Having spent 10 years building her ethical food company Clonakilty Chocolate, which specialises in handmade Fairtrade chocolate, Allison Roberts is branching out with her newest venture – Exploding Tree. The first product to be launched by this off-shoot brand is Cocoa Husk Tea – a Fairtrade loose-leaf tea that is bursting with flavours of buttery roasted chocolate, coconut and soothing spice, and brimming with goodness.
Allison is an impassioned supporter of sustainable local businesses – wherever in the world they may be. Her medium is chocolate and her message is exploring chocolate as a life-giving food (for the eater and the grower) instead of a guilt-laden indulgence. Naturally nutritious and abundant with essential vitamins, minerals and heart healthy cocoa butter, good quality chocolate is the original superfood.
The cocoa beans sourced by Exploding Tree are grown by Fairtrade farming co-operative Kuapa Kokoo in Ghana, West Africa, then shipped to the small but perfectly formed bean-to-bar Clonakilty Chocolate factory.
Hand-processing the beans without the use of chemicals means every part of the bean can be used so nothing is wasted – including the husk. When infused in freshly boiled water, the cocoa husks make a refreshing cup of comforting and delicious tea!
The cacoa tree’s Latin name ‘Theobroma’ literally means ‘Food of the Gods’ and has sustained great empires for millennia. Cocoa husk tea has its roots in the ancient Mayan civilisation where the cacoa bean was celebrated and the tea was used in rituals. The husk contains the same balance of nutrients as the beans, so drinking Exploding Tree Cocoa Husk Tea daily is a quick, easy and delicious way to get essential nutrients into our bodies.
Allison explains, “We have been drinking cocoa husk tea at home for years; I love it first thing in the morning, after a big meal or as an evening wind-down. I always had a hunch that it was full of nutrients; the husk contains so much of the whole bean’s goodness – the same way the skin of any fruit or vegetable contains so much of its goodness.
“I am passionate about reclaiming chocolate as a healthy, guilt-free food and so Cocoa Husk Tea fits the bill. We have been developing it with Limerick Institute of Technology and were delighted to find, through their panel surveys, that people love the taste as much as we do. When we received the laboratory results of a high nutrient and antioxidant content, our instinct that it was doing us good was confirmed!”
Cocoa beans are rich in a mineral called Theobromine that acts to give you sustained energy over a long time, and unlike caffeine it is not followed by a crash. The husk also contains heart-healthy cocoa butter and Exploding Tree Cocoa Husk Tea has six-times more Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) than green tea!
“Most importantly it really does taste great,” assures Allison. “The flavours of roasted chocolate, honey and warming spices come through and it is buttery and comforting, like a warm cuddle.”
A visit to Kuapa Kokoo in Ghana influenced a shift in the direction of Clonakilty Chocolate, which is now one of only four bean-to-bar producers in Ireland. When chocolate is made from bean-to-bar it means that every step of making chocolate is done by the chocolate maker.
Allison uses only Fairtrade cocoa beans and ethically sources all the other ingredients for her chocolate products. She also explores alternative sweeteners, which has led her to using coconut sugar.
“People have become much more conscious about where the cocoa comes from in their chocolate bar but they don’t think about the sugar, and as the second biggest ingredient in chocolate it’s just as important!
“I use coconut sugar from Indonesia. Coconut sugar is much from sustainable than traditional sugar sources as it is the nectar of the coconut tree flower. The nectar has to be hand-harvested, and its water content boiled off within hours, leaving no room for exploitation by large corporations. It is a perfect product for small co-operative. The flower is not removed, the tree is not cut down and so it continues to provide food, shelter and support to the local eco-system.”
Coconut sugar is also diabetic friendly as it is absorbed slowly to prevent glucose spikes.
“Giving your loved one some of our chocolate or Exploding Tree tea this Valentine’s means you are giving a gift that is made with love, good for their health and has not hurt somebody in its production. It’s the same conversation as the harm done in unethical diamond trading,” says Allison.
Exploding Tree is also now producing bulk cooking chocolate in 200g packs for retail or larger quantities for restaurants etc. Exactly the same as the Clonakilty Chocolate product range but in a rougher form, the cooking chocolate is available in dark, milk, goat’s milk or 100 per cent pure. Call Allison on 085 7574338 for details.
Always experimenting and innovating, Exploding Tree’s next product to launch will be vegan oat milk bars so keep your eyes peeled and your taste buds primed!