According to enthusiasts of real chocolate, quality has plummetted miserably. Josephine Fairley works for Green & Black, the first company to bring organic chocolate to the mass market in the UK. She makes her chocolate using an old-fashioned artisan method. "Most chocolate these days is subject to a very fast production process, taking short cuts on quality." she explains. "Ours takes three days to make, using nothing but cocoa beans, sugar and vanilla."
A concern cited by Josephine and other chocolate lovers is that manufacturers often replace expensive cocoa butter with cheaper vegetable fat, and the product often contains only 20 per cent cocoa solids. Given that chocolate is an indulgence and not a daily treat, they argue, surely it pays indulge in the very best.
Yet would this appeal to the younger crew? According to Edwin Sheppard of The Chocolate Club, a less-is-more approach could win over some children. "People think children only like milk chocolate. My children adore both milk and dark chocolate. There is a comparison with wines here. You might start off with Liebfraumilch, appreciate it more and move on to Chateau Latour.
The trend for quality is certainly growing in this country. Membership of The Chocolate Club now stands at 10,000. Meanwhile Green & Black's sales are on the up and up, a long way from the days when a representative from a well known chocolate manufacturer bemusedly remarked:"but you can't possibly make chocolate like that!"
Green & Black's chocolate bars cost from pounds l.35 for l00g bars and are available widely from supermarkets and health food shops. Green & Black 0171-243 0562. This Easter the Chocolate Club (0171-267 5375) is selling a selection of Ackerman's eggs from pounds 12.95 plus pounds 3.50 p&p. Telephone orders should be placed early next week to ensure delivery for Easter
"Real" Eggs filled with chocolate - from pounds 3.75 a packet. If chocolate bars boxed-up and reshaped for Easter don't appeal, why not try a real hen's egg filled with praline. A box of six, however, will set you back pounds 15.00. For those on a budget there are always packs of speckled rare bird's eggs, like those laid by the Deranged Seagull, at pounds 3.75 a packet. A word of warning when attempting to eat these, the shells are very tough; one tester resorted to popping the whole thing in gobstopper style, and waited for sugar to soften up.
Rococo, 321 King's Road, London SW3 5EP (0171-352 5857)
Plaster eggs with Easter jewellery from pounds 27 If you believe that "an egg is forever and not just for Easter" then head on down to Stephen Einhorn's weirdly wonderful shop in Islington, north London, and get yourself an egg with a chain, bearing the above inscription. Other Easter-inspired jewellery includes sterling silver bracelets and necklaces decorated with strange rabbits and chicks.
210 Upper Street, Islington, London N11 RN (0171-359 4977)
Factory shopping offer
All those readers who expressed interest in our article on factory shopping last week may like to know that the latest edition of the Factory Shop Guide is now available for pounds 14.95 plus postage and packing direct from The Factory Shop Guide (0181-678 0593) by mail order. Ten regional guides are also available costing from pounds 3.95-pounds 4.50. The first five readers who send a postcard with their name and address to The Factory Shop Guide will receive a free copy of the guide. Cards should be sent to: The Factory Shop Guide, 1 Rosebery Mews, Rosebery Road, London, SW2 4DQ.Reuse content