My favorite movie as a child was “Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory”, it made me feel as though I had found a golden ticket and was allowed into Wonka’s inner sanctum. This Saturday, I was transported back in time with a far more real but just as magical experience. Pepper and I spent the day at Garden Island Chocolate, learning how to make the world’s most beloved confection. Koa Kahili, our host is not just a Cacao Farmer, he is a true Chocolate Maker and Artisan Chocolatier.
I asked him how he started making chocolate, with a smile in his eyes he said, “I have always loved to farm and believe in sustainability”. Cacao, pronounced (‘ka-KOW) is a life sustaining, highly nutritious super-food that inter-plants well with his farms other organic crops. Koa’s determination and unrelenting curiosity is easy to see as he describes every detail of his journey in becoming a cacao farmer and his magical quest towards unraveling the mysteries of making chocolate.
Kauai’s humid temperatures provide ideal conditions for growing cacao trees that bear the colorful super-fruit. Cacao pods grow in shades of red, orange, yellow and green and sprout from the trunks of the tree. The pods have a hard outer shell, once cut through reveal a delicate cluster of beans surrounded by, sweet fruity pulp that taste like miniature Mango seeds bursting with flavor.
We spent six hours with Kauai’s Chocolate Man at his farm on the banks of the Hanalei River, exploring the chocolate process from beginning to end while sampling delectable handmade truffles (ginger, pineapple and banana) as well as spiced and plain chocolates. I will take you through our journey step by step…
Harvesting, Fermenting & Drying: After watching Koa expertly split the pods; we harvested them by scooping out and separating the cluster of beans. We were working with two varieties of Cacao, Criollo and Trinitario. Fermentation takes 3-7 days depending on the variety.
Roasting: We used a custom made spit roaster fashioned on a traditional gas grill. This step took 20-30 minutes at approximately 280 degrees. Again this profile depends on the variety.
Cracking & Winnowing: We cracked the beans and removed the chaff or husk using a hair dryer.
Grinding & Melanging: The resulting nibs were then ground into the cacao liquor with chopped vanilla beans, lastly sugar was added to the mixture. This step reduces the particle size of solids and sugar crystals. After the melanging was complete and the chocolate was off to be tempered, Koa added hot water to the machine to create amazing hot chocolate for us to try.
Tempering: This important step which must be done in a climate controlled area, heats and cools the chocolate to form stable crystals in the chocolate fat which allow it to harden with a slight sheen, snap when broken and keep at a cool temperature.
Molding: Koa poured the tempered chocolate into bar molds and we hand embellished our bars. I used pink peppercorns and shredded dried coconut and Pepper used cayenne and fleur de sel.
Chocolate Bars: We then hand wrapped our “Kauai Chocolate” bars in gold foil. Koa reminded us to taste our chocolate with all five senses, use your eyes, touch it, listen to it, smell it and of course taste it!
If you find yourself on our beautiful Garden Island of Kauai, don’t miss an opportunity to tour Garden Island Chocolate. Kauai Chocolate can be found at select stores throughout the island and accepts special orders for Artisan Truffles!
It’s important to note that there are over 500 chemical properties in chocolate that promote a plethora of healing and reactive properties. Kauai, although isolated is rich and abundant in natural resources and Garden Island Chocolate assists in the perpetuation of sustainable, and organic agriculture on the Islands.