What is Firetree?
About a year ago I was shopping online (it was the lockdown era) for supplements at Holland & Barret and came across an interestingly named chocolate: Firetree. The packaging seemed interesting and so was the description so I ordered a couple of bars. What also motivated me was the origin of each bar (all single origin): places I long to visit again where I have been in years past like Papua New Guinea.
Once I tried the chocolate itself, I was hooked; each single origin bar they produce has its unique taste and flavour profile, given by the terroir in which it’s been harvested.
The ring of fire
The remote islands of the southern Pacific and Oceania are part of what is known as “the ring of fire”: a circle of 452 volcanoes surrounding that ocean. This is where the firetree, or cocoa tree, with its flame-hued pods, 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 their cocoa from. But the soil is only the beginning of their story.
They very much work directly with small, independent farmers and pay way over the average market price (think big brands choc) for their pods. This ensures the highest quality of the harvest and the care for the pods, but also gives the farmers the livelihood that enables them to thrive and continue to put effort and time in their crop.
Each single origin bar has a distinctive taste and flavour profile. Firetree make sure that they use the exact percentage of cocoa for each variation, depending on which estate the cocoa comes from: not too little and not too much.
I had already attended an online tasting on behalf of Foodepedia, when Firetree launched their limited edition Innovations collection, but when I found out they were running a temporary pop up showroom in Central London, I didn’t think twice and attended one more session, this time however in person.
The pop up was on South Molton Street and for a few days meant that the team behind Firetree had a chance to promote their chocolate to the passing by public (at the moment they do not have many brick & mortar retailers).
It also meant an opportunity to meet the brand’s co-founder, Martyn O’Dare, and hear directly from him about the brand, their passion and how they make their chocolate. We also learnt how to pair some of their bars with drinks such as champagne. Maybe even more fascinating were Martyn’s first hand accounts of how they source their pods and how they establish a long standing relationship with their farmers.
Particularly poignant – for me, as I love the Solomon Islands – was to find out that the farmer in their company photos, Lucy, has been able to send two of her daughters to university in Australia (there are no unis in the Sollies) thanks to the ongoing contract with Firetree and the more than fair prices she gets for her high quality cocoa pods. The fact that one of her girls has decided to come back, once graduated, to continue the family business, is an incredible result and a major reason why paying a fair and high price (in the end consumer’s case) for a quality bar of chocolate is necessary.