Firetree are a chocolate brand with a fairly unique selling point: their cocoa is sourced in areas of volcanic nature. Primarily these are far flung exotic paradises located within the ‘ring of fire’, the remote southern Pacific and Oceania circle of 452 volcanoes (either submerged or forming stunning tropical islands).
This is where the firetree, or cocoa tree, with its flame-hued pods is native and grows. The firetree thrives on the rich, porous volcanic soil that is found on these islands.
It’s here and a few other places in the world like the volcanic island of Madagascar, where the brand sources the cocoa from. Beyond the soil itself, it is the expertise of the local farmers that really makes the difference to the quality and the outcome of the harvest.
Much like the grapes in winemaking, the cocoa beans from each estate firetree partners with have their own unique taste. Each variation they produce only uses cocoa from a single estate or farmholding.
Moreover, instead of dealing with the farmers through agents, the company goes to them directly ensuring a fair price (often above market rate) and that the farmers have the chance to provide for their families and commit to high agricultural standards that makes for great cocoa.
The bars available in the UK are excellent and available in two sizes (25 and 65g), either via the company’s online shop or through the chain Holland & Barrett. The options are seven single-estate varietals ranging from 69% to 100% cocoa, and subscriptions or multi pack boxes are also on offer.
Foodepedia, already familiar with their regular varieties, was invited to an online tasting session to introduce their Innovations Collection.
This included five 65g bars – Hispaniola, Dominican Republic 72% cocoa; Indonesia, Seram Island 72% cocoa; Vanuatu, Malekula Island, 100% cocoa; Vanuatu, Malekula Island 72% cocoa & cocoa nibs and Solomon Islands, Guadalcanal Oat Bar.
The tasting event was well run, and very informative as well as entertaining. Each chocolate was preceded by visual support explaining the terroir and also introducing the farmers for each specific cocoa pod, underlining the differences in type of pod and taste.
We begun with a surprisingly smooth Solomon Islands, Guadalcanal Oat Bar, a milk chocolate bar perfect for lactose intolerant as it’s made with oat milk.
The coast of Guadalcanal, nestled in the heart of the Solomon Islands, is home to some of the finest cocoa from this region. The cocoa trees grow in this rich volcanic soil, protected from the midday sun beneath high coconut palms. This bar revealed a smooth finish with buttery richness from the toasted oats.
Next we moved to another tropical heaven, Vanuatu. Almost all the cocoa grown in Vanuatu comes from one island: Malekula. This sparsely populated island is a two-day boat journey from the capital of Port Vila.
There are two bars from Malekula in the Innovations collection, the first we tried is a 72% with cocoa nibs, possibly our favourite from the whole evening. The nibs add a delicious crunch to the rich, fruity, dark chocolate.
The 100% bar we tasted after was surprisingly ‘sweet’ and with an extremely pleasant aftertaste compared to many 100% bars which are kind of inedible on their own!
We remained in the South Pacific with the next bar, a brightly orange packaged Indonesian Seram Island 72%. Nestled in the south Maluku seas, this island’s chocolate has a pleasing blend of cocoa, tomatoes, walnuts, treacle and floral notes with a really creamy finish.
For the last bar, we travelled all the way to the Caribbean to one of the main producers of cocoa in the region: the Dominican Republic. Here is the Trinitario bean that is harvested, different from the species grown in Asia.
The 72% Hispaniola bar is intense and showcases brown fruit flavours, with spicy red fruit notes and a hint of green banana and an aroma of coffee.
Most guests of the tasting commented that they hoped these bars would become part of the regular collection, and so do we. They are beautiful chocolates and the box itself is elegant and well presented while the packaging is beautifully designed, making for a great present too for any chocolate lover (£33 for the 5 bars box).