Sunday, December 8, 2019
Well, I’ve got my metaphorical bags packed, and I’m ready for adventure. Deciding to do this blog was like buying my ticket to the Hawaiʻi Cacao Express. It won’t be long now before I’m setting forth, traveling around the island of Hawaiʻi, fulfilling an unexplained desire that’s been building for years; finding and possibly meeting every local cacao grower and chocolate maker.
I’m no stranger to Hawaiʻian Cacao. It’s a love of mine that keeps drawing me in, no matter how long or far I’ve pulled away from it. My first unofficial teenage job was akin to an oompa loompa, making chocolate on a farm from tree to bar and assisting on guided tours of the process. I loved that job and did it as long as I could afford to make the long trip from my house to the farm in my malfunctioning, gas guzzling, third-hand, four-wheel drive, peeling, cinnamon red, 1994 Honda Passport.
I was also fortunate to find my way back into the cacao scene when I visited the rumored East Hawaii Cacao Association, that had formed while life carried me elsewhere. Some very helpful members pointed me towards a local grower/maker who happened to be looking for help in his shop at the time. I interned under him and learned a whole different perspective on making chocolate. It was a wonderful experience until my second car, a second-hand, manual transmission, high-mileage, silver, 2004 Nissan Altima, died, and I could no longer make the trips to the shop. (As I write this I’m starting to notice a trend)
After a while, and a newer properly functioning vehicle, I started to dip my toe back into the local cacao scene by regularly attending those East Hawaii Cacao Association meetings. And even passively glimpsing from the sidelines, I was amazed at the leaps and bounds local farmers and makers have made, in increasing production, organizing, refining their processing techniques, branching out onto the global stage, and developing new products from the cacao making process.
I think that’s when I started to realize that what I was witnessing was something truly special; a wild new frontier of cacao industry just starting to boom. I’ve seen some very passionate and opposing opinions about how the cacao industry should develop going forward, and I see valid points to all of them. How it will actually unfold is anyone’s guess. It’s still the wild west as far as I’m concerned. Everyone’s hoping to find a way to turn a profit, and I hope they do, because then they can afford to keep doing it. At the moment this industry is still very much a labor of love for all involved.
Or at least it was when I last checked in. My plans to start a family affected my health in ways I hadn’t anticipated. After having my son, my time has been affected in ways I had, ways that make it tricky to jump back into apprenticing under a chocolate maker, starting my own chocolate endeavor, or even attending every monthly meeting of the cacao growers without a conflict. So now that I’m again trying to dip my toe back into the local chocolate pool, I can’t help but wonder, “What’s changed in my absence again? What new things have farmers/makers started to explore? I should find out.” It’s a tantalizing thought that puts some pep into my tired mom brain once my little one crashes.
So you see, I’m not traveling completely blind. I’m like an optimistic tourist who’s booked a trip in a foreign place; I have a few destinations in mind, but I’m leaving room for true adventure, letting the journey lead my way. And why make a blog about it? I’m not particularly computer savvy, nor hip with the social media platforms and self-promotion. And maybe I won’t find very many people willing to talk to me and the adventure will be quite short. But even if I make a mess of things I would like to cherish proof of my efforts. I also want to remember what’s happening now in this growing world of cacao in my backyard. I find my memory is spotty at best and there have already been so many moments I wish I had documented. I feel like at any moment I’ll blink and what I know of Hawaiʻian Cacao will have completely changed.
So ride along with me head first into the world of Hawaiʻian Cacao! Will I run out of destinations? Hopefully not for a long time. Will I end up embarrassing myself? Probably; it won’t be much of an adventure if I don’t leave my comfort zone. Will this train metaphor I’m aesthetically basing my blog around run out of steam? Not if I can stay on track! (I make no apologies for any puns, accidental or otherwise)