Kauai Chocolate

I was catching up on some of the other Kaua’i blogs, and North Shore Kauai covered a topic I’ve been meaning to write about: locally grown chocolate. The article in question comes from The Garden Island newspaper and covers the dream of Koa Kahili, a Hanalei guy who wants to launch the third chocolate crop in Hawaii, the only place in the US where chocolate will grow.

To summarize the article, Koa has been promoting chocolate as an organic, sustaiable crop around Kauai. I don’t think he has the capital to start his own farm, but he has the experience to promote, advise, and plant for those who do. He has been raising saplings in pots and tending the trees he has planted over the years. And at the same time, he has been experimenting with the processing of the first cacao beans he has grown, discovering the best way to ferment the beans in Kaua’i’s climate. The idea, I gather, is to have some sort of co-op, where farmers and people with the land to grow an orchard provide the raw fruit and he would turn it into a high-quality chocolate.

His website is promoting the planting and harvesting of cocoa, with some great arguments about sustainability and food independence for Kauai. It has lots of pictures of the trees and beautifully colored fruit, if you’ve never seen them before:

Source: gardenislandchocolate.com

I know Koa (I’ve mentioned him before), and I have been following his chocolate enterprise closely, though mostly out of self-interest. You see, ever since living in Europe, I’ve been hooked on good, dark chocolate, usually 70% cacao and above. I try not to be snobbish about it, but certainly like tasting all the subtle difference in various brands of dark chocolate from around the world. And I also like locally grown products, so I had really been looking forward to tasting Koa’s chocolate.

Last summer I finally got the chance when he brought some of his first batches to a potluck, and that stuff was delicious. He had made enough to sell me some of his first real chocolate bars, a dark chocolate and a goat’s milk chocolate pictured below (still over 60% cacao). The flavors were excellent, even the slight tartness of the goat milk went very well with the chocolate. And knowing it was grown organically, right here on Kauai, was like the cherry on top.

And now I see he has been processing larger batches and selling it in stores. The website lists 2 flavors, and places around the island where they’re available (Papaya’s, of course, and others):

Source: gardenislandchocolate.com
Ingredients: Organic Kauai-grown cacao, organic Kauai-grown macademia nuts, organic evaporated cane juice, organic Kauai coconut, organic Kauai-grown vanilla beans.
Ingredients: Organic Kauai-grown cacao, organic Hawaiian sugar, organic shelled hemp seeds, organic Kauai-grown vanilla beans, mint oil
Source: gardenislandchocolate.com

And come to think of it, one of my Kauai neighbors planted some cocoa trees recently, so I’ll have to ask him how they’re growing and when he’ll have some chocolate to share…

  • While researching this article, I found that Mars, Inc, the candybar maker, is the self-proclaimed “global leader in cocoa science” and is working with IBM to sequence the cacao plant genome. Somehow, I don’t think much good will come of that, and certainly not better chocolate.
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