Wednesday, May 12, 2021
It’s a new month and my first planted cacao tree, Ikaika Pot Breaker, is finally getting over the shock of being transplanted and throwing new leaves, much to my delight. I hope it’s a sign of wonderful things to come for this plant. It may not have deep soil to spread its roots in, but it’s got deep cracks in the lava rock, plentiful rain, and partial shade thrown on it throughout the day by the surrounding ohia trees; tall and proud sentinels protecting it from the unyielding brunt of the Hawaiian sun.
But tree growth isn’t the only new sight to greet the Hawaiʻi Cacao Express.
At the end of April I treated myself to some new chocolate delectables; some new selections from makers I’ve tried before (Island Sharks Chocolate and Puna Chocolate Co.), and two makers I’d heard about, but had yet to try. At this point, I’ve indulged in them all. But for the sake of shorter written entries that don’t take days to complete, I’ll be covering my reviews in three parts.
Today I’m going to talk about the Mānoa Chocolate and Hakalau Chocolate bars I picked.
I’ll start with the Hakalau Chocolate bar. What immediately intrigued me about this bar is that it’s sweetened with honey (local Hawaiʻi Island honey no less!). From my limited experience with making chocolate, I know incorporating any liquid into chocolate is no easy feat. I don’t know what magic they used, but it worked! The smells is gorgeous and advertises the honey flavor within. The bar is tempered well with a nice snap as I break off chunks.
As for the flavor: Honey hits my tongue in soft warming tones. This gives ways to some more fudgey tones, and ends in a mix of flavors that reminds me of a dark roasted coffee, peanut butter. The bar is fairly smooth, with only a slight grit as I rub it against the roof of my mouth with my tongue. It’s finish on my tongue is a dry sensation.
I really enjoyed the experience. My biggest complaint with this bar is the packaging. The 2oz bar comes in a fairly thick square, and I think thinner bars tend to do chocolate flavors more justice as they melt in my mouth. Luckily, even with the solid temper, this bar is somewhat soft as your teeth bite through it, so this ended up not being of too much consequence.
My other pet peeve is around the mystery of the chocolate bar’s percentage of cacao. They label it “super dark chocolate”, and from the flavor I would say that’s accurate. I was curious about the exact amount though. In two ingredient chocolate bars like this, calculated chocolate percentages tell you exactly how much sweetener is in the bar. The packaging boasts 100% Hawaiian Cacao, but given that there’s honey added to it, I’m 99.9% sure they’re only referring to the sourcing of the cacao. If I had to make an educated guess, I’d say this bar is probably somewhere around 80-85% cacao, but it bothers me that I don’t know for certain.
Onto the Mānoa Chocolate 70% dark chocolate bar. This company, from my understanding, is one of the bigger dogs in the local Hawaiian cacao scene. Originally based on the island of Oahu, in recent years they’ve made the jump to Hawaiʻi Island and set up an additional location in Kona. I believe I’ve read that they’ve been accruing awards on the national scale not only for some of their chocolate bars, but for their packaging design as well. I’ll look more into this in the future. For now, what’s their chocolate like?
It smells sooo sweet, not quite as complex as a honey, but definitely more fruity and rich than the scent of a candy store in passing. It’s a wonderfully thin bar, with a soft snap when I break off a piece. The sugar bursts forth like a triumphant angelic song when it first hits my tongue, making my mouth water. As that note softens I detect a hint of cinnamon, but a dominant almost apple banana flavor. As it melts, the shifting flavors aren’t quite as pronounced as some other bars. But overall it’s a very pleasant experience that leaves my mouth with a dry finish.
I was very satisfied and would buy from both companies again. Give them a try yourself if you get the chance. I bought these two bars from Koana coffee store in Mountain View. (https://www.alohakoana.com/)
But you can also buy directly from their websites:
Hakalau Chocolate: https://www.kulikefarm.com/chocolate
Mānoa Chocolate: https://manoachocolate.com/