The first record of Welsh people eating seaweed

Laverbread is recorded as a staple food, eaten in South Wales in William Camden’s work, Britania. The people of Swansea and the surrounding area are among the most charmed by this savoury green ingredient and devour it routinely, normally as part of their breakfast.


A young boy leaves Pembrokeshire

A boy called John Roberts was born in Casnewydd Bach (Little Newcastle in English), a tiny village in Pembrokeshire, West Wales. The boy grew and left home aged 11, he is recorded as joining the British Royal Navy in the lowest of ranks aged just 13.


Roberts is forced to join his pirate captors

Age 37 Roberts’ long lowly career in the Navy has been habitually unremarkable until one day the ship he is working aboard is captured by pirates. Reluctant to join them, but less inclined towards being murdered, Roberts is initiated into the pirate crew which happens to be captained by another Pembrokeshire man, Howel Davies from Milford Haven.


Bartholemew The New Captain

Immediately hitting it off with his captor, John Roberts and Hywel Davies speak Welsh to one another and Davies values Roberts’ excellent navigational skills which were entirely overlooked by his former royal naval colleagues. When Davies is killed, the very popular second in command is immediately voted in as the new captain and takes on the alias name Bartholemew Roberts.


Prolific Pirate Career

Bartholemew is wanted dead by several of the richest countries in the world for his persistent and notoriously effective interceptions of trading ships in the Atlantic. Famed for his unprecedented success at seizing huge amounts of treasure over a short period, fiercely enforcing his pirate code which ensures every crew member (a third of whom were black) has an equal share and vote, ensuring his men don’t mistreat women, and being unapologetically unique in terms of style and attitude for the time. Bartholemew Roberts lives out arguably the most prolific pirate career to exist, until he dies just shy of three years into it, aged 40. John Roberts was a pioneer of true democracy, a compassionate advocate for equality, and ultimately someone who said, if this is what I’m doing, I’m going to do it my way, and I’m going to be the best. Richard Sanders captures the essence of John Roberts perfectly with his book title “If a Pirate I must be”.


Forever known as Barti Ddu or in English, Black Bart

After his death Bartholomew Roberts becomes known as the infamous Black Bart, or Barti Ddu in Welsh. Barti Ddu was long constrained by poverty and the societal norms of the seventeen hundreds before his capture which ultimately freed him to be the individual he truly was.

It’s well documented that Bartholemew Roberts spent very little time in the company of women, some historians speculate that he was gay or in fact a she.


A shipwreck in Pembrokeshire occurs over a hundred years after Barti’s death

The Thomas M Reed set sail from San Fransisco, bound for Liverpool carrying tonnes of precious cargo such as salmon, mother of pearl shells and copper ore. The ship never made it to Liverpool, instead it wrecked off the Pembrokeshire coast. The neglected cargo from the ship was strewn along Freshwater West, a vast and secluded beach on the most South West tip of Wales, attracting people from as far away as Swansea. On arrival, the Swansea visitors noticed the abundance of laver seaweed growing at Freshwater West and realised they could make use of it to up the production of their beloved laverbread. A deal was struck with the locals and laver seaweed immediately began being picked by the local women and transported to Swansea for processing.


The seaweed collecting cottage industry at Freshwater West peaks then begins to fade away

The best of the seaweed harvesting years at Freshwater West are over as food fashions change and the availability of new and exciting delicacies arrive.


A physical symbol of Pembrokeshire’s seaweed harvesting heritage

The last remaining seaweed drying hut at Freshwater West beach is restored by The National Trust and becomes a grade two listed building.


Jonathan Williams is Homesick

Jonathan Williams stares out of the window of his landlocked office in Swindon, pining to get back home to Pembroke and to his passions, cooking, story telling and the sea. He’s working in sustainability, something he’s passionate about. But the 9 to 5 rat race isn’t for him.

Jonathan is captivated by the historical pursuit of harvesting wild laver seaweed at his local beach, the act of which has been made unforgettable by the preservation of the last drying hut standing strong above the shore. Jonathan acquires a taste for the seaweed himself and inspired so much so, he builds the ‘The Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company’ and begins trading his seaweed lobster rolls, sea plant salads and beach burgers under the banner ‘Café Mor’. Jonathan quits his day job in Swindon.


Street Food trailer ‘Cafe Mor’ wows crowds with sea inspired menu

Jonathan’s seaweed inspired menu is a hit and wins gold at the British Street Food Awards within the first year Café Mor is catering en mase for the athletes in the Olympic village in London. Alongside catering at Glastonbury and other major events around the UK, Café Mor wins a permanent spot to trade from at home, at the very same beach the seaweed pickers of the past worked from in years gone by, Freshwater West. Fran Barnikel is recruited by The Pembrokeshire Food Company on a temporary graduate placement. The Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company keeps growing. The street food arm flourishes and Café Mor trades at Glastonbury Festival, Jamie Oliver’s Big Feastival and Hay on Wye literary Fest to name a few.

Jonathan can’t get enough of the amazing depth of flavour seaweed brings to his cooking. His sideline of sea inspired condiments and crackers get traction and are commonly found in the local shops.


Barti Ddu Rum is Born

Jonathan, permanently full of energy, ideas and optimism, takes two weeks off after the birth of his second daughter. He returns to Beach Food HQ after the fortnight away absolutely brimming with excitement. He informs Fran (who didn’t leave after her work placement ended four years earlier) of his new business idea combining many of his favourite things, 1. Seaweed 2. A fantastic local story, this time about a pirate called Barti Ddu and 3. RUM. He had already begun developing the flavour profile and sourcing expertly distilled rum from the Caribbean. Barti Ddu Rum was born.

Having always been a rum girl, it didn’t take much persuasion for Fran to get involved in the brand new rum business. Sharing an appreciation for great flavours and an identical vision for the shape the brand should take, Fran becomes a partner before later that year working as the full time managing director of Barti Rum, leaving her role at The Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company.


Building A Brand

Barti Spiced Rum begins to really take off in Wales, especially as a new wave of rum lovers comes crashing in over the slowly plateauing gin craze. Barti builds itself as a brand for those much like Jonathan Williams. Driven by passion, creative, eco conscious and enthralled by the outdoors and what tales of adventure they have to offer, and are yet to facilitate.


Barti Rum is grateful to its loyal following

Despite the obstacles of the pandemic Barti secures itself as the third best selling spirit in the portfolio of the biggest regional food service wholesaler in Wales, behind only mainstream brands Gordon’s Gin and Smirnoff Vodka. Amy Yamazaki joins the team heading up trade sales and expanding Barti’s presence in shops and bars across the UK.


Continuing To Grow, prioritising sustainability and innovation

As the Barti Rum and Pembrokeshire Beach Food business’ continue to grow, Jonathan is now spear heading world leading research into the viability of seaweed as a carbon capture mechanism, something which could be a global game changer, and in the least, will make Barti Rum a carbon negative company in not too many years to come.