Northern Tea Merchants – 26th February 2010

14 Nov

Complaint Letter No. 11:

Compensation: Case of six 125g tins of Food Thoughts cocoa

Simon Dunn
Managing Director
Product Chain Ltd.
Unit 5
Beech Court
Wokingham Road
Berks RG10 0RQ

26th February 2010

Dear Mr Dunn

I purchased the enclosed jar of Food Thoughts “The Finest Fairtrade” Cocoa with the idea of making Nigella Lawson’s chocolate orange cake recipe, which requires a large amount of cocoa in its mixture.

It was lucky I sampled the cocoa before making the cake.  In order to make a mug of cocoa (which I was looking forward to), I did as the instructions suggested, and I can only describe the ensuing result as tasting like bad breath.  Had I not sampled the cocoa, I can only imagine that an entire cake would taste like a dentist’s waiting room where the patients are suffering from collective halitosis.  I would have been very embarrassed to serve such a cake to guests.

This is disappointing as I like to support Fairtrade products wherever I can, but unfortunately I must return your product for a full refund.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

Ingrid Stone

The Response:

9th March 2010

Dear Mrs (sic) Stone

I am today in receipt of your cocoa powder, and I have tried it and made notes.  It appears that your complaint is justified.  The cocoa has above the normal amount of free fatty acids, hence the smell.  This can be called rancidity.  This very rarely occurs in alkalysed cocoa powder that has been correctly produced and handled.  It has no physical difference in appearance to standard cocoa powder, and flows the same through an auger filler.  In short, it is impossible to spot on a packing line.  That is why it is important we use reputable suppliers who produce the cocoa powder in a safe and hygienic manner.

We take great steps to ensure we look after our cocoa powder whilst it is in stock here.  We segregate it completely from other products and handle it in accordance with our independently audited quality manual.  It is imported from one of the largest European processors of cocoa, Messrs Dutch Cocoa, via a reputable importer called HB Ingredients.  I have also sent on the remainder of the cocoa to HB’s Quality Assurance department for further analysis.

Yours is the only complaint we have received on this product from the packing run of 12 pallets (12096 drums) that we packed on 12th and 13th November 2009.  Your tin was packed on the 12th and my packing records show nothing other than a problem-free packing run.  I can only hope that we receive no more complaints and yours is an isolated one.

I have arranged from a packing run we are carrying out today for a case of 6 x 125g Food Thoughts Cocoa to be sent to you.  I hope you will agree when you are trying it again that it is indeed an excellent quality Fairtrade product.  I personally love the brownies and chocolate cake it makes.  We actually use it for all the chocolate cakes we make in our cafe!  (Please see our website on

If I can be of any further service to you then please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours sincerely


James Pogson

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