanks tweeters for your wonderful and uplifting answers!  Follow us on Twitter at @divinechocolate

Big Food Debate – September 2010, Abergavenny

29 September 2010

Speakers from all over the world at the Big Food Debate

 What made last week’s Big Food Debate an especially important forum was that it gave voice to so many farmers and producers from around the world.  Yes, there were UK pundits and experts, but there was no doubt we were all there to listen to and understand the challenges and ambitions so lucidly explained by more than twenty five producers who had come from across Africa, Latin America and Asia. 

Organised by Twin (the NGO that has 25 years experience working specifically with smallholder farmers) and Fair Trade Wales, the Big Food Debate was a logistical miracle, as getting visas and travel arrangements sorted for this many farmers will not have been easy.  The sense of unity, sharing of problems, and extraordinary persistence and resilience amongst the farmers was palpable throughout.

The Debate opened with plenary presentations from Tomy Mathew representing the Fairtrade Alliance of Kerala, Southern India, from Peter Lipman of Transition Towns Network, and from Gareth Edwards-Jones of Bangor University. They set the scene for and against consumerism and Fairtrade in the search for sustainable solutions to trade injustice and food security.

The Debate then broke into six workshops all focused on different issues farmers face worldwide and the challenges faced here in the UK in engaging civic society to support farmer-centric solutions to the food security issues we are all now becoming aware of.

In the workshop on “how farmers can move higher up the value chain” we first heard about Zaytoun. This brand of Fairtrade olive oil is a triumph of hope over adversity for Palestinian olive farmers with every possible obstacle in the way of them producing the excellent product the country has been known for over 3000 years. Dyborn Chibonga of NASFAM farmers association in Malawi described how the farmers he represents have succeeded in making more money from their groundnuts and thereby moving further up the value chain, by adding roasting and salting to their offer. Kuapa Kokoo. Like Zaytoun, was another example showing how owning your own brand in the Northern consumer markets brings so much more than extra income.

Another workshop discussed “how farmers can build the capacity to be sustainable, particularly in respect of climate change’.  Here it became clear how profound the impact of changing weather patterns has been around the world. Carmen Willems of Junta Nacional del Café coffee farmers union in Peru described recent harvests being severely decimated due to the multiple effect of very heavy rains and drought at the wrong times. Coffee cherries are either not being pollenated, being washed off the bushes by the rain, or becoming more exposed to pests and diseases.  Junta Nacional del Café has an ambitious and well-conceived adaptation programme in place but they estimate it will need $130m to complete.  So far they have raised $5m. Emmanuel Arthur of Kuapa Kokoo in Ghana explained how important it was to present adaptation solutions to farmers in terms they understand, and which relate to their experience on their farms.  It should be they, the farmers, in control of their own destinies so they need to understand the problems.  Adaptation programmes should not be imposed on farmers by manufacturers and their technical experts.  Farmers should have the training and funding to implement these programmes themselves.

The overriding themes that came out of this Debate were the need for biodiversity, the potential for further organisation, networking and collaboration of farmers, and the need for funding.  Farmers cannot be expected to fund major adaptation programmes out of FT premiums. What is very clear is that it is the farmers themselves who are best placed and most experienced in stewarding the land and keeping it productive, and they should therefore have equal control over funding and how it is used – the power should not be in the hands of the funding provider.

Note: For more about how smallholder farmers are key to the future of the world’s food security read George Monbiot’s piece ‘Small is bountiful’ here