We have passed a double milestone for petition signatures – 750 online and over 1500 in total. It seems fitting to celebrate with a couple milestone interview, the latest in our series. This time we talk to Mark and Chloe, founders of Sri Lankan food stall Archchi’s. It’s a brilliant new local business. After trying their delicious curry on the campaign trail we wanted to hear (and eat) more…
Introduce yourself. Who are you, where are you from, how did Archchi’s come about?
Hello! We are Chloe and Mark, the founders of Archchi’s. Chloe is originally from Birmingham and Mark, a village on the border of Leicestershire and Northamptonshire, but we recently moved to Manchester.
Chloe is half Sri Lankan and has always adored Sri Lankan food as she grew up enjoying her mum’s cooking and her memorable annual trip to Sri Lanka throughout her childhood. In 2017 we spent 10 weeks on the tropical island and stayed with Chloe’s Grandma (Archchi in Sinhala) for a period of that time and indulged in her delicious home cooked food.
As Sri Lankan food hasn’t really been introduced to the extent Indian food has in England, we decided to take on the challenge of introducing our family recipes to create ‘Archchi’s’ – a tribute to Chloe’s Archchi and family heritage. We had been planning it on the side for about 6 months, before we started working on it full time in lockdown and launched in August!
You spent time in Canada, including in national parks. What did you learn about the environment and climate change? What can the UK gain from Canada in this respect?
Yes, that’s right. We were living in Banff National Park in Alberta, which was a fantastic experience. Back in 2018 when we moved to Banff, one of the first things we noticed was the fact there was pretty much no litter. Everyone was proud to live in the national park and did their absolute best to keep it clean. It was normal to wake up in the morning and see the sheer variety of wildlife that would roam around the small town. The fact wildlife, such as deer and elk, pretty much lived on our doorstep, was more of a reminder that we were actually living on theirs.
The Banff community, and all the national parks we managed to visit in Canada, care about the wildlife. There are signs almost everywhere warning people not to throw litter on the floor as it encourages bears (yes, bears! Black bears and grizzly bears!!) to come down to the town- if a bear injures a human, it will lose it’s life even though it is at no fault of it’s own by being there. Within the town itself there are at least two ‘bear proof bins’ on every street which can only be opened by a human preventing wildlife from getting in.
Speaking of bins, next to almost every bin sits a recycling bin so there’s never an excuse not to dispose of your waste in the correct way. We believe the UK could learn from this simply by having an option of a recycling bin next to a general waste bin. How many times have you gone to throw away a bottle or can but there’s no recycling bin available and you end up carrying it home to your own recycling bin!
Also, living in the national park it seemed everyone was on the same wavelength of the dislike of single use plastics as you’d see the majority of the locals with their own water bottle and/or keep cup to be refilled rather than the constant use of buying a new bottle each time. This was supported by one of Mark’s employers, a cafe in the town that refused to stock their fridges with bottled water. They had a refill area and reusable cups if people needed water. Moreover, you’d never see a plastic straw insight in the local independent bars, it was either a metal straw or none at all!
Another great recycling initiative Canada runs is that you pay a deposit on things like cans, bottles and milk cartons when you buy them. If you take any of those empty containers back to your local recycling centre you’d get your deposit back. Not only does it encourage households to recycle responsibly, but it also encourages the homeless to collect rubbish as they get some money for it.
Canada is home to some of the coldest winters, we experienced living in -40 degrees on some days, let us tell you, it was cold, but with the right layers it was liveable! But it also hosts some of the wildest fires during the summer months, with the sky filling with thick black smoke for several months of the year. We were lucky to not have experienced it ourselves, but we could see the remains of the trees which were affected.
Climate change was visible, and locals who have been living in the town long enough have noticed a dramatic change with warmer winters and the regression of the glaciers in such a short period of time. We lived close to the Icefield Parkway, which unfortunately is a tourist hotspot. The glaciers are melting rapidly yet tours are still running daily driving people onto the ice which is devastating.
Tell us about Sri Lanka. What is the food scene like there? What difference – if any – does the increased prominence of Sri Lankan food in the U.K. make? And what is the story with Sri Lanka and climate change?
The food scene is pretty big in Sri Lanka. There are a wide range of alternatives to rice, which include hoppers (crispy bowl shaped coconut pancake, often with an egg in, and served at breakfast), pol roti (like a coconut flatbread), string hoppers (similar to vermicelli noodles, but in the form of a disk held together). You don’t need to search far for vegetarian options in Sri Lanka, in fact at least 70% of dishes in Sri Lanka are vegetarian, mostly being vegan. Traditional Sri Lankan rice and curry comprises 5 vegan curries, 2 meat, 1 fish curry and at least 2 sambols, chutneys and/or pickles.
As there is an abundance of vegan dishes in Sri Lanka, we believe it will be a huge hit in England as an increasing number of people are becoming more aware of their carbon footprint and reducing their meat intake. A few Sri Lankan restaurants have started to pop up in the UK- which is great! Years ago, I remember only being able to find Sri Lankan food in restaurants which mainly served Indian food, and the dishes were not a fair representation of the food found in Sri Lanka. This was one of the main reasons we set out to share Archchi’s recipes. Most of the curries are coconut milk based and healthy, only using a little oil in the initial cooking which most people find shocking for a curry!
Having travelled a lot of Asia, and other continents, it is safe to say Sri Lankans are some of the most kind and hospitable people we have met. You’ll always be greeted with a large spread of either Sri Lankan curries or ‘short eats’ (snacks) when you go to a locals house.
Anyway, onto Sri Lanka and climate change…
Sri Lanka is a small tropical island, south of India, boasting paradise beaches, lush tea plantations, safari parks, forest, hills and mountains. Unfortunately Sri Lanka actually falls in the top 10 countries in the world at high risk of climate change with a land area of 65,610 square kilometers (km2) and 1,340 km of coastline. There is a lot more damage that contributes towards climate change than the obvious, plastic.
A large proportion of the country relies on farming, and since changes in weather affects harvest, and rising sea levels affect crops, they need to adapt to climate smart agricultural practices like salt water tolerant crops. Thousands of acres of mangroves are being cut down for development leaving the island and the communities in the area vulnerable since mangroves act as natural barriers. These mangroves are being cleared for shrimp aquaculture, and other forestland is being approved to be exploited, making roads in the wetland areas which kills thousands of animals and threatens wildlife.
Although, not at the moment due to Covid-19, Sri Lanka does depend a lot on tourism with the industry growing rapidly over recent years. There are a wide range of activities offered in Sri Lanka. Tourists that come in search of a unique experience, be it in village or rural life, a spiritual, yoga, meditation or mindfulness break, those who are truly eco conscious will find an abundance of experiences on the island. Eco friendly tourism helps reduce carbon emissions, manage waste, water, with zero use of electricity power as solar power is being used instead.
With this in mind, the entire hospitality industry, the supply chain and the other ancillary supporting networks and industries gear for tackling climate change especially with extreme variability in weather, droughts, floods and landslides that Sri Lanka have begun to experience over the past few years.
On a final note, public transport is extremely cheap (the average train ticket will cost you no more than £1, £2 for first class!), which encourages locals and tourists to travel publically- isn’t it about time we reduce train prices in the UK to encourage people to use public transport more!
You set up your business during Covid-19! a) maximum respect! and b) how did you adapt to the changed circumstance? (We have also had to adapt our petition to the pandemic era and are always on the lookout for creative ideas).
Yes, we moved back from Canada two days before the first lockdown in March. We really knuckled down, watched a load of online workshops and really focused on the business before starting a weekly collection in Mark’s parents village. We believe we were quite fortunate to have been able to set up a business during the pandemic as people were unable to do anything else- our weekly collection became a routine for many families in the village.
While we haven’t run a business outside the pandemic, one thing we found hard in the early planning was the fact we couldn’t travel to any markets and speak to event managers and other traders. Covid is an unusual time to set up a business and to try and reach out to people but with the help of Instagram and word of mouth we have managed to grow at a steady pace.
Prior to Covid-19, we discussed offering private dining as one of our main services. Due to recent changes by the government and new rules and tiers being introduced we have changed direction slightly and have teamed up with breweries, pubs and bars to offer our services to help other businesses remain open.
We try to be as sustainable as possible as this is really important to us. To keep our carbon footprint minimal, all of our dishes are vegan with the option to add meat to the curry. We hate waste so we have a zero single-use plastic policy and all our disposables are compostable and we try to keep them to a minimum. With Covid-19, this is an area we can not control as much as we would like. For obvious reasons we wear gloves more than usually necessary, and use more disposable cloths at events especially, to avoid spreading the virus should we come in contact with it.
But all we can do is hope we can continue to operate as a business, and help local businesses continue to run throughout whatever tier we are in and whatever rules are thrown at us!