In 1994 in a small rural town in Ontario Canada, the foundations of Exploding Tree were laid. At age 12, after taking part in chocolate making course nearby, I was hooked on the craft, making, giving and selling chocolates in my hometown. Years later the winds of fate blew me to Clonakilty. When I arrived, and sharing my husband’s record label name (Exploding Tree Records), I sent for my moulds and set to work.
One of the first decisions for the business was to commit to crafting with only 100% Fairtrade cocoa and coconut sugar bought directly from farming co-operatives in developing countries. Fairtrade farmers receive a fair price and a extra premium for their crops and we have the pleasure of enjoying our favourite treat at a new level: ethically delicious and easy on the conscience!
Since traveling to West Africa in 2013 we’ve had a new fire in our bellies. We were inspired by the hard work of Fairtrade farmers that grow our beans and so, naturally decided to convert the back half of our own home into a bean-to-bar chocolate factory! We have since been working from the bean, in full control of our ingredients and choosing to use only the bare essentials, no emulsifiers, and only healthier natural sweeteners: coconut sugar for most of our bars & birch Xylitol for our Garden Mint.
Cacao is wonderful, it tastes wonderful and fills us with wonder. Our mission is to take wonderful cacao and use it to make wonderful chocolate. Wonderful for our bodies and our communities.
Our chocolate today
We combine Fairtrade Organic Ghanaian cocoa beans with natural, healthier sweeteners to make ground-breakingly delicious chocolate that is easy on the conscience and pays homage to the mystical, humble cocoa bean.
We choose to source our cacao from the ABOCFA cooperative in Ghana as they are an amazing example of people power! We visited Ghana in 2013 and were inspired. In a country whose ports and trading system were setup to strongly favour large corporates, keeping farmers in poverty, we are proud to be sourcing our cacao from the only Fairtrade Organic coop in the country who are working so hard to change things for the better.
We roast, nib, winnow, refine & temper here in our garden HQ in Clonakilty, Co Cork Ireland, continually experimenting with tastes & textures. We work in small batches, wrap by hand and choose to stock only community-minded local shops and wholefood stores.
We are so delighted with our new range of handcrafted bars with our beautiful new packaging with town-scape drawn by our friend and local artist. We are continually experimenting with other delicious treats to compliment with them. My current favourite is goes between either the Eighty-Eight (88% with coconut sugar) or our Creamy Oat (60% Oat Milk), and my favourite treat is our Coated Cocoa Beans (we call them posh M&Ms!)
Our main mission when we set up Exploding Tree was to help people connect with chocolate on a new level and delve deeply into honest, ethical business. And this is still what inspires us today.
Nearly a decade ago we made the somewhat painstaking switch to buying only 100% bio-degradable, low-carbon and sustainably manufactured packaging. Would you believe how difficult it is to find lovely minimalist packaging that’s not harmful to the planet? It is a continual process of researching and investigating but we are proud to only use packaging that can be composted or recycled. I am happy to share my knowledge in this area so if you are working on your own solution get in touch, I have plenty of samples and contacts.
We do our best to keep our carbon footprint down too. We don’t fly when overland/ferry is an option so overseas trade shows are generally out, and our business and family choose not to have a car: our deliveries are by bicycle or post!
If you come for a visit you might quickly discover the ‘scrap pack,’ where bits of chocolate go when they can’t be sold… and I can tell you there’s not one ounce of scrap that meets the bin. We’re continuing to think up new ways of keeping work & life ethics as tangible as possible and always love to hear ideas (one of my favourite topics) so feel free to drop us a line!
Community is at the heart of what we do, here are some of the other projects we work on and are passionate about that overlap and impact the trajectory of our small business:
- Clonakilty Bicycle Festival – Our annual 5 day bicycle celebration
- Cut-the-rubbish – Our documented zero waste year
- Clonakilty Fairtrade