The Chocolate Life

Discover Chocolate and Live La Vida Cocoa!

Here's a post from my chocolate blog ( Comments?

You don't get to see cacao pods in the USA unless you go to Hawaii, and even there they a rare sight. Cacao trees (from whence, of course, chocolate) are cultivated only sporadically around the Hawaiian Islands. But Tony Lydgate of Steel Grass Farm on Kauai hopes to change that. His botanical garden ( specializes in cultivating organic plants that bring value to the islanders and the earth. Cacao, bamboo (the "steel grass" namesake of the farm) and vanilla are the favorites. In these crops, he and his family hope to start a cooperative that puts Kauai on the chocolate-making map and reclaims some of the farmland once owned by pineapple growers and sugar cane companies, all long-departed for cheaper labor in far-off lands. You can take a tour, eat some dark chocolate, learn about the health benefits and see a glimpse of cacao's USA future.

Another producer is Malie Kai Chocolates (, rejuvenating old sugar fields on Oahu. They offer an exceptionally smooth milk chocolate and mellow bitter-sweet made of pure Hawaiian, single origin cacao. "The natural growing conditons on the islands give cacao potential to be even bigger than Kona coffee," says Nathan Sato, President of Malie Kai Chocolates. And check out the beautiful line drawings by Lynn Soehner ( that adorn the packaging! For a stronger, earthier chocolate, try The Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory ( on the Big Island. The owners (The Coopers) will tell you all about the importance of pure Hawaiian chocolate and how you can start your own crop.

But you will have to move to Hawaii! Why no cacao in Florida's orange groves or next to Texas Ruby Reds? Why not nestled in northern California's salad bowl? Chocolate is finicky! Cacao trees only grow and bear fruit in a band 20 degrees north and south of the equator. They like tropical rain, shaded light and warm, moist air. They need forest mulch & midges for pollination; they are susceptible to pests and diseases. Beyond that, however, cacao is a great crop (full of color, literally, and history), and it is easily grown on small farms throughout the tropics. Hawaii is the northern tip of its growing region, so we're lucky to have it and lets hope to see more.

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Tags: Hawaii, cacao, chocolate, dark, growing, milk, travel, trees


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Comment by Susie Norris on April 28, 2008 at 6:50pm
So THAT'S the story on Hawaiian Vintage! I thought I smelled some mahi-mahi there. Wouldn't it be cool if cacao-growing really took root in Hawaii? Enough with the golf courses, the high-rise hotels and the taro that tastes bad. We want cacao! Both of the growers I spoke to (Tony from Steelgrass & Natan from Malie Kai) spoke of the difficulty of growing on the islands - crazy high real estate prices & cost of living, control of Dole & other large landholders, plus the inherent difficulties in our favorite crop. But I sensed positive momentum.

Wish I could join that Hawaii trip in October!! Lucky travellers. I'm saving up for Venezuela...and Belgium...and never ends.
Comment by Clay Gordon on April 28, 2008 at 12:17pm

Very nice post. For those of you interested in learning more about cacao in Hawaii, The Chocolate Lovers Travel Club is in the late stages of planning a trip there in October 2008.

Also, you may notice in the Google Ads that appear in the right column a link to Hawaiian Vintage Chocolate. This company has been a scam since very early on in its history.

While at one time it might have stayed true to its original mission to create a "new, fourth" breed of cacao, Hawaiian, the company was never able to grow any really significant amounts of it. Although there is no mention of it now, at one point they were making chocolate with primarily Ghanaian beans and adding the little Hawaiian beans they were growing.

Now, the company is not even located in Hawaii (they're in Texas, I believe), although there is no information I can find by searching for the company's stock ticker (HWVI). The stock is currently trading at 1/10 cent/share, off it's 52-week high of $0.09/share. Market cap is under $10,000.

From the company's current web site:

In 1986, Jim Walsh, founder and CEO of Hawaiian Vintage Chocolate, set out to create the world's first variety/Vintage chocolate. Followingthe model of the California wine industry, Walsh matched the selectedgenetics he had collected to the environment of Hawaii. Various types oftrees were tested for compatibility with Hawaii's environment, of whichonly a few were chosen. These were bred to the ancient ancestors ofcacao to create the fourth distinct variety of cocoa - Hawaiian - the first new variety in 80 years.

Today, Hawaiian Vintage Chocolate is a public development company (OTC:HWVI) creating products, brands, and marketing opportunities, utilizing its unique assets. The company is a leading developer and innovator of gourmet varietal and functional chocolate.

The international news on Hawaiian Vintage Chocolate has educated an enthusiastic audience that, like wine, chocolate's flavors are a result of its genetics, environment and post-harvest handling. The news has also reveled the exceptional "functional" qualities of Hawaiian Vintage Chocolate.

[sic] All typos are actually on the company's site.

Today, the company is focused on creating "intentional" chocolate products.

On the other hand, Original Hawaiian Chocolate is a real place (I've visited) and Bob and Pam Cooper are really very nice people who have really been instrumental in increasing awareness of the Hawaiian cacao industry. We are going to be visiting them on our trip later this year.

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