April 24, 2012
A wonderful tale of success and chocolate from the founder of Green & Black’s.
Jo Fairley is a truly lovely woman. She is lovely in the conventional sense of course, just look at her photo, but she is also a lovely person. I think it is fabulous that the founder of the huge success that is Green & Black’s is so special.
She is an award winning journalist, whose writing on perfume does the impossible, evoking scent on the page. It is both informative and great fun reading. Check out her website The Scent Critic and see for yourself. I had met Jo before the date of our rendez-vous for this interview, far from the world of chocolate, at a series of Vintage Scent Workshops run by the inimitable Odette Toilette. Of course there are many connections between taste and smell, and I find that delving further into the world of fine perfume is having a good effect on my palate.
Jo and I got talking over perfume, and then when I discovered that she was the founder of Green & Black’s, so basically Mrs Chocolate, you can imagine how thrilled I was. Jo Fairley is a chocolate pioneer! And Green & Black’s has done such a lot to change perceptions about chocolate tastes and production. It has paved the way for so much of what I am busy eating now.
Jo must have been asked a thousand times about the birth of Green & Black’s, and yet her delight and enthusiasm when she and I sat down to talk, was fresh and full. It all happened because Jo’s husband, Craig Sams, the health food pioneer and founder of Whole Earth, was unable to ignore a farmer’s plea to help him out with a crop of cacao beans. Wanting to help, but knowing that a bunch of unprocessed beans was a hard sell, he made the beans into chocolate.
His plan was to try and interest a friend who owned a food company that might suit the result better than the sugar-free Whole Earth brand. Jo and Craig had never understood why one of their favourite kinds of chocolate, 70% dark, was available on the continent but not in the UK. So that was what he made.
Here the story becomes much like a fairytale. One day, not knowing anything about the cocoa beans, having been busy writing up a storm and running magazines, Jo wandered into her husband’s study and found two small squares of chocolate on his desk. She ate it! Well you would wouldn’t you. And she fell in love! When she went in search of more information about this delicious discovery, and was told Craig’s plans for the chocolate, she was having none of it. She protested, she knew this was too good to give away. Jo took it on, and through her vision and hard work, Green & Black’s was born.
The fairy story also leads me to rewrite a common saying. Curiosity killed the cat. In this case curiosity didn’t kill the cat, it left her licking her lips, crowned Queen of the land of Chocolate, and possessor of the goose that laid the golden egg. And if you got your hands on a golden Green & Black’s egg of your own this Easter, you might be a fraction as glad as I am of her services to the world of chocolate.
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