This week, East London Lines set itself an Easter challenge: to find a new chocolate product different from all the big names brands which fill the shops and supermarkets at this time of year.
And ELL found the perfect Easter tempting goodie very close to home: who would have thought that hand made designer chocolates could be found in the Students Union shop at Goldsmiths College, where ELL is based?
ELL discovered a fine handmade chocolate bar, wrapped in silky colored paper, bearing the brand name of called Choki of Brockley, shimmering in the middle of the shop. And one of the two people behind the label is Rowan Parkhouse, who just happens to be an ordinary second year anthropology student at Goldsmiths University.
His passion for chocolate started during his first year at Goldsmiths: “I got a job at Charbonnel et Walker, the Queen’s chocolatier. It was there I met my girlfriend, Gemma Lewis, who had worked as a pastry chef and chocolatier before. She got me into making chocolate and after a while making it for ourselves we started thinking about trying to sell some of it.”
Rowan, 21 and Gemma, 23, make all their chocolate by hand: they hand cut the bar wrappers, emboss them individually and then tie the ribbons themselves. Some of their intriguing flavors include orange, chilli and sea salt.
Rowan said: “Our aim is to get our own shop sometime in the next year, we don’t want it to get really big, we want to earn a living and for this to be our jobs and pay enough to support us but we’re not really in it for the money.”
They use as much Fairtrade ingredients as possible. Rowan said: “If a product isn’t Fairtrade then you have no idea how it was produced. To make sure that people get safe working environments and proper pay it’s best to buy Fairtrade whenever you can afford it. It costs us a lot more to use Fairtrade chocolate, but we think it’s worth it.”
As well as Goldsmiths, Rowan and Gemma sell their chocolate at Shop on the Hill, which sells whole foods and Browns, a coffee shop and deli, both in Brockley. It is also on sale at the Oxfam shop in his home town of Barnstaple in Devon.
From Friday to Monday over the Easter weekend, Gemma and Rowan will also be selling their chocolate at Greenwich Market.
Gemma describes the special Easter Eggs they are preparing this year: “We have produced three different eggs, all of which can be filled with a choice of loose chocolates or truffles from our stall. All our eggs are hand painted by us and come in white, milk and dark: the white sits on a bed of marshmallows, the milk with a handful of our organic and Fairtrade milk chocolate and the dark with a handful of organic and Fairtrade 70% dark chocolate. All the designs are different, because they are hand painted!”