Finding Timeless Chocolate in Okinawa, Japan

5/5 - (1 vote)

At Timeless Chocolate, the decision about the ingredients comes first, and then the goods that can be made with those ingredients are found. In contrast to the majority of chocolate manufacturers, the people who work at Timeless are not as concerned with the cacao farmers as they are with the Okinawan sugar cane growers that they collaborate with. You have arrived to the more pleasant part of the island that they all refer to as home.

Enter on the left, just like how they drive.

Virtually Setting the Scene

Since 2014, Timeless Chocolate has been cultivating a devoted following of customers and musicians who visit their beachside business due to the high quality of both the food and the people who work there. The café would be at home in either Portland or Amsterdam thanks to its access to abundant natural light and its spacious floor design. Cinnamon wafted through the air when I entered the café for the first time in the middle of the day, and the shop’s décor and overall appearance gave off strong ’50s vibes, which truly threw me off. Shouldn’t this place have a whiff of chocolate about it?

But suddenly I found myself on the same wavelength as the store, and it seemed as if time slowed down around me. Everything had already begun to take on the appearance of chocolate. The Timeless vibe is Okinawan hipster chic with a lot of international pride, and it can be seen all the way down to the walls, which are as dark as a Hershey’s chocolate. Between sets of Cuban son, the barista known as Vana plays the rock music from his own country of the United States. The aromas of chocolate being made and baked goods become more prevalent as the day draws to a close; people are constantly moving the sea air about. Even the terrace keeps the airy, open feel, with views of a public area in American Village and the ocean beyond that.

The consistent promotion of originality and high standards of craftsmanship among the neighborhood’s independent craftspeople is what we at Timeless consider to be progress.

The Sweet Story

Even the fact that they choose to pursue chocolate production as a career is an indication of community pride. The employees have decided to put most of their attention on the sugar, which they directly obtain and create with the assistance of Okinawan sugar cane growers. One of their products is a ball of chocolate-coated sugar, which serves as an illustration of the company’s ongoing search for distinctive kinds of Okinawan sugar cane. On one of the islands, they had discovered some time ago that a sugar with a deep molasses flavor was being produced there. It is an uncommon kind of black sugar that has been cultivated in this area for many years. Unfortunately, the level of moisture was too high for it to be used in chocolate, so they resorted to their creative side and came up with the idea of coating a thin layer of their 100% chocolate in it.

When taken in its purest form, the sugar has a gritty consistency, melts in the mouth, and delivers an earthy punch that I’ve heard compared to licorice. When everything is combined, the flavor is earthy, fruity, and so sweet that it just melts in your tongue. In my view, this recipe is a smashing success. However, many of the most popular regional ingredients have been the impetus for the creation of some unique new goods. For instance, salted nib honey, cacao mustard, and passion fruit butter are all examples of such items. Each one was developed in conjunction with a different Okinawa-based artist, and it has an original take on either cacao or sugar inspired by the island.

The Jovial Staff

  • Owner: Hayashi aka Kibby-G
  • Chocolatier: Megumi
  • Barista: Vana
  • Chocolate Maker: YSK
  • Manager: UC
  • Patisserie Chef: RIE

A Virtual Tour

Photo courtesy of Timeless Chocolate.

A busy day at the cafe. Photo courtesy of Timeless Chocolate.

Meet The Maker

Hayashi-san, the proprietor of Timeless Chocolate, is well known for his eccentric ways. When I stopped by Timeless, he was working hard, as I should have anticipated from an entrepreneur. But fortunately, he was able to respond to my inquiries through email, which were then translated using a number of different approaches. The fact that the original transcript was written in Japanese means that Hayashi’s replies have been translated word for word, but the core of his responses has been preserved. I discussed the situation with his right-hand guy, UC, in order to fill up any blanks that were still there. The following is a sampler of the many aspects that make up Timeless.

The team. Photo courtesy of Timeless chocolate.

How did you start making chocolate, and in Okinawa of all places?

Our narrative is all about the sugar canes that are grown in Okinawa and the many tastes that they produce. To go back to the beginning, though, I first became interested in high-quality cuisine via coffee. When I was working as a barista in Melbourne, I came to the conclusion that the taste of the sugar had a significant impact on the way the flavors of each bean were conveyed. I didn’t have any prior experience working in the chocolate or confectionery industry, so I was completely clueless. There was no one to guide or instruct me. Simply put, I traveled to Okinawa in search of the finest sugar canes so that I could include them into the espressos that I worked with. Later on, I found that the distinct aromas of sugar canes cultivated on various islands, as well as the ways in which these flavors were connected to the canes’ varietals and production processes, captivated and enthralled me.

At this point in time, there are less than ten artisans who are able to create the traditional handcrafted brown sugar. As a result, we just initiated a rejuvenation initiative with a sugar cane plantation in the vicinity in order to preserve the distinctive culture and flavor associated with the Itoman variety. We strive to mix cacao sources with Okinawan sugars that are suitable with each other, using the information that we obtained while working with coffee, which is that the tastes may change depending on the origin and the roast. Our chocolate with a more coarse grind takes use of cacao that has a fine acidity and fruitiness. This is analogous to the response that the coffee beans have when sugar is added to the coffee just before the espresso is pulled. This chocolate is made using Kikai Island Ubushima in a coarse form (sugar). Our more refined chocolate is made with pure brown sugar that has been processed for an extended period of time to provide deeper tones.

A few Timeless products. Photo courtesy of Timeless Chocolate.

How do you source your beans and choose which origins to use?

Although we are legally permitted to import cacao from 15 different nations at the moment, our long-term objective is to limit our business to just four or five varieties, all of which are particularly compatible with the tastes of Okinawan sugars. We initiated a collaboration with cacao producers in Taiwan last year, and we are working toward the goal of featuring chocolate from Taiwan in the near future. In the not-too-distant future, one of our goals is to strengthen our connections with cacao producers in the Caribbean nations of Jamaica, the Philippines, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Have you been to any of these countries yourself to source cacao or travel?

I’ve traveled across Japan as well as some of the more easily accessible nations in Asia, such as Taiwan, Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Vietnam. On the other hand, I’ve also gone to Hawaii, Australia, and Mexico, and I have trips planned for later this year to see farmers in Jamaica, Cuba, and Trinidad and Tobago.

How did you decide on using Okinawan Black Sugar in your products (if you’ve looked up Okinawa online, you’ve surely heard of their sugar cane)?

If you look at firms throughout the globe that make chocolate from bean to bar, you’ll see that practically all of them are searching for rare cacaos. On the other hand, here at Timeless, we are doing extensive research on sugar cane, something that no other firm is presently doing. It is possible to cultivate cocoa and sugar cane in the subtropical area of Okinawa; nevertheless, the brown sugar that is produced in this location is notoriously difficult to work with due to its robust flavor. Despite this, there is a history in this area dating back hundreds of years of manufacturing sugar, and we believe it is essential to bring attention to this fact. Our goal was not to become the most skilled chocolate makers in the world; rather, we sought to develop goods that could only be produced in Okinawa. I don’t want to just fight for some meaningless title like “number one.”

Okinawan sugar. Photo courtesy of Timeless Chocolate.

Where does your inspiration for your cafe and your always-changing product line come from?

At Timeless, we exclusively offer handcrafted goods that are manufactured with fresh ingredients and are created by hand. This requires us to create in very small amounts, but it ensures that the quality of everything we do remains consistent throughout the process. Our employees are always coming up with new concepts for possible goods, which are often inspired by the flavors, smells, and sights that they encounter in the neighborhood where we are located. You should constantly remember to appreciate something with all five of your senses, especially when something in particular has inspired you to create. Our location in Chatan serves as a meeting space in addition to functioning as a café and a workshop. So far, we have hosted a wide range of artists’ expositions and events at this location, and what we’ve discovered is that if there is both wonderful chocolate and art, then everyone is in a good mood.

What is your long-term vision for Timeless, 5 and 10 years from now? Did I hear correctly that you’re starting a cacao green house?

We are not concerned with seeing five or ten years into the future; rather, we are concerned with looking one hundred or two hundred years into the future. Cacao and sugar cane are the only raw materials that we utilize at this time; we do not use any other ingredients since we do not feel it is effective to attempt to fool people with other components. Consequently, given that these primary resources may be found not just in Okinawa but also in other parts of the globe, we consider it to be our job to not only make use of high-quality resources but also to educate people about the history and culture associated with those resources. Despite the fact that we have started farms for both cacao and sugar cane on Okinawa, our objective is not to completely replace what we now purchase but rather to get a deeper understanding of the requirements posed by the plants themselves.

Where outside of Okinawa are you currently selling bars? Inquiring minds need to know.

As a company, maximizing profits is not our only objective. When we sell bars in locations other than Okinawa, we always make sure to have a member of our staff there so that they can field questions from consumers and educate them about the ingredients and processes that go into making our chocolate. Although we do not now engage in wholesale distribution of any of our bars, we do from time to time set up temporary stores in Japan, the United States of America, and Australia.

BONUS: Do you have any holiday specials?

Every few weeks, we set up temporary stores in various locations around American Village. Numberless is the name of a series of events centered on cuisine that are currently being held here. They highlight Okinawan confections with an emphasis on a particular kind of ingredient. Rather than focusing on producing seasonal goods, we choose to pursue a large number of local partnerships that are only for the short term.

Practical Information

Address: Distortion Seaside Building 2F, 9-46 Mihama Chatan-Cho, Nakagami, Okinawa Perfecture, Japan (Google Map)

Tel.: 098-923-2880

Hours: 11am-7pm, daily

Prices: J¥P200 for a macaron-J¥P850 for a sachet of chocolates.

Must Try: To tell you the truth, everything, but the drinks made with fresh cacao pulp, the local fruit cordials, and the chocolate bars provide the most distinctive tastes. At the moment, they come from Colombia (two different percentages), Cuba, Ghana, and Vietnam; a Taiwanese origin is currently being developed.

Given that the café is located in the American Village, some of the most popular surrounding attractions include the boardwalk, the ferris wheel, and the lovely beaches. There is no need for you to worry about following Timeless on Instagram. They are just one element of a global movement of bean-to-bar chocolate, a food that brings chocolate’s ancient beginnings to light and its numerous tastes to your lips. Bean-to-bar chocolate is a cuisine that brings chocolate’s timeless origins to light. Therefore, I kindly ask that you relish each mouthful, and don’t forget to give me a piece (please send me Colombia 70%).

Like this post? Save it for later!

I’m sure this post made you want to hop on a plane to Okinawa— but which bar would you want to try first?