This is the secret chocolate salon where everything costs £1.86

Twisted: Unserious food tastes seriously good.

Chocolate always has an air of sophistication. Whether you’re nibbling on a bar of Dairy Milk or indulging in a set of hand-sculpted truffles, it’s impossible not to feel a little giddy about the prospect of eating something dark, sweet and sticky. It feels like the sort of thing that should only ever be enjoyed behind closed doors. 

Of course, how much we enjoy chocolate is dramatically affected by where we eat it. Fortunately for any East London chocoholics, a brand new opening will soon be able to cater for every sort of cocoa-based craving, in swanky new surroundings that promise to make every bite extra exciting.

As part of “Fairtrade Fortnight 2019”, the charity Fairtrade Foundation will be launching their very own chocolate salon in the heart of the East End, providing top quality hot chocolate and delivering an important message about the provenance of one of the world’s favourite treats.

Credit: Pixabay/congerdesign

Built by some of the UK’s top set designers, the pop-up will be a world away from some of the city’s traditional chocolate specialists. Using everything from fluorescent lighting to magazine racks, the crew plan to recreate an authentic British newsagents, with one small but significant twist.

At the back of a shelf full of Fairtrade chocolate bars there will sit a plaque, a button and an inscription inviting visitors to “learn the story behind the bar”. Press the button, and the shop will be transformed.

newsagents Credit: Flickr/lexonline

The entire set will rotate 180 degrees, revealing a 1930s-era jazz style salon, where guests can relax around plush contemporary tables, sip delicious hot chocolate created by famous chefs Tess Ward, Melissa Hemsley and Tom Hunt, and discover more about the origins of the ultimate winter warmer. With capacity for between 10 and 12 customers at any one time, the event plans to be as intimate as it is innovative. That everything costs £1.86 is just an added bonus.

Though the concept behind the salon is undeniably cool, there is a more serious message at the heart of the project. While £1.86 might sound like an unmissable bargain to cold Londoners, to the farmers who grow the cocoa it is a lot more significant. In the countries where cocoa is actually grown, £1.86 represents the amount a farmer needs in order to have a living income and afford basic things we take for granted like a home, medical assistance or education for their children. It may seem small, but the reality is that many farmers are struggling to earn even this, with most earning on average around 74p.

Fairtrade Foundaton's new chocolate salon pop-up. Credit: Fairtrade

Fairtrade’s #SheDeserves campaign plans to address this by empowering one of the chocolate industry’s most influential yet underrepresented groups. Female cocoa farmers not only have to work the same gruelling hours as the men, but are typically responsible for looking after children and running the household at the same time. They do this while enjoying fewer rights and privileges than their male counterparts.

Portrait of Genevieve harvesting cocoa. Genevieve spoke to us about a typical day, and life as a cocoa farmer in her home, before showing what happens when her cocoa is taken to the local cooperative warehouse to be weighed so that she can be paid. Genevieve is supported by other women farmers to harvest cocoa on her farm, who demonstrated typical harvesting activities, smashing cocoa pods to extract the beans. A story gathering visit to show the impact on farmers, their families and communities of low cocoa prices, especially women, whilst highlighting their critical role in achieving living incomes for cocoa farming families. Through meeting and interviewing a range of farmers, especially women, we have captured the human stories, and background understanding of the issues preventing cocoa farmers achieving living incomes, despite working hard to grow the cocoa that enters profitable international supply chains. Cocoa is largely grown by smallholder cocoa farmers with small farms, the majority of whom live below the poverty line and are unable to afford the basic human rights many of us take for granted: housing, health care, children’s education and clean water. The role of women is critical in this story, not just because they tend to be the most marginalized by low cocoa prices, but also since they hold the keys to community development as the primary carers of children, the range of diversified income generating activities undertaken and role managing family budgets. Also important are the roles of producer organisations (cooperatives), in joining farmers together to access markets at better prices, access training to improve quality and productivity, and tackle endemic problems like child labour, economic marginalization of women and the destruction of rainforests. Fairtrade supports organisations to access markets on Fairtrade terms, bringing with it a guaranteed minimum price safety net (very important in the context of the recent drop in world coco Credit: Fairtrade

To raise awareness of this crucially important issue, every drink in the Fairtrade chocolate salon will be named after one of the female cocoa farmers responsible for putting it on the table, alongside some additional information about how they live and work. All money generated through the pop-up will go straight to fund projects such as the Women’s School of Leadership, helping female farmers become future business leaders.

Enjoying chocolate can sometimes feel like an unnecessary indulgence. This is one instance where it is more than justified. Sign the petition to take exploitation out of our chocolate here.