Firetree is a brand that has appeared on my chocolate radar more and more in recent months. It sources its premium cocoa directly from farmers on remote oceanic islands where the volcanic terroir shapes the flavour of the beans, and thus, the chocolate.
Fast forward to Easter where a 20% discount code helped sweeten the deal and I snapped up a bar at the beginning of the Coronavirus lockdown. I settled on a bar from Malekula Island in the Pacific region of Melanesia. Vanuatu sits to the left of Fiji and north of New Caledonia, east of Australia and north of New Zealand.
As is the case for the entire range of Firetree chocolate, the packaging for the 72% Vanuatu chocolate bar oozes glamour, class, and sophistication. The outer packaging is a sleek black cardboard pouch, with a splash of colour to visually represent the flavour notes. There's red for cherry, white hues for grape, and yellows for soft lemon.
Silver-foiled print fits this packaging perfectly, with the Firetree logo taking pride of place, and the phrases "Single Estate", "Vanuatu Malekula Island", "72% cocoa", and "rich volcanic chocolate" all shimmering in silver.
Turn this tactile pouch over and you're presented with a wealth of information about the chocolate itself, the country of origin, and about the company. There's even instructions on how to eat this chocolate properly - yes, this is a bar to be savoured not wolfed down in front of the telly.
The Firetree website expands on this further, explaining that most of the cocoa grown in Vanuatu comes from Malekula, an island blanketed in dense forest that is a two-day boat journey from the capital of Port Vila.
Nestled underneath this information is the ingredients list and nutritional information.
Firetree 72% Vanuatu Malekula Island Rich Volcanic Chocolate ingredients:
Cocoa mass, unrefined sugar, cocoa butter, emulsifier (sunflower lecithin). Cocoa solids: 72% minimum.
This vegan-friendly, dairy-free, Halal chocolate is manufactured in a no-nut factory, and contains a sugar content of 29%.
Firetree 72% Vanuatu Rich Volcanic Chocolate Review
As I lifted the flap on the pouch I was greeted with my first breathe of volcanic chocolate. There's no denying that this small-batch, single-origin chocolate is special.
The aroma is earthy and almost savoury in nature. The snap is clean and crisp, and a rush of flavours develop as soon as you pop a piece in your mouth.
To begin, I picked up a hint of earthy molasses spiked with the slightest of hints from a citrus bitterness. There's elements of both lemon and lime here. There's a rush of sweetness that briefly develops mid-way into a red fruit tartness (think raspberries) before simmering back down.
Into the aftertaste the bitterness disappeared in a heartbeat, leaving rich, rounded, and satisfying chocolate brownie notes that linger long after the chocolate has gone.
This is complex bean-to-bar chocolate that deserves to be savoured. Each piece of chocolate adds to the puzzle, which is why it's important to savour this chocolate properly.
The only disappointment here is that my bar was delivered with just three months shelf life remaining on it. Dark chocolate typically has a very long shelf life on it, with some bars in my collection boasting lifespans of 12 to 18 months. I was hoping to be able to squirrel this special bar away and dip in now and again to truly savour it, rather than having to wolf it all down quickly.
Firetree 72% Vanuatu Malekula Island Chocolate Review
RRP: £7.00 | Firetree | Shop now
A strong, rich and complex chocolate bar with red fruit and citrus notes that is perfectly rounded on the palate. This is a bar to savour in a slow, considered, and methodical manner.
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UPDATE: Following my review, Firetree kindly sent me a mini 25g bar with a much longer life (14 months) to see whether there was a noticeable difference in the tasting qualities. The tasting notes mostly match to my description above, with the only noticeable difference being a slightly more savoury edge to the aroma and initial taste (bordering in a mild nutty, mushroom flavour). Otherwise, it was identical to the same characterful dark chocolate bar I purchased, only smaller and therefore cuter!
The 25g bar is available as part of a seven-piece gift box (£17.50), which is ideal for giving as a birthday or Christmas gift, and is also a great way to sample the range before diving in for larger 65g bars of your favourites.
Have you tried 'volcanic chocolate'? What did you make of it? Share your thoughts in a comment below.