Chocolate Farm Tour: Kaua'i, Hawai'i

Chocolate is such a delight, I have always been a fan.  I didn't think my love for chocolate could be any more intense, but I was wrong.  My second day in Hawaii, after an amazing breakfast at Cinnamon's in Kailua, my sister, husband, and I stumbled upon "The Chocolate Factory" upstairs from Cinnamon's, so we decided to see what that was about. It is called Manoa Chocolates. We were greated by an eager and friendly lady who told us how chocolate was made, with pictures and tasting of Cacao nibs and we watched the roasting and grinding process in the back of the factory through the glass.  Then the tasting began.  I couldn't believe this was free.  I glanced at the prices of the bars we would be tasting: $9 each.  Eeek, I hoped these tasted good because after all this pleasantry, I knew we would have to buy something!  They were so good!  What a fun experience, we all agreed, and each bought a bar or two.

On the flight from Honolulu to Kauai'i (all of 30 minutes) I decided to check out Hawaiian airlines in-flight magazine to see if it had anything we must do on Kauai'i.  A Chocolate Farm tour filled with tastings of locally made and harvested chocolate?  Ummmm, yes please!  When I looked it up online as soon as we landed and saw the price tag of $65 a person, I was thinking maybe we would skip it.  But Danny insisted!  He said that we had to, that I would really enjoy it, and that 3 hours and "extensive tasting" was worth it. So I called Koa and booked us for our last day on Kauai'i.  They only offer the tours on Mondays and Thursdays, so I got lucky.  

When we arrived we were greeted by Angela and Koa and with a plate of espresso truffles and pineapple.  It was really good, but I only wanted to eat one because I knew we were in for an "extensive tasting" as they say on their website.  We began the tour walking through this beautiful show farm and Koa stopped to tell us about the lime tree in front of us, then cut up limes straight from the tree for all of us to taste.  This continued on with banana, lychee, lemon, and something called a "mountain apple."  Oh, and some kind of a mountain grape, which was very good, but the skin was super bitter and sour.

Then there was the cacao.  What an awesome fruit!  We all got to taste it, and it was really good actually!  Danny and I thought it tasted like a sweet fruit with a doughy texture.  There is a big seed inside each piece of fruit, this is where the chocolate comes from, not the fruit itself.  You can eat the seed, but it is pretty bitter. I ate mine, it was fine.

This is the Cacao Fruit

A Cacao Tree

Cacao grows on the trunks.  So weird.
Cacao is such an interesting fruit.  It grows more on the trunks of trees rather than on the branches, and it will not break off when ripe like other fruits, it has to be cut off, otherwise it will just rot on the tree.  Cacao, why you so weird?!  I love you.

Angela and Koa, tasting time!
Then the tasting began.  It was the most amazing experience of my life.  Ok, I am being only slightly dramatic.  It was really really really great and fun and cool.  I loved learning all about cacao and the process of fermentation and roasting and separating and stone grinding, and tempering, and layering things in the chocolate. And Koa and Angela are obviously very passionate about what they do, which makes it even more exciting.  But more than that, I loved every time the tray came to me and I got to taste the chocolate! (Plus Danny and I were the last two for passing, and there were always extra pieces, so if we REALLY liked it, we got extra)  So, let's see if I can remember the order: First were their 4 commercial bars they sell: 85% cacao, sea salt, coconut macadamia, and mint+cacao nibs.  Then we moved onto their flavor mixed varieties, which they just do for the tours and to play around with, so they change frequently, meaning you could potentially go here twice and not get the same thing. They were: Ginger, cherry, Angela's homemade (vegan!) nutella, caramel, masala curry bacon (the only non-vegan friendly ones), peanut raisin, kava, and a super duper spicy sample before we all headed over to the table to watch Koa make a typical Mayan "hot chocolate."  It was really good, they use 100% cacao, and a bunch of spices and coconut milk and hot water in a vitamix.  Then we all sat back down to finish up the tasting with the plain, single and mixed variety chocolates.  First was a 90% from somewhere, then a single variety from the Big Island, then their favorite- 1/2 Helen's dark bean+1/2 their bean, then one from Belize.  Their favorite was our favorite, but I liked them all, honestly! 

This was a magical experience that no chocolate lover who visits the Garden Island should ever miss!

It's called Garden Island Chocolate and you can (and should!) buy their commercial bars online!

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