Brockley’s sweet sensations

Rowan Parkhouse and Gemma Lewis from Choki at Greenwich Market. Photo: Cat Wiener.

Wander through Greenwich Market on a Friday, past the stalls selling fair-trade jewellery, nesting boxes for mason bees, candles in antique cups, and hand-knitted jumpers and there you will find, nestled behind a stall selling vegetarian Ethiopian food, the stall of Choki of Brockley.

It is elegant with black and white print and red roses and, most importantly, resplendent with piles of glistening hand-made truffles, jars of drinking chocolate shards, and vast piles of rainbow-wrapped bars of chocolate.

Young entrepreneurs Rowan Parkhouse, 21, and Gemma Lewis, 23, met working for a chocolatier in 2009. Their shared passion for making gorgeous chocolate developed into, in their words:

“big plans for their own handmade chocolate empire.”

Out of that, Choki of Brockley was born. Feast your eyes as Gemma describes some of Choki of Brockley’s wares.

The chocolates are all handmade from ethically-sourced, organic chocolate beans by Rowan and Gemma in their Brockley workshop, where they work to develop combinations like their trademark honey, lemon and thyme truffles, or dark chocolate and sea salt bars. Both admit that there have been a few less serendipitous experiments on the way – Rowan recalls, with a shudder, a particularly vile raspberry and chilli disaster.

They hit on the idea of asking friends, family, and art students to design the chocolate bar wrappers so that each, including one of red tulips designed by Rowan’s grandmother, is a minor work of art, with a limited print-run of 100. Gemma suggests that the wrappers could one day become collectors’ items.

Inevitably, the combination of artisanal chocolate and artistic wrappers does not come cheap: the chocolate bars sell at three for £12 on the market.

This has not stopped demand for Choki of Brockley chocolate from growing exponentially, with Brockley’s The Shop on the Hill and other delicatessens throughout southeast London increasingly interested in stocking their wares. The last few months have been hard; with Rowan in his second year as an anthropology student at Goldsmiths College, Gemma has often had to work both the kitchen and the market by herself.

But over the next two months Gemma and Rowan are planning to open their own shop in Brockley, where you will actually be able to watch the chocolates being made – the first step, perhaps, to that dreamt-of ‘chocolate empire’.

To hear Gemma and Rowan describe their chocolate enterprise, their hopes for the future and the origins of their name, click here:

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