Bean to Bar, Bar to Mouth

Hawaii’s chocolate is ready to eat.

Sun, sand, and… chocolate? In fact, Hawaii is the only place in the U.S. where cacao can grow, says David Elliott, co-founder of Madre Chocolate, a bean-to-bar maker on O’ahu.

Cacao refers to the bean from which the butter is extracted and chocolate is made. It is finicky, growing only 20 degrees from the equator. Hawaii fits right within that parameter at 20 degrees north.

locally-made-sign_credit-Exploration-hawaiiPhoto courtesy of Exploration: Hawaii

The island chain’s tropical location and climate lends itself to growing excellent cacao, says Nat Bletter, Madre’s other co-founder. Bletter would know. He holds a doctorate in ethnobotany (basically, the study of people’s relationship with plants) and spent years studying exotic fruits in Bali, Peru, and Guatemala.

Madre Chocolate works with two cacao farms on O’ahu, one of which is located in lush Waiahole, about a 30-minute drive from the company’s Kailua storefront. Every month, chocolate enthusiasts join Madre on a tour of the Waiahole farm, where a Madre chocolatier will illustrate how the cacao bean turns into a chocolate bar. The tour is very hands-on-the-cacao-pods.

cacoa-podsPhoto by Nat Bletter

chocolate-credit-Exploration-HawaiiPhoto courtesy of Exploration: Hawaii

Back at the Kailua shop, you’ll taste the chocolate and the terroir of Hawaii. Madre’s eclectic collection of bars includes passion fruit, Earl Grey tea, and coconut milk and caramelized ginger. But the Cinnamon Daddy Mactella brings mucho joy and love. The vegan chocolate macadamia nut spread is made with Hawaiian ingredients (similar to an Italian gianduja). It includes Hawaii’s cacao, as well as the islands’ macadamia nuts, cinnamon, sea salt, and vanilla.

In addition to the O’ahu cacao farm and chocolate factory tour, Madre offers “Make Your Own Artisan Dark Chocolate Bar” and “Cacao Cocktail Concoction and Chocolate Pairing” classes, among others.

Daddy-Mactella_credit-Exploration-HawaiiPhoto courtesy of Exploration: Hawaii

madre-interiorPhoto courtesy of Exploration: Hawaii

madre-sign_credit-Exploration-HawaiiPhoto courtesy of Exploration: Hawaii

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