'Tis the season to be jolly... while eating delicious treats and drinking mulled wine. London is the perfect city to do just that. And last weekend I was going to make the most of it.
When the Chocolate Festival graced South Bank I was preparing my sweet tooth to indulge in its favourite past time. And I was not disappointed. I smelled the hot churros, perfectly accompanied with liquid chocolate for dipping, before I saw them. Lining the courtyard were cupcakes, brownies, truffles, bars of chocolate, and of course, thick freshly churned hot chocolate to wash down the edible goods, and mulled wine to cleanse the palate. But what stood out to me more was the level of education of the festival participants whose passion for the cacao bean’s personification and their products was paramount.
Of note was Kieran Renihan of The Chocolution, a make your-own-chocolate-company, enlightening tasters of raw cacao beans to the health benefits of the key ingredient of chocolate and selling chocolate making kits containing natural raw ingredients.
“We need to respect the cacao bean,” Renihan said. Cacao beans contain a high amount of magnesium and anti-oxidants, he highlighted, which improves blood flow, reduces the risk of heart disease, and produce serotonin – which is why we equate chocolate with warm and fuzzy happy thoughts. “It’s a vitamin, but not known as a vitamin,” he said.
Renihan co-founded The Chocolution with Jake Lawy in 2008/2009 and is now selling the chocolate making kits online. It’s a business with a social conscious that’s looking to change the way people think and interact with chocolate – evolving our understanding of the bean and how we can sustainably and ethical interact with it. Renihan is involved with an education campaign targeted at 16-24 year olds to discuss the chocolate business. He wants people to be able to produce chocolate in its purest form and help young people learn about how the world works through chocolate.
Renihan argued the way we consume chocolate now is not sustainable to the growers, and we need to change the way we shop and purchase products, which in effect, would change the way they are produced. I asked Renihan whether Chocolution was fair trade certified. It’s not, but Renihan spoke of the relationship he has with the producers and as a small business, the preference to put money directly towards the producers, rather than cost of getting a fair trade licence. Chocolution is supplied through SKS Farms in Ecuador.
Renihan encourages people to do their research and learn about the chocolate industry. It’s an education process, he says, for himself as well as others. “What I thought was chocolate five years ago was massively diluted,” he said.
When I (liberally) sampled the quality of chocolate available at the festival, it was hard to imagine that products from Cadbury and Nestle go into the same category. My palate places them worlds apart... especially after sampling a raw cacao bean.