We first met Dylan, owner of Manoa Chocolate Hawaii, at the Hawaii Chocolate Festival. His knowledge and passion of chocolate was on a level I didn’t know existed. When he invited Scott and I on a factory tour, we didn’t hesitate blocking off an afternoon to learn about chocolate production on the island of Oahu, from bean to bar.
The moment we stepped into the shop/factory we knew we were in a special place.
Dylan’s wife, Tamara started our tour explaining the process of harvesting cacao to the fermentation to the exportation. We were allowed in the production area and shown the difference between beans from all over the world. There is so much more to the story of chocolate production, from where the raw cacao is sourced, to the quality of the product. Like studying grapes for wine, there is a science to chocolate and an unbelievable difference between a common grocery store bar verses an artisan creation. Chocolate can taste different based on where it is grown, climate factors, how it is fermented and dried along with how it is roasted. Without a lot of standards in the chocolate industry around the world, things are happening right now that are changing the game of chocolate in a big way.
One of the big differences between Manoa Chocolate Hawaii and other chocolate producers is they are in Hawaii, the only state in our nation that can grow cocoa trees. There are some exciting things happening in the cacao industry with small growers on both Oahu and the big island of Hawaii. But for now, much of the cacao is from several places worldwide. Manoa Chocolate Hawaii celebrates this and makes single origin bars that are a delight to taste and compare.
Manoa Chocolate Hawaii uses beans from selected, ethical growers all over the world but is also on the cutting edge of what is happening locally with Hawaii-grown cacao. About half way through our tour, Dylan stepped in to educate us on more of the work that goes into his bars. He took us through the roasting, hulling and grinding process. We didn’t go into the tempering area but watched through the glass as he checked on the progress of the current production run. Walking through all steps of the chocolate process from start to finish and ending up in the tasting area is a real treat. Once our heads were full of interesting facts, we satisfied and challenged our palates with small samples of several bars. Manoa Chocolate Hawaii seeps with creativity as not only are you picking out nuances from different regions but experiencing chocolate laced with ghost pepper, goat’s milk, Hawaiian sea salt and honey. To top it all off, you can have a cup of Chocolate Tea which is a tea made from roasted cacao husks. This tea has become a family favorite, especially when served with a bit of coconut sugar and cream.
It’s evident Dylan’s college degree was in sustainable development because everything about his company strives to make the world a better place, be it in getting local growers started to supporting small farms around the world. Dylan’s genuine enthusiasm for all parts of the chocolate business sparked my interest way beyond the bar. Check out my post, Today We Made Chocolate, for just a taste of where Manoa Chocolate Hawaii sent my family.
Although I didn’t even scratch the surface of explaining all I love about chocolate (it’s good for you!) in this post, you only have to follow the trends to know the health benefits of quality, minimally processed, dark chocolate. Also, as this was not a sponsored post, I can honestly say that my experience learning about chocolate production and sampling many of the products Manoa Chocolate Hawaii has to offer, was the #1 highlight of my last trip to Oahu.
To learn more about Manoa Chocolate Hawaii, connect with them on Facebook or check out their website.
To learn more about worldwide chocolate harvesting, Cocoa-nomics: Why chocolate really doesn’t grow on trees, is a must read article, from CNN, that reports on the harsh truths behind the world’s favorite confection.