Stage 1: Our chocolate begins its journey at a small family-run farm, part of Kuapa Kokoo Fairtrade cooperative, in Ghana, West Africa. The cacao trees are shade grown, encouraging biodiversity and creating a cool, lush oasis in the midst of a very hot countryside.

Stage 2: The pods are hand-harvested and cracked open, revealing a white tropical tasting film stretched over a cob of beans. The beans are removed from the pod, fermented in the forest under banana leaves and then sun-dried. (This stage is very labour intensive and one reason Fairtrade is so important to help in the battle against slave and child labour in cocoa farms)

Stage 3: Next the beans are weighed, packed and loaded up for their journey on the high seas.

Stage 4: Arriving in Clonakilty at our garden HQ, the beans are sorted, roasted, nibbed and winnowed to separate the thin shells (husks) from the inside of the beans (nibs). Our husks are used for tea, chocolate stouts and garden mulch!

Stage 5: The nibs and any other base ingredients (sweeteners and dairy/dairy alternatives) are refined and conched in a stone grinder for three days to further develop flavour, and achieve our smooth creamy texture.

Stage 6: The chocolate is then poured from the stone grinder, aged and then tempered, flavoured and then poured into waiting moulds. Once the bars are set, they are hand wrapped, boxed and delivered! It takes roughly one cacao pod (containing about about 30-40 beans) to make one of our bars. Phew!

I was lucky enough to travel to Ghana in 2013 as representative of Fairtrade Ireland and visit the Kuapa Kokoo Fairtrade Farming Co-operative where every treat from Exploding Tree starts its life.   Here are some pictures from that amazing experience…

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