Chocolate On The Road: Hawaii

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There is the process of growing, and then there is the process of making, and these are two separate arts. The question is, what exactly is Hawaiian chocolate? Is the fact that it was cultivated here the sole factor? If it were to be transported to Switzerland, would it then be considered Swiss chocolate since it was produced in Switzerland?

-Tammie Butterbaugh, Manoa Chocolate

Despite the fact that neither pineapples nor macadamia nuts are native to the Hawaiian Islands, both have helped make the state of Hawaii famous around the world. The following? Theobroma cacao.

Cacao farmers on at least four of the islands have initiated efforts, over the course of the past ten years, to increase the visibility of Hawaiian cacao and chocolate among a wider demographic of consumers. Dole Foods, a seemingly improbable participant, has played a role in ensuring that visitors to the islands of Maui, Kauai, Oahu, and the Big Island can now find at least one chocolate tour or experience conveniently located nearby.

In this episode, we talk to five people who work in the chocolate and cacao industry in Hawaii about the development of the cacao industry in Hawaii, from trees to bars, as well as all of the many struggles that occurred in between. It has taken the Hawaiian Islands more than a century to undergo this transformation, but they are quickly approaching their goal of becoming the “Napa Valley of Chocolate.” You are only a jump, a skip, and a flight away from the heavenly bliss of chocolate.

Simply clicking this link will take you to the article version of this episode.

Topics We Cover

  • a concise account of the development of Hawaiian chocolate prior to its recent resurgence
  • the individuals and organizations that have been instrumental in the development of the Hawaiian cocoa industry
  • What it’s actually like to build a chocolate empire on some of the most remote islands in the world and how vertical integration plays a role in the process.
  • opportunities for expansion of the cacao business in Hawaii’s many subsectors
  • present problems and worries facing the cacao and chocolate industries in Hawaii and elsewhere, both on and off the islands

Show Timeline

0:00-1:40~ Episode introduction

1:40-11:00~ Discussing the history and context of Hawaiian cacao with Dan O’Doherty of Cacao Services

11:00-23:35~ Tammie & Dylan Butterbaugh on the development of Hawaii’s largest chocolate maker, and how the Hawaiian chocolate scene has continued to develop over the last decade

23:35-31:10~ Diving into the process of building one of the only pure tree to bar chocolate companies on Hawaii, with Lonohana founder Seneca Klessen

31:10-36:30~ looking closer at the struggles of the Hawaiian cacao industry, and how those issues will be dealt with in the future

36:30-39.25~ defining Hawaiian chocolate

More About Our Guests

Dan O’Doherty is a former researcher at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and now works as an expert in cacao for Cacao Services, Inc. Dan has worked with cocoa farmers all around the globe to determine the most effective post-harvest procedures for each individual field. This has required him to travel extensively. You may find him on Instagram as well as his website.

Tammie and Dylan Butterbaugh are the co-founders and proprietors of Manoa Chocolate, which began operations in 2010 and has since grown to become one of the most successful chocolate manufacturers in Hawaii. Follow them on Instagram and check out their website as well as the Craft Chocolate TV channel on Youtube.

Seneca Klessen is the proprietor of Lonohana Chocolate, which was established in 2014, as well as the chocolate maker there. Since 2009, he has also been a cacao grower on the North Shore of Oahu. Look at Lonohana’s website and Instagram for more information.

Maddy Smith, formerly known as Barefoot Chocolatini and currently a cocoa farmer and chocolate maker extraordinaire, has been active in the Hawaiian cacao scene ever since she relocated to the Big Island in 2015. In 2015, she began working as a chocolate tour guide under the name Barefoot Chocolatini. Be sure to have a look at her Instagram as well as the future artisan chocolate subscription box.

Resources Mentioned

  • Cacao study carried out by the University of Hawaii.
  • The chocolate firm owned by Dole Foods
  • According to Dan, Madre chocolate was one of the first chocolate manufacturers on the island of Hawaii.
  • The Ahupua’a Land Use Designation, which was brought up by Tammie earlier.
  • The Hilo Chocolate Festival will take place on April 13, 2019, so mark your calendars!
  • The podcast episode devoted to Japan may be found here.