You’ve probably heard of Hawaii’s famous coffee and macadamia nut production, but did you know that Hawaii grows chocolate, too? It’s the only state with the conditions to commercially grow chocolate.
Though cacao production is an emerging crop in Hawaii, the Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory has established a bit of an unlikely success story. In 1997, Bob Cooper and his wife moved to Hawaii from North Carolina. When they purchased the home, land and farm, they didn’t know anything about chocolate. They didn’t even know that chocolate (cacao) grows on trees. With diligence and research, eight years later, they made their first profit. Now, they run this small, but successful “farm to bar”, 100% Hawaiian-grown chocolate production business.
Nestled on the verdant slopes of Haulalai just south of Kailua-Kona, the Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory provides an excellent educational tour of chocolate production. The owner, Bob Cooper, leads the tour through the cacao tree orchard to the fermenting and drying processes and into the chocolate factory.
We enjoyed the tour and certainly learned a lot about chocolate. A few interesting observations and facts that we noted are as follows.
– The cacao tree is considered to be a rainforest tree and part of the gardenia family.
– The blooms are very small — about the size of a pencil eraser — and seem to emerge straight off thick tree trunk and limbs.
– Pods take approximately five months t0 mature. They must be cut down as they won’t ever drop on their own.
– Pods range in size from 6″ to 14″ and contain 30 to 40 cocoa beans.
– After harvesting, a fermenting process is done to stimulate the flavor. Then the beans are sun dried for 22 to 28 days to develop the flavor. The beans are then stored for several months before chocolate production.
– There are five steps to making chocolate from cocoa beans — cleaning, roasting, removing the shell, conching (blending) for 18 hours and tempering (forming).
Here’s what to know when you go:
- Tours currently cost $15 and tours must be pre-booked. See this link for more information.
- The tour takes approximately 50 minutes to complete.
- The tour includes some samples for tasting.
- The farm and factory is astonishingly small so very little walking is required.
- Most of the tour is shaded from the sun.
- From our observation, all ages seemed to enjoy this tour.
- View all our photos from this tour.
- For more reviews of this tour see TripAdvisor.
Have you toured the Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory?