Simon Wittenberg puts his taste buds to the test in the company of Firetree’s Chocolate Maker Martyn O’Dare and five chocolate bars from the brand’s new Innovations Collection.
At the beginning of November, Firetree, the Lincolnshire-based manufacturer of super-premium and vegan-friendly chocolate, launched its Innovations Collection, its first-ever limited-edition product line-up.
It’s classed as a limited edition because only a tonne of rare and ethically-sourced cocoa beans was purchased to create each of the five new varieties in the range. However, that’s not to say that if they do prove popular, they may well be incorporated into Firetree’s core offering in the future.
The beans in the Collection hail from the Dominican Republic, Indonesia, the Solomon Islands and have a cocoa content ranging from 72% to 100%, offering health benefits thanks to the unique levels of antioxidants.
It’s always fascinating to hear from the individuals behind the creation of a product, and Martyn O’Dare (above), Firetree’s Chocolate Maker, who is so passionate and knowledgeable about all things chocolate, geography, and even wildlife, truly brought the Innovations Collection to life.
The five 65g bars that we enjoyed are as follows:
Solomon Islands Guadalcanal Oat
This is a bar of plant-based milk chocolate made using gluten-free hydrolysed oats sourced from the west of Ireland, on a base of rich Solomon Islands dark chocolate. You can smell the oats, and there’s a slight creaminess to this chocolate, with an almost orange taste in the background. The flavour piles onto the palate, and it is a recipe that works.
Vanuatu Malekula Island (100% Cocoa)
After sampling the former mild oat-based chocolate, next up in the Innovations Collection was the Vanuatu Malekula Island variety, made from 100% Cocoa, with the beans coming from the group of islands located in the South Pacific.
Pulling back the black paper wrapper, you get that beautiful crisp snap when you divide the squares in your fingers. With such a high cocoa content, this may be an acquired taste for some, and there’s a really powerful bitter and almost sour or a citrusy flavour that comes alive in your mouth.
This was not our favourite of the five varieties of the Innovation Collection, but this doesn’t mean that it is not a great style of chocolate – one that actually only came off the production line a few weeks ago in October.
Vanuatu Malekula Island (72% Cocoa & Cocoa Nibs)
On the rear of this chocolate, you will find small pieces of roasted cocoa nibs, almost resembling crushed pieces of nut. These same nibs are used to make the chocolate and were held back by Martyn to create a different type of texture and finish, and the result is impressive – smooth on the front and rough on the back. There’s a taste of cherry and citrus, and this was one of one our preferred options in the new Collection.
Hispaniola Dominican Republic (72% Cocoa)
In the Dominican Republic, cocoa tends to be grown in the north and east of the island. The beans for this chocolate come from the Elvisia plantation in the northeastern part of this Caribbean island. The result is a creamy taste with hints of green banana, which you would expect with the beans originating from this part of the world. There’s also an element of spice and raisins that contribute to this delicious chocolate.
Indonesia Seram Island (72% Cocoa)
The volcanic Seram Island sits between Java and Papua New Guinea. There are tropical fruits on the palate, and this chocolate has floral hints, and it’s actually refreshing in its taste, making it a pleasant recipe.
The Firetree Innovations Collection does offer exceptional chocolate, which oozes that hint of luxury. It is the perfect accompaniment to Port, red wine, pink champagne, or even a dram of whisky.
In terms of what you can expect next from Firetree, Martyn is turning his attention to beans from Java. In fact, his hunting ground tends to be volcanic islands, as the high quality of the soil gives rise to good cocoa suitable for use in chocolate. Watch this space!
Firetree Innovations Collection – Where and How?
To purchase the new Firetree Innovations Collection (RRP: £33), visit www.firetreechocolate.com.