I’m not sure when it happened but these days when I type the words “Is it…” into google it’s started auto-suggesting “…too early to start drinking?

We all have strategies helping us through lock-down – sourdough baking, duck-walking with Joe Wicks, spontaneously clapping healthcare workers in public settings.

I was reminded the other day when Debb Makin from Ratio Cocoa Roasters came to Fair Food with a delivery that one of the unsung heroes helping us navigate this crisis is chocolate.

It’s early evening when Debb arrives – she’s tired and ready to head home for the day.

Small business is tough at the best of times – stupid hours, financial insecurity, doing all the jobs from managing director to delivery driver.

Since COVID-19 Debb’s shopfront on Sydney Road in Brunswick has been closed, it’s just made the load that little bit heavier. 

With the help of a tech-savvy brother, Debb’s pivoted to online and doing takeaway.  She’s also supplying food box schemes like the one coming out Collingwood Children’s Farm.

Orders from Fair Food are up too; since lock-down customers are going through noticeably more chocolate than usual.

After Debb leaves I look through her delivery of dark chocolate covered almonds and her latest dark chocolate tart freeze dried strawberries.

Unable to decide I slip a packet of each into my bag.

Debb’s no stranger to pivoting; for years she worked as a zoologist in America and Africa. When she couldn’t find zoology work back in Australia she worked as a wedding planner and began plotting her move into chocolate.

Debb’s love for ethical chocolate lead her to the Solomon Islands and a local social enterprise called Makira Gold (that’s their cacao beans drying in the pic above).

Makira Gold help other local cacao farmers into the fair trade market and have been winning awards for their cacao at chocolate competitions around the world.

When Debb gets Makira’s fermented beans she roasts and cracks them, removing the outer husk to make cocoa nibs.

To turn nibs into dark chocolate you need organic raw sugar and 72 hours of stone grinding.

The resulting dark liquid is aged for three weeks then tempered, poured into bars and finally packed for sale.

Life in lock down has shrunk our worlds and magnified everything – sights, sounds, smells, feelings seem bigger, brighter, more intense.

When I bring the packet of Debb’s dark chocolate tart strawberries home they cause such a stir that special protective measures need to be introduced.

Over the next week a program of strict rationing is agreed upon; one chocolate strawberry per family member per day.

Each evening after dinner we anticipate the moment and savour our one tart magic treat – marking another day of getting through iso – still together.

Have a great week

Chris

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