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.
Ingredients – We carefully chose our cacao. The Fairtrade and Organic certifications it carries as well as the ABOCFA cooperative’s commitment to social inclusion and biodiversity and agroforestry are of the utmost importance to us. We choose to use coconut blossom sugar for the majority of our chocolate not only because it tastes great, is healthier and has a low GI but also because according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, coconut palm sugar is the most sustainable sweetener in the world.
Eco-packaging – In 2010 we made the somewhat painstaking switch to buying only 100% bio-degradable, low-carbon and sustainably manufactured packaging. 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. In 2023 we installed solar panels on the HQ so our chocolate is now solar-powered when the sun is shining, and when it is too hot outside our chocolate is cooled with a very efficient air to air heat pump.
Transport – We don’t fly when overland/ferry is an option so overseas trade shows are out. We use the postal system instead of couriers for deliveries in order to minimise unnecessary journeys and use bikes and public transit as our primary means of transportation.
Waste – We operate as a zero-waste business. 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. I am proud to only use packaging that can be composted or recycled – and we lean heavily towards minimal/no packaging wherever possible, bring your own bag and fill up with bulk chocolate or bare bars when you visit! We sell our bases to zero-waste shops and offer bulk wrapped bars and bases via the web shop. 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: