Posts Tagged ‘Fairtrade’

What’s Going On With Vanilla?

Monday, July 24th, 2017
Fille Vanille

Vanilla Beans Being Processed In Madagascar

Having built a decent line in Fairtrade organic vanilla, we recently have had to stop selling it to trade because of supply issues.  At the same time, we’ve been asked by many new customers for vanilla or Fairtrade vanilla.  Everyone’s scrabbling around for a very limited supply of real vanilla, and also wanting a cheaper price where there’s none to be had – the market really has no supply and the prices are over £500/kg if you can find it.

But why is Steenbergs only selling it retail and not to wholesale customers?

In short, it’s because we’ve made almost nothing on vanilla over the last few years, vainly hoping that supply and pricing issues would ease through time.  However, because of recent cyclones and changes to vanilla processing in Madagascar, prices have remained too high for us to finance anymore.  So when we were asked to commit £250,000 for what used to cost £50,000, we politely decided now was the time to stop selling vanilla on a general scale.

Many reasons have been given for why the pricing is so high.  But it really is a simple economic matter of supply and demand – bad weather and poor processing practices have materially reduced the quantity of vanilla from the world’s largest producer (Madagascar) without any material reduction in demand.

It’s become a real issue in the industry, meaning that very little is available in the market.  And with retailers unwilling to move prices, it became a mug’s game to continue subsidising the prices.

But the real story is more nuanced and has its root cause in the introduction of free markets into the vanilla sector in the 1990s, and the rise of neoliberalisim and the Washington Consensus.  It has taken 20 years to unravel but the end result will be increased poverty within Madagascar, as well as fewer natural vanilla ice cream products on the shelves of high street retailers.

For those interested in the longer view, here’s my timeline:

Where The Story Begins: 1995 – 2000

Vanilla Planters Walking Along Track

Vanilla Planters Walking Along Track

The seeds of the vanilla story can be found in 1995.  Before then, the vanilla market was a fixed monopoly – the Madagascan Government controlled quality, harvesting and pricing, which it negotiated with the major exporters and producers each year in Paris.  This ensured vanilla beans were harvested at strict times, were processed at Government curing centres and that prices were kept in a tight $70 – $90/kg.

But the rise of neoliberal economics and the Washington Consensus put paid to this,  Following advice from the EU and the World Bank, Madagascar dropped the carefully controlled, planned vanilla economy and let rip with free market economics.  Immediately, the price of vanilla plunged.  Next, the EU unravelled the state-controlled curing system and encouraged farmers to cure their own beans to earn more cash for themselves.  While prices continued to remain low, quality also suffered.

Allied to this, Madagascan politics were tricky to say the least, with the Madagascan Government suffering many years of weak government, governance and political instability.

The Start Of Fairtrade Vanilla: 2005 – 2013

When we started out in 2004, there had been three years of failed crops in Madagascar, which supplies around 85% of global supply.  The price of vanilla rocketed to a high of $600 (2005).  Small-scale farmers around the world wanted to cash in and took out bank loans to plant vanilla vines – vanilla really is a real small-scale artisan crop.

But by 2006, the Madagascan crop had succeeded, together with additional supply from new regions, and the price imploded, crashing to $50 (2005/6), then further down to $25 (2006-8).  Financial disaster ensued for the many farmers that had borrowed against the higher prices.

In stepped Fairtrade.  This was a classic Fairtrade scenario – to protect relatively unsophisticated farmers, who grow cash crops in the Global South for the Global North, from the harshest impacts of free markets, and the effects of global commodity and financial markets.  Fairtrade vanilla supply chains were developed in Madagascar and India.

The Vanilla Tightens: 2013 – 2017

However, the story did not end there.

In 2013/4, real vanilla began to increase in popularity as a premium addition to many products, with consumer interest in purity – organicFairtradeGMO-free becoming important.  With increased demand, prices for vanilla began to move from $20/kg to $55-65/kg.  At the same time, farmers started storing their vanilla in vacuum packs.  After several poor harvests, prices rocket to $80/kg from $30/kg for green beans by the end of the year, with cured vanilla at $240/kg.

In 2017, when the market was expecting a better harvest, disaster struck with the devastating cyclone – Enawo – bringing winds of up to 270 km/hour.  It began on 7 March striking land between Antalaha and Sambava, then forked to Maroansetra and Mananara, before crossing the centre of Madagascar and leaving on the south of the island on 10 March.  It destroyed about 20% of vanilla plants in Madagascar, hitting the north-east and east coast of Madagascar the hardest.  Antalaha was affected the most, with 90% of the town, its infrastructure and crops destroyed.  Enawo’s impact has been that all the expected uplift in supply was decimated, so the harvest is expected to remain at 2016 levels at about 12,000 tonnes, equivalent to 1,400 tonnes of exportable vanilla beans (i.e. 8kg of green vanilla for 1kg cured vanilla) – this is insufficient for global demand.

The organic market is even tighter.  Effectively, there is no free stock in the supply chain, with speculators buying up anything they can find, drip feeding them into the market at very high prices.  Cured organic vanilla is at $545/kg and we expect it to be at these levels for at least another 18 months and there to be no meaningful reduction in prices until 2019-20.

With our forward contracts delivered and at these high prices, vanilla pods and vanilla extract has now become uneconomic and high risk.  Therefore, in May 2017, Steenbergs decided to reduce its position in the market and only fulfil internet orders, removing itself from the wholesale market.  Basically, the risks in the market became too great for a small business like Steenbergs.

Downside Risks – Disaster Looms in 2020?

It is our opinion that disaster looms ahead for vanilla with a market crash self-evident.

On the one hand, high prices are great news for farmers.  However, the short-term masks significant downside risks in the not too distant future:

  • Demand is contracting with end-users reformulating and/or switching to artificial alternatives.  Industrial vanillin is suitable for many applications where a velvety richness is needed, without any complexity of aroma or taste – e.g. for cheaper chocolate or soft drinks.  In the period 2000 – 2005, about one-quarter of demand fell away, although some returned more recently with demand for pure vanilla.
  • Supply is increasing with vanilla vines being replanted at a rate of 25%.  Vanilla orchids flower 3 – 4 years after being planted, with vanilla pods being harvested for the first time several months later.  This replanting will return production to higher levels than prior to 2010.

The convergence of reduced demand and increased supply will at some point cause prices to crash – perhaps in 2020.  When that happens, it will unfortunately be the small-scale farmers that suffer – as always.

Win a box of Steenbergs Fairtrade goodies to celebrate Fairtrade Fortnight 2017!

Friday, February 17th, 2017
Click here to view this promotion.

 

Congratulation to John Lock for winning this prize, which has been sent to him. Many thanks to all who entered.

Working organically with Abel & Cole for 10 years

Friday, July 1st, 2016

Started 27 years ago, with the vision of supplying ethically sourced, high quality food and drink to people who care about the provenance of what they eat, Abel & Cole has gone from strength to strength.  It now delivers boxes of fruit and veg as well as organic milk, bread, eggs and meat to many parts of the country.  They deliver as far north as York, but just use the postcode finder on their website to check whether they deliver to your door: http://www.abelandcole.co.uk/help/faqMedium Everyday Easy Fruit & Veg Box

“It all started with a chap named Keith and a bag of spuds in 1988. He realised the huge benefits of going organic and never looked back. In fact, we still get veg from the farm where Keith’s first organic spuds came from”, say Abel & Cole.

Steenbergs and Abel & Cole share a common passion for all things organic. Both believe that organic farming is best for the environment, the wildlife and ultimately our own diets. Abel & Cole’s mantra is ‘grow slow’, which is an ethos shared by Steenbergs and the small independent producers that they use all around the world.

Steenbergs has been organic since it was founded in 2003 by husband and wife team Axel & Sophie Steenberg.  Their vision of supplying organic herbs and spices also led to them becoming Fairtrade for tea in 2004 and ultimately being the pioneers for the first Fairtrade spices into the UK in 2005.

“We’ve been working with Abel & Cole for over a decade,” says Axel.  “We started off supplying  small amounts of organic spices, but have recently added mini organic spice jars to their recipe boxes, and are now supplying our regular spice jars, vanilla extract and pods for sale in Abel & Cole’s Grocery Pantry.” http://www.abelandcole.co.uk/groceries/pantry/dried-herbs-spicesabel & cole recipe box

Abel & Cole use Steenbergs spice jars in the recipe boxes to add flavour and excitement to their recipes. To make the most of the flavoursome seasonal lettuces available at the moment, why not try Abel & Cole’s recipes for courgette falafel with peanut dip, spiced up with Steenbergs garam masala and coriander seeds? http://www.abelandcole.co.uk/recipes/courgette-falafels-peanut-dip

Look out for our Abel & Cole competition coming up this month, with the chance for one lucky winner to win a month’s worth of veg boxes (a total of 4 of any size). A great way to make sure you have your 5-a-day!

abel_cole_logo_may-2015 - ONLINE

Fairtrade Saffron In Photos

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

It’s Fairtrade fortnight.  As part of this, I thought I would share some photos of our Iranian saffron being harvested.  Steenbergs Fairtrade saffron comes from the Arghavan Dasht Paeezan co-operative in Iran, and is picked and processed by hand.

The saffron is harvested in autumn, when the weather is cold and humid enough for the flowers to bloom.  The farmers and farmhands have to go early in the morning to pick the crocuses when they open with the rising sun.  Farmhands are usually from extended rural families or groups from nearby villages.  As the day heats up, the picked crocuses become much harder to clean because the petals lose their freshness and rigidity.

The harvesting continues for a fortnight or a month, depending on the crop.  Every day new flowers bloom, and each day the farmers labour from before sunrise and leave in the late afternoon.

The temperature is close to freezing, and often an autumn breeze also blows strongly, making the saffron harvest very difficult. The workers are given breakfast, lunch and hot drinks during the harvesting to keep them warm.

After then, the stamens need to be picked out of the crocuses by hand, and then dried, before getting the final deep orange-red spice filaments.

STEENBERGS TEA TASTER PANEL Morning Brew herbal tea & organic Fairtrade Earl Grey Tea

Monday, October 5th, 2015

Our tea taster panel had a delicious choice of teas this time, with a delicate organic Fairtrade Earl Grey and one of our new herbal tea blends, Morning Brew.  We had some great comments on both teas, although 63% of you did prefer the Earl Grey.  Read on to find out more…

STEENBERGS MORNING BREW HERBAL TEA

About Morning Brew:

morning brewSteenbergs Organic Morning Brew Herbal tea is an organic caffeine-free herbal blend created for Sophie as a decaff morning herbal brew. It is hand crafted and packed by us to Axel’s special recipe from organic redbush, organic oatstraw, organic ginger, organic cardamom, organic cinnamon and organic orange peel. The redbush provides the body, the oatstraw is uplifting and the spices add a zing and a spring to your step.

“I start every day with a mug of this tasty morning brew without milk – it starts my day perfectly,” says Sophie.organic-morning-brew-herbal-tea

Since we sent out the samples to our lovely tea taste panel, we have made a couple of changes to our Morning Brew.  Firstly we have managed to find organic oatstraw so we can make Morning Brew completely organic – hooray!  Secondly, we have relaunched our herbal teas in brand new practical packaging to make it easier to see the delicious blends.  We’d love to know what you think…

What did you think of Morning Brew?

Given the name ‘Morning’ Brew and the blend of uplifting herbs, it was interesting to see that only 29% would drink it just in the morning, with the majority happy to drink it at any time of the day (56%) and 9% in the evening.  Only a tiny minority didn’t like the blend.

morning brew worditout

The vast majority of our tea tasters enjoy herbal tea on a regular basis (88%), with 77% rating it excellent or good. When asked to describe how it made you feel we were delighted to find that ‘refreshed’, ‘invigorating’ and ‘energised’ were frequent words, as though was ‘relaxed’ – how good to feel both at the same time!

morning brew descriptions

Although very positive about the tea, it wouldn’t be the majority of our panel’s first drink of the day, many of you preferring a caffeinated drink such as coffee or black tea to give you that much-needed kick start.  Maybe it doesn’t go well with toast which it what the majority of our panel have for breakfast.  We particularly liked the sound of ‘toast with a savoury topping – goats cheese & honey or peanut butter & black pepper’ – delicious!

STEENBERGS ORGANIC FAIRTRADE EARL GREY

About Steenbergs Earl Grey:

organic-fairtrade-earl-grey-tea-loose-leaf-125g-tiSteenbergs Organic Fairtrade Earl Grey Tea is a deliciously light and fragrant classically scented organic black tea.  It comes from the Greenfield organic Tea Estate which lies between 5000ft and 6000ft above sea level in the Uva Highlands in central Sri Lanka. We pay a premium for the social welfare of the 770 people on this Greenfield Tea Estate. Visit our About FAIRTRADE  page for more information.

Sri Lanka is a jewel of a tropical island, located just above the equator with perfect growing conditions for organic Fairtrade tea, the climate is temperate, but rainy. Uva tea is regarded by the Japanese as the best of all Ceylon teas and we tend to agree. It produces a pale liquor with a slightly astringent taste that works very well with the flowery Bergamot flavour.

We use Greenfield organic Fairtrade Orange Pekoe grade tea leaves as its base, which compliments the sweet, citrus flavour of bergamot oil. We only use 100% organic bergamot oil for flavouring. The story is that in 1830 the second Earl Grey was presented with the recipe for this tea during a diplomatic mission to China.

What did you think of our Earl Grey?

With 78% of our panel rating the tea either Excellent or Good, here were some of the lovely comments you gave us on our Earl Grey:

“Wonderful!”

“Earl grey is a winner in my books, again down to the taste but I loved it!

“Even the last cup from the pot is lovely.” “It hits the spot.”

“Rarely drink Earl Grey – but this is amazing! Love the large tea leaves.”

However some of you were less enamoured and felt that the tea was not as intense or flavoursome as you would have liked.

Here are some of the flavour and aroma descriptions that you came up with.  It’s interesting to see that both ‘strong’ and ‘mild’ featured heavily, although ‘delicate’, ‘light’ and ‘citrus’ were definitely the main adjectives used.

Earl grey worditout

Of our taster panel, 59% were already regular Earl Grey drinkers, enjoying Steenbergs but also several other brands.  Over half of our panel drank the Earl Grey without milk and of those, 26% drank their black tea with lemon, with a small handful added sugar or honey to their tea.  If milk was added is was most likely to be cows milk (76%) although a variety of other milks were drunk including soya, almond & goat’s; although of those who drank both, several preferred cow’s milk in their tea but non dairy on cereal.

It was interesting to see that the vast majority of our panel enjoy their tea from a tea pot, with 72% feeling it is a ‘must’ for an enjoyable tea experience.  A tea bag versus loose leaf tea was another interesting debate and really boiled down to time.  54% definitely prefer loose leaf, with 20% preferring bags and 26% using either depending no how much time they had.

58% of our panel also enjoyed tea as their evening drink of choice, although 76% of those chose a decaffeinated herbal tea to wind down.  14% though felt that a glass of wine or a G&T was a much better way to spend an evening and 12% chose a soothing milky drink.

In conclusion, loose leaf tea in a lovely tea pot at the weekend with friends, or whilst reading or watching TV, was agreed to be a very relaxing way to enjoy a cuppa!

TEA TASTER PANEL Steenbergs English Breakfast Tea & Steenbergs Jasmine Green Tea

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

Many thanks to our tea taster panel who this month had the delights of tasting Steenbergs English Breakfast Tea: a strong, aromatic blend of organic Fairtrade teas from Sri Lanka and Assam, Kerala and Darjeeling in India; and Steenbergs Green Tea with Jasmine: a delicately flavoured green flower tea from China.  Two very different teas with unique flavours and we loved hearing how, when and why you enjoy drinking them.

Steenbergs organic Jasmine Green Tea 

organic-jasmine-green-tea-loose-leaf-tea-caddy

We asked you to describe the flavour and aroma of the tea and the predominant descriptions were floral, sweet, light, fresh, delicate and (luckily!) jasmine. Interestingly one of you who wasn’t keen on the flavour of scented teas still loved the aroma! We did love the fact that one of our panel likened the tea to ‘coming home – similar to a pair of cashmere bedsocks!’

We were also fascinated to find out how it made you feel, with many of you saying relaxed, refreshed and healthy – what more could you want from a tea!  Other notable quote included: ‘both myself and my 2 year old give a big thumbs up to the Jasmine Green Tea'; ‘much nicer than jasmine flowers which I find too heady or sickly’; ‘warm climes with jasmine abundant on every corner’; ‘evokes holiday & summer memories’; and ‘floral with perfect level of bitterness’.

Around half of our tea panel were already green tea drinkers with a wide scope of brands and varieties regularly enjoyed, including long jing and gunpowder. Brewing of the tea averaged 4-5 minutes but again it was often down to personal preference.

When assessing the overall preference for teas, the Jasmine was more popular than the English Breakfast. However, other interesting teas were mentioned such as Silver Needles, Gingerbread Chai, Redbush, Rose & Bergamot & Happy Hippy, all making it into your top tea choice.  It shows the great range and variety of teas available to us now, with green, white and herbal teas vying for position with our traditional black teas to be your favourite.  We certainly had an expert panel though, with 76% of you championing tea as your favourite daytime drink.

 Jasmine Green Tea

Steenbergs organic Fairtrade English Breakfast Tea

english-breakfast-tea-in-caddy-organic-fairtrade

With comments such as: ‘good balance of high & low tones’, ‘good subtle flavour’ and the ultimate accolade of being ‘better than PG’, many of you enjoyed the flavoursome qualities of this black tea, although a few of you did feel that it could be more intense and fuller in flavour.

Our tea tasters were evenly split in their desire to try it with or without milk, with 63% preferring to drink it in the morning than any other time of day.

Half of our tea tasters use a pot to brew their tea, with 27% preferring a mug and the rest going with the flow.  The majority of our panel do have a favourite mug from which to drink their tea with all sorts of shapes and sizes to choose from.  Porcelain was popular as were some personal favourites: an Emma Bridgewater mug saying ‘Best Friend’; a tall thin Disney Princess mug or a big wide green stoneware mug.  On average the tea was brewed for 3-4 minutes, although anywhere between 1 and 8 minutes was noted.

For that first drink of the morning, many of you always go for tea (60%) with hot or cold water (24%) being increasingly popular than coffee (12%).  A luxury for some, a newspaper is only standard with your cuppa for 40% of you, with The Times and The Guardian featuring as the most popular reads.

Have a look at some of the words used to describe Steenbergs English Breakfast Tea – the larger the word the more times it was mentioned.  Do you agree?

English Breakfast

Although a rather unfair comparison with two distinct teas, 70% of you did prefer the Green Jasmine to the English Breakfast.  Are we becoming more international with our flavours? More health conscious? Or, as with many things, is it just down to our own personal preference.

Time For Tea with Helen WIlson of www.lotsofnicethings.com

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

Time for Tea – our monthly chat with someone who cares about tea. This time from Helen Wilson whose blog is www.lotsofnicethings.com

Helen Wilson from www.lotsofnicethings.com.

Helen Wilson from www.lotsofnicethings.com.

1. What is your favourite tea to set you up for the day first thing in the morning?
Traditional tea with soya milk

2. What is your favourite tea to relax you in the afternoon?
Chamomile
3. What do you like best about Steenbergs teas?
All the unusual varieties and the fact they are fairtrade and organic
4. Which Steenbergs tea would you most like to try and why?
Redbush Chai – because I love chai flavours but am trying to cut down on the caffeine.

Steenbergs Organic Red Chai tea is a caffeine free, herbal, loose leaf chai made from redbush tea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Who would you most like to have a cup of tea with and why?

Jamie Oliver. I’d like to talk to him about food and convince him to go vegan!

Your contact details
Website: www.lotsofnicethings.com

Sophie Grigson Cookery Demonstration At The Oak Tree In Helperby

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012
On Monday 26th, we had arranged a cookery demonstration by Sophie Grigson of some recipes from her new cookery book, Spices, followed by some fizz and a book signing session, before lunch. The event was hosted for Steenbergs at The Oak Tree in Helperby, which in a twist of fate celebrates it one year birthday after having been completely refurbished and reopened on 28 March 2011. The Oak Tree is part of Provenance Inns, a small and newish local chain of foodie pubs, run in a partnership between Chris Blundell and Michael Ibbotson (who owns the acclaimed The Durham Ox); they have, also, recently taken over The Punch Bowl in Marton cum Grafton and breathed life back into it and are developing a reputation for turning around pubs that have gone awry. Sophie Grigson’s demonstration was fantastically well supported with all available places being snapped up immediately they went on sale and the sun even came out, bathing us all in unexpected Yorkshire sun, so proving that North Yorkshire not only has excellent local provenance, fantastic food pubs in lovely villages, but also beautiful, sunny weather some of the time.
Axel Steenberg, Sophie Grigson And *

Axel Steenberg, Sophie Grigson And Kate Robey

Sophie Grigson was full of joie de vivre and enthusiasm for spices and as always was very approachable both in the way she explained how to make the recipes and afterwards in chatting with everyone.  She showed some unusual ways to use them, as well as some less well known spices. So we had sumac used to marinade an onion salad, red peppercorns for a prawn, mango & avocado salad, but I was really taken with vanilla chicken with peppers & white wine.   I loved the way vanilla was used for a savoury dish rather than its usual use in baking or sweet puddings, like creme brulee or panna cotta. And it tasted truly fabulous. It was so good that I cobbled something together for our evening meal, knowing that we had some chicken thighs out for defrosting.  It came out really well, especially as I had left her book at work so had to second guess the details, but then this is a really versatile dish and seems to be quite forgiving – now that’s a key factor for great home cooking , so thank you Sophie for this recipe. All in all I felt very excited and enthusiastic afterwards as I am sure everyone else did.
Sophie Grigson Sprinkling Spices Over Vanilla Chicken With Peppers

Sophie Grigson Sprinkling Spices Over Vanilla Chicken With Peppers

Vanilla Chicken With Peppers As Prepared By Sophie Grigson

Vanilla Chicken With Peppers As Prepared By Sophie Grigson

Here’s the recipe for vanilla chicken (but now please buy her book):

Ingredients

1½kg /3¼lb of free-range or organic chicken, jointed
3 red or yellow peppers
1tbsp extra virgin olive oil
100ml /3½ fl oz / 0.4 cup dry white wine
A few thyme sprigs

Spice rub

½tsp vanilla paste
½tsp coarse sea salt
½tsp thyme leaves
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
¼tsp freshly ground black pepper
1tbsp extra virgin olive oil

For the spice rub, just mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the chicken pieces and turn them in the mixture, massaging them all over. Cover and leave for at least 1 hour, but far better a full 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 220C/Gas Mark 7/428F. Halve, core and deseed the peppers, then cut into broad strips. Put the peppers and olive oil in a roasting tin or shallow ovenproof dish with a little salt (not too much as some will leach out of the chicken), and turn to coat the peppers lightly in oil.

Add the chicken to the tin, distributing the pieces amongst the peppers. Pour over the wine and scatter the thyme sprigs. Roast for 45 minutes or so, turning over the pieces and stirring around twice, until the chichen is cooked through. Check the seasoning.

Serve with rice.


When I made this in the evening after Sophie Grigson’s demo at The Oak Tree, and as I did not have the correct ingredients, I mixed together 1tbsp vanilla paste, 1tbsp honey, a good pinch of freshly ground pepper (I am using a new Epices Roellinger grinder from Peugeot in cherry red), a smidgeon of my Italian herbs blend, some olive oil and some sea salt. I used chicken thighs and cooked them at 180C in a fan assisted oven for 30 minutes. It seemed to do the trick.

Delicious (Though I Say It Myself) Orange And Earl Grey Cake

Saturday, February 25th, 2012
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Mint Choc Cupcakes

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Weren’t we all brought up on the luxury of After Eights or Elizabeth Shaw Mint Crisps or Matchmakers, those quintessentially 1970s pieces of sophistication?  Or was it just me?  So using our new mintier Organic Peppermint Extract, I decided to create these Mint Choc Cupcakes that bring together the luxury of chocolate cupcakes with a 1970s feel of mintiness coming from the peppermint flavours in the cake, chocolate topping and then sprinkled Matchmakers over the top.

Simple, delicious and so retro.

Mint Choc Cupcakes By Axel Steenberg

Mint Choc Cupcakes By Axel Steenberg

Mint Choc Cupcakes

80g / 2¾oz organic butter (at room temperature)
175g / 1 cup / 6oz Fairtrade caster sugar
1 large free range egg (at room temperature)
170g / 1 cup / 6oz organic self raising flour
1tbsp Fairtrade organic cocoa powder
100ml / ⅓ cup full fat milk
1tsp Steenbergs organic peppermint extract
150g / 5¼oz Fairtrade milk chocolate
50ml / ¼ cup double cream
¼tsp Steenbergs organic peppermint extract
Some Matchmakers or other crispy mint chocolate

1.  Preheat the oven to 160C / 320F.  Line a cupcake pan with 12 cupcake papers.

2.  Using an electric hand whisk cream together the butter and caster sugar until light.  Add the large egg and mix well.

3.  Add the self raising flour and cocoa in two halves and mix in thoroughly.  Add the milk and Steenbergs Organic Peppermint Extract until well mixed in.

4.  Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake papers.  Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until firm to touch.  Allow to cool for a couple of minutes then cool on a wire rack.  They must be totally cool before putting on the topping.

5.  Over a pan of boiling water, melt the milk chocolate in a heatproof bowl.  Allow to cool a little, then thoroughly mix in the cream, the Steenbergs organic peppermint extract and allow to cool and thicken.

6.  Spread the chocolate frosting neatly over the cupcakes, then decorate with broken Matchmakers or other peppermint crisp.