Co Couture & Chocolate Ethics

Hellllllo Weekenders! One bit of exciting news to hit the Wiggy house in the last couple of weeks is that my good fella has bagged a really great new job! *applause*

He's going to be working for the wonderful charity Sustrans as an Active Travel Officer, helping Schools and families implement more active, sustainable travel in their commute to School.  Sustrans has been doing really transformational work in the wider UK for 30 odd years, but is relatively new in it's presence in Northern Ireland so it's a great opportunity for Dave to muck in with developing their work here and help our local community prioritise walking and cycling.  We are all pretty sad that he's leaving the YMCA in August as it has been a big part of our lives for the last 7 years, but this is definitely the right move for him and for our family.

He had a pre-start-of-the-job meeting at the Sustrans Belfast office yesterday so Levi and I went along had a bit of a date afternoon in the big smoke while he did his thing.

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(walk this way....sustainable transport...geddit?)

Annnyway...

My pal Gemma recently introduced me to the delights of a little gourmet chocolate boutique set in the heart of Belfast City Centre called Co Couture.  

It has won awards for it's decadent handmade treats and is becoming a real favourite of mine for some sweet indulgences. Back in May during No More Traffik week, Gemma arranged with the lovely Deirdre (owner) to host an info session on the chocolate industry and the realities behind ethically sourced chocolate.  The 3 of us went along and had a really great afternoon learning, tasting and hearing all about Deirdres experience of working with different cocoa producers/sources and the difficulties and conflicts of some of the more established certifiers.

It is estimated that over 270 000 children have been trafficked into the cocoa farms in big cocoa countries like Ghana and the Ivory Coast.  It is also estimated that the average person spends about £400 on chocolate in a year - so looking at our consumer responsibilities is really important.  We are all connected.

I am always encouraging others to chose to buy ethically; in general life, but also a lot in my job (especially the chocolate & clothing industries), but I'm not naive enough to think that Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance, UTZ etc. are fool proof choices when it comes to delivering the best outcomes for the people that produce our goods.  It's really complex, with lots of loopholes.  The processes and standards of certifiers are always changing as the market changes, but I still believe that putting our bucks into products that certifiers are attempting to make fairly is a strong and important statement that says we care about the accountability chain of our stuff and we want to support the people behind the products.

That being said, Deirdre has some great insight and experience behind her and was able to speak with authority about Raise Trade, the charity that she believes to be most ethical in chocolate certification.  In looking more into it, it seems like the significant difference in their work is that they not only ensure that their products are made fairly at the source, they also ensure source production countries have an opportunity to be involved in all aspects of the product production (processing, packaging etc), not just the growing end of things.  This adds value to the local and national economy and builds skills within the source country.  It's empowering.  I like it.

Anyway, I love what Co Couture is all about and I love local businesses that do things well so I took my boy there for some of their treats.

DSC_1204You can find it tucked away down some iron steps just down Chichester Street in Belfast, a little oasis of chocolate in the midst of the business of the city centre and all its big multinational landmark shops.

DSC_1129You know that a place is kid friendly when the first thing they do is hand your 3 year old a piece of gourmet chocolate.DSC_1132We ordered 2 of these supremely gooey triple chocolate cookies.DSC_1135 DSC_1138DSC_1164And this hot chocolate.  Sweet heavens.  My favourite hot chocolate used to be the one from the Chocolate Bar in Harrods.  Then I had some in Rio airport that rivalled that one back in November, but THIS.   THIS is the hot chocolate to end all hot chocolate competitions.  It's a hot cup of melted, creamy, thick chocolate with a side of double cream and handmade marshmallows (all for the exceptionally reasonable price of £2.50 - in your overpriced face Costa/Starbucks/Nero etc)!DSC_1159 DSC_1154

We were the only two in the place visiting at the time and I've never known Levi to be so quiet and engrossed.  He devoured everything handed to him.  And also a few things that were not handed to him.DSC_1168

DSC_1186Deirdre and her lovely staff were so welcoming and chatted away, keen to get to know us and recommend products.  They even gave me a rare sneak peek into the kitchen where the magic happens!DSC_1184DSC_1178 DSC_1190 DSC_1193 DSC_1192

I couldn't recommend Co Couture more.  The passion and zeal behind such gorgeous products makes it a real pleasure to visit.  I'm already planning a visit with my mum next.

 

Mel