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The Old Mushroom Farm Directory: Onyx Rain Handcrafted Chocolates

Meet the artisans who have set up shop in The Old Mushroom Farm Tunnels.

There's a new chocolatier on the Midlands Meander. We chatted to the artisan, Anke, of Onyx Rain Handcrafted Chocolates in her factory shop in Tunnel 9a. Onyx Rain, a small batch producer creating chocolate confections, is the new kid on the block, here at The Old Mushroom Farm, and we are delighted. Read about Anke's journey below, from the childhood dream to the reality of setting up their chocolaterie and little shop, in The Old Mushroom Farm Directory series.

Onyx Rain Handcrafted Chocolates at The Old Mushroom Farm

Please introduce yourself, introduce your business and describe what it is that you do.

My name is Anke Strashoon and I grew up here in the beautiful Midlands. I spent my young adult years in Cape Town, where I studied and met my husband. My husband and I moved back to the Midlands to run my father’s timber farm in the Karkloof. For the next 10 years, I was a stay-at-home mom and housewife. The farm kept my husband busy, but I stayed home, searching every day for things to keep me busy, beyond housework and raising our 3 kids. I crocheted, I did yoga, I sketched and painted, I tried vegetable gardening, polymer clay crafts, baking… nothing quite satisfied my creative itch.

In 2021, around our 10th wedding anniversary, I told my husband about a dream I had as a little girl to be a chocolatier, and my husband being the “just-do-it” guy that he is, encouraged me to go for it. In the next months, I registered at a chocolate school, and before the year was out, I qualified as a Chocolatier. As a chocolatier, I work with high-quality couverture and only fresh ingredients – this shortens the shelf life of my chocolates, but nothing store-bought will compare to biting into a truffle or bonbon that was made just yesterday.

Would you describe your business as artisanal and or ‘indie’ (independent)? Why?

I would describe my business as artisanal – I have learned an old craft, working with a specific ingredient that has the most interesting story in history and I am using my hands, to make small batches, using often local and fresh raw materials. I would however not dismiss being “indie” because I have no connection to any larger businesses that are fuelling my business financially or otherwise. I work completely independently and am proud to be the owner of a small business.

How and when did your business start? And how long have you been at The Old Mushroom Farm?

I started my business after I qualified in June 2021. I started with a little table at the Karkloof Farmers Market that November. I had a name for my business and nothing but a desire to share my passion with others. A little over a year later, I moved away from the market and just did little orders privately, at home, in my little chocolate kitchen. Things faded a little thereafter, until early this year, a friend of mine sent me a post about an available space here at The Old Mushroom Farm. I sat on it for a week, not sure if I should go for it. I decided to show my husband and the very next week we looked at the space and signed the lease at the beginning of March. I moved in over April and officially opened in May.

Artisan Chocolates, Onyx Rain, at The Old Mushroom Farm, Midlands

If your business journey up to this point was a movie title, what would it be?

If my business journey was a movie – this is an oddly perfect question because my dream of becoming a Chocolatier started as a 12-year-old girl when I saw the movie “Chocolat” for the first time. Juliette Binoche plays a single mother, who with her daughter travels to a little, conservative French Village just before Lent. At first, she is very unwelcome and is judged for selling little bites of pleasure – it is a sin. She overcomes ridicule and obstacles and throughout the movie, she and her divine chocolates start to influence the town’s people. I have gone through so many challenges in starting this business - doubts, tears, and almost giving up many times, but since finding this opportunity at The Old Mushroom Farm, I feel like I am at that point in the movie where I might make an impact on people. Yes, it's just chocolate, but it’s so much more.

Anke chocolate maker in her shop at The Old Mushroom Farm Howick

What is your favourite thing about being at The Old Mushroom Farm?

My favourite thing about The Old Mushroom Farm must be the feeling of being a part of something bigger. I feel part of a community, all-embracing the beauty of creating with your hands, making the most of this beautiful location by working the earth, inviting people to bring their kids and dogs, supporting local artists, and the overall feeling of open arms, hearts, and minds. Everyone involved here, everyone I have met has put a smile on my face – these people are real, down to earth and honest, hard-working people.

What message would you like to put out there to encourage folks to support small businesses like yours?

There are so many reasons why supporting local is so important: you’re boosting the economy, and keeping money in your community. Local businesses create unique products and services, create job opportunities, they provide community involvement. If you investigate it, local businesses are even better for the environment! But to me, the most important thing about supporting local is the personalized service. Local business owners will greet you by hand, learn your name, ask about your sick grandmother, your new baby nephew, or whether your puppy has chewed any more of your husband’s shoes. They will get you invested in their product by telling you about it, sharing their passion, and answering your questions. Face-to-face interaction is something we cannot let fade away. By supporting local, you are not only buying an incredible, good-quality product, but you are connecting with the people in your community. That’s a world I want my kids to grow up in. Let’s connect and support local.

We are thrilled to have Anke and Onyx Rain Handcrafted Chocolates as part of The Old Mushroom Farm community. Anke's journey from a childhood dream to becoming a successful chocolatier is a testament to making romance reality- we love her example of pursuing your passion and the joy of realising it. Her story adds a unique flavour to the vibrant tapestry of artisans at The Old Mushroom Farm. We invite you to visit and experience the creativity and craftsmanship firsthand. Discover the magic of locally made, artisanal chocolates and be a part of our inspiring community of makers here in the KZN Midlands.

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