The Most Popular Chocolate From Hawaii
When it comes to iconic Hawaiian treats, many people immediately think of pineapple or coconut-based desserts. However, Hawaii's chocolate scene is not to be overlooked. In fact, Hawaii is home to several artisanal chocolate makers, who use locally-sourced cacao to create some of the most delicious chocolate treats around.
In this blog, we'll explore the most popular chocolate from Hawaii, taking a closer look at the chocolate makers and their stories. From its humble beginnings to its current status as a beloved Hawaiian staple, this chocolate has come a long way, and we're excited to share its story with you. Whether you're a chocolate lover, a foodie, or simply curious about Hawaiian cuisine, this blog is sure to satisfy your cravings.
Is Chocolate native to Hawaii?
No, chocolate is not native to Hawaii. Chocolate comes from the cacao tree, which is native to the Amazon rainforest in South America. However, cacao has been cultivated and used for thousands of years by various indigenous cultures throughout Central and South America, including the Mayans and Aztecs.
In the 1830s, King David Kalakaua's gardens reportedly contained a cacao plant imported from Guatemala, which is considered the first documented instance of cacao being grown in Hawaii, as per the Hawaii Chocolate and Cacao Association. Cacao was brought again to Hawaii to be grown in the early 1800s by the German physician and botanist, William Hillebrand. However, these early attempts to grow cacao in Hawaii were largely unsuccessful, and it wasn't until the 1990s that Hawaii's chocolate industry began to take off. Today, there are several small-scale chocolate makers in Hawaii who are producing high-quality chocolate using locally-grown cacao. It is the only state in the United States which grows cacao.
Popular Chocolate From Hawaii
Manoa Chocolate is an artisanal chocolate maker located in Kailua, Hawaii. They are dedicated to creating high-quality chocolate working closely with cacao farmers in Hawaii and other parts of the world to ensure fair wages and environmentally-friendly farming practices. All of their beans are hand-selected and carefully roasted in small batches to preserve their unique flavors and aromas. Manoa Chocolate is committed to supporting local farmers and promoting sustainable agriculture.
In 2012, Puna Chocolate Company was established when Ben and Adam purchased 70 acres of land in Pahoa, Hawaii at a low cost. They discovered how to make chocolate from a fruit stand owner, and with minimal disturbance to the existing landscape, they planted cocoa trees among the existing ones to conserve the area. Ben, who earned his degree in Tropical Plants and Soil Science, headed the farming and planting operations while Teri Potter, Adam's sister, joined the company and they began making chocolate. During the 2014-2015 Puna Lava Flow, the orchard was at risk of being destroyed, leading Ben to offer cacao services to residents of Big Island and expand cacao production on other Puna farms and beyond. As of 2022, Puna Chocolate has planted over 25,000 cacao trees across 55 acres of land and produces true-to-bean chocolate exclusively from Hawaiian-grown cocoa beans in their Hilo, Kona, and Kainaliu SoKo locations, which also includes 3,000 coffee trees that are the source of their cafe coffee.
Wild Kauai Chocolate
Wild Kauai Chocolate is a unique chocolate brand that takes pride in sourcing cacao beans from small producers. They understand that cacao beans have distinct flavors that vary greatly depending on where they are grown and processed. Although their dream is to source entirely from Kauai and other Hawaiian islands, they acknowledge that Hawaiian beans are rare and also source from other locations they have a connection with. As bean-to-bar chocolate makers, they are committed to sourcing sustainably and locally where possible to produce the best-tasting chocolate. Their craft chocolate bars are made from scratch and hand-crafted with love every step of the way. The process involves sorting beans for quality, slow roasting, winnowing, grinding, adding organic sugar, aging, tempering, molding, and finally packaging for consumption. The entire process takes over a month, but it's worth it as the taste speaks for itself.
Maui Ku'ia Estate Chocolate
Maui Ku'ia Estate Chocolate takes their kuleana, meaning responsibility with understanding and intent, seriously by serving their community and implementing pono practices into their business operations. Their farm, leased in 2013 by Dr. Gunars Valkirs, was established as a cacao farm operation with the first plantings and blessings occurring on the 2013 winter solstice. Since then, Gunars and his team have strived to maintain an economically sustainable farm while growing high-quality cacao. This led to the decision to start a chocolate company that would support their local non-profit community through 100% of net-profits given back through their family foundation, Makana Aloha Foundation. The decision triggered the construction of their factory in 2019. With their mission in mind, Maui Ku'ia Estate Chocolate continues to make a difference in their community while producing exceptional chocolate.
Lydgate Farms, a fifth-generation Kaua’i family-run farm, produces the finest craft chocolate using high-quality cacao that they grow themselves. Along with cacao, they also cultivate award-winning vanilla and honey. The 46-acre farm is located above the town of Kapa’a, nestled between Sleeping Giant and Mt. Wai’ale’ale in Olohena, an ahupua’a known for its fertile land that is abundant with springs and rivers. Kaua’i is often referred to as the Garden Island due to its rich and developed soils, making it ideal for farming. In addition to their specialty crops, Lydgate Farms boasts a variety of botanicals that influence the taste of their honey and chocolate. If you're interested in experiencing their chocolate-making process and learning about the farm's history, you can visit them in Wailua for an interactive farm tour and chocolate tasting.
Lonohana Estate Chocolate
Lonohana Estate Chocolate is a Hawaii-based, vertically integrated chocolate company that controls the entire product cycle, from growing cacao trees to crafting small batches of world-class chocolate bars in Honolulu. The company started as a farming operation in 2009, propagating its own cacao seedlings and planting its first trees by hand on the North Shore of O‘ahu. They have now expanded to farming 14 acres of cacao, and collect wild fermentation and dry the beans on the farm before handcrafting small batches of chocolate bars in their Honolulu factory. Lonohana Estate Chocolate takes pride in showcasing where the beloved food comes from and how it is grown and made, aiming to produce a true expression of fine Hawaiian chocolate. They offer a diverse selection of bars, including dark and milk chocolate with Hawaii-flavored inclusions, such as coffee, ginger, sea salt, chili peppers, bananas, cardamom, and hibiscus. In 2017, Lonohana Estate Chocolate opened a retail store in Kaka’ako at the SALT commercial center, where they host daily visitors with free samples of their chocolate bars.
Hawaiian Host, the largest manufacturer of chocolate-covered macadamias worldwide, was created by Mamoru Takitani, who experimented with his dream of creating a world-famous candy in his parents' Maui attic. Hawaiian Host combines premium ingredients such as handcrafted milk chocolate, dark chocolate, Hawaiian honey, and Kona coffee with dry-roasted macadamias to create its signature treats. The company's products are associated with the Japanese word omiyage, meaning a thoughtful souvenir from paradise to gift to friends and family, and are enjoyed globally. Hawaiian Host is a reminder of the beauty of Hawaii and its rich heritage, offering an imaginary trip to the tropics or a reminder of one's journey with every bite. The company remains true to its nearly 100-year-old history, using Mamoru's secret chocolate recipe, and continues to fuse the Island spirit into every macadamia creation.
At Barefoot Chocolatini, they prioritize quality and care for the land to preserve natural resources for future generations. They source chocolates, coffee, tea, honey, sea salts, and beauty products that meet their high standards. They support farmers in the Hawaiian Islands and beyond by paying fair wages to improve their families' quality of life. They understand the rarity of greatness, which is why they hold themselves to the highest standards when selecting ingredients for their products. By upholding these values, Barefoot Chocolatini ensures that their products not only taste great but also have a positive impact on the environment and the people who make them.
Madre Chocolate Crafted from bean-to-bar on the island of O'ahu, Hawai'i, with over 26 Hawaiian, US, and international awards for our chocolate made with cacao from Hawai'i, Latin America, the Pacific, and Southeast Asia. They bring you back to the roots of chocolate and how it was originally conceived thousands of years ago by the Maya, Olmec, and Aztec.
To get started with craft chocolate, start with our Kekao Box. We search the world for the finest chocolate bars and bring them right to your doorstep monthly. From rich dark Peruvian chocolate bars to new start-up chocolate bars on the come-up, you never know what you'll get inside the box! Each month we will curate 4 to 5 premium specialty crafted chocolate bars.
If you want to just try a couple of bars, check out our online chocolate store.
If you have any questions regarding this blog, our Kekao Box, or premium specialty crafted chocolate bars, feel free to contact us! Keep up with us by subscribing to our newsletter or following us on Twitter, and Instagram.