Last Wednesday marked the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Normally all of us involved in craft chocolate would be all over this. But these aren’t normal times. Here in the UK we’ve just completed our first month of “lockdown” and, unlike a few other parts of the world, we’ve no end in sight. Earth Day acknowledges our environmental problems and encourages us all to be positive in taking proactive steps that can be both small and large. So we thought that it would be good to take stock and also ask you all to help celebrate Earth Day by enjoying and sharing craft chocolate, as it really is better for the planet.
All of our 100+ makers have been hit really hard by Covid-19. At best they’ve shrunk back to a skeleton staff, often the founding team, but they are able to continue operations. However for many the lockdown has meant they’ve had to completely suspend operations. This has been particularly prevalent in cocoa-growing countries like Ecuador and Peru, but also some makers here in the UK, France and other parts of the EU and even the USA have had to temporarily shut up shop. For those makers who had built major retail operations and/or those who have grown by partnering with coffee shops and restaurants it’s been devastating. Bottom line, all craft chocolate makers are struggling with huge declines in sales.
Craft chocolate isn’t alone here. Jenny Linford, a wonderful food writer, has penned an incredibly poignant and heart rending description of the challenges for artisan cheese makers (which you can read here). Craft chocolate makers for the most part don’t grow their own beans, so the circumstances are a little different. But the essence of craft chocolate is celebrating the cocoa bean. And all our makers practise direct trade – they all build personal and long-term relationships with the farmers and co-operatives who grow their cocoa beans. And that’s the next really big fear. What happens with already harvested beans? And even more worryingly, what will happen with the next harvest? So now, more than ever, craft chocolate needs your support.
At Cocoa Runners we are incredibly fortunate to have a great warehouse partner in Devon who have put into place even more stringent hygiene and social distancing rules. We are still bringing in new bars and even new makers. And we are grateful to the Royal Mail who are “taking the strain”. The strain on the Royal Mail does mean it is taking longer for UK deliveries (please assume 2-3 days, even with RM 24 “first class”). International deliveries, with a few exceptions, are continuing – although they too are taking longer.
These circumstances have also forced us to leave our “London Bubble” with Choc O’Clock on Instagram and Facebook live on Thursdays. And instead of the monthly London based tasting, we are now doing weekly “Virtual Tastings” via Zoom on Wednesdays, with alternating times of 5-00 pm and 8-00 pm UK time. We are also experimenting with “joint” tastings – kicking off with a Fine Wine and Craft Chocolate Tasting next Thursday with 67 Pall Mall. Plus we’re doing tastings at other virtual festivals and for small groups, families or corporates. Please do email us with any questions or suggestions – firstname.lastname@example.org
We’ve also seen a huge uptick of interest in cooking with craft chocolate. We have a range of recipe cards that we send along with our Milk (44%), Dark (63%), and 100% single-estate cooking chocolate. This cooking chocolate is sourced from the Sambirano Valley and crafted by Menakao in Madagascar. Being grown and crafted at origin means that this chocolate is calculated to have 4-5 times the beneficial impact of Fair Trade certification for the local economy. And it makes great cakes, biscuits, savoury dishes, hot chocolate and more. Please see here for more details.
If you are a regular to this email, the chances are that you already know that craft chocolate tastes better, is better for you, and better for the farmers and planet. Plus it makes FAR better brownies and hot chocolate. So this Earth Weekend, please can we ask you to share this email, invite your family and friends to a Virtual Tasting and above all stay safe, physically distant but socially close?
Spencer, Simon, Lizzie and Harmony