Bob and Pam Cooper lead the life I crave. I make no bones about it, the idea of living somewhere like Hawai’i is enough to make me jealous. But also to own your own cacao plantation and chocolate factory is just too much for me. What even makes it worse is that this all happened for Bob and Pam by mistake. After retiring from Raleigh, North Carolina and moving to the Big Island in 1997 they found that in their relatively small orchard not only coffee and macadamia nut trees, but also had a small selection of cacao trees. After sending them off to an expert in Spain they found that they certainly had a degree of character and quality which led them to hiring a consultant to see if they could make chocolate from them. The response that Bob and Pam got was that there just wasn’t enough cocoa to sustain a business and that they should mix it with foreign cocoa and give it a go.
View Larger Map – where the Original Hawaiian Chocolate is produced
Thankfully this advice was ignored. Bob and Pam took out a loan from the government, bought some old machinery, encouraged others on the island to contribute cocoa and then see where it took them. It actually took them to the state where they’re essentially the only commercial cocoa growers in the US with the Original Hawaiian Chocolate brand. They’ve kept to the ethos of producing 100% Hawaiian chocolate to this day, despite it probably being more profitable to relax that view. Against all odds, they’ve produced something fantastic.
So after stumbling on their site and a couple of emails back and forth I ordered three bars: a blended dark chocolate bar, a similarly blended milk chocolate bar and this bar that also uses cocoa beans that are not only grown and processed on the island, but uses the fairly rare and highly rated criollo bean. And it’s this one I’m going to review first.
The packaging actually reminded slightly of the Red Star 72% Ecuador with its mountainous design and did take me a bit of time to work out how to get into it. I’m just so used to opening up the end, but like the Beschle Carenero Superior you open this one along the long edge. When I got inside I found a wonderfully floral designed bar with 12 small pieces which are just about the right size and all nicely encased in the sturdy box. But it wasn’t as solid and secure as the packaging that the whole supply of chocolate arrived in. Obviously it had to travel around 7,300 miles from Hawai’i to the UK so it needed to be securely protected from damage from the battering it might get as well as the heat – they did an awesome job. So if you’re wanting to buy yourself some then don’t worry about that (hopefully they’ll export to other UK chocolate fans too?).
Another thing that you’ll notice is the Hawai’i Seal Of Quality from the Hawaiian Department of Agriculture which proves that it’s locally produced and should be good. I certainly like how much effort Bob and Pam got involved in the local community and governmental systems.
Moving on to the aroma. I’ve never witnessed anything as strong as this before. It’s peppery with a fairly noticeable wasabi note which reminded me of the chocolates I tried from Spice Rack Chocolates last year. I’m used to acidic aromas when it comes to dark chocolate, but I’ve never had the pleasure of aroma like this before. And having never been to Hawai’i before, I couldn’t tell if it’s distinctively Hawaiian or not – but it certainly was different!
The snap was understated. There was no crisp snap, but more of a laid-back break which wasn’t rushed or purposeful. It was just: “yeh, you’ve broken me!” The texture was absolutely fantastic. It was smooth and just plain delightful. I can’t think of any more suitable adjectives to be honest. I actually preferred the texture to the Amano Chuao – and yes I said it! There was just a certain richness to it which the Chuao just didn’t have.
Having read the absolutely fantastic amount of press coverage and general information they gave me I saw that they only conch for 17 hours which lead me to think that the flavour would be as intense as the aroma. I was completely wrong. The flavours alternate between milky and nutty and with a slight zip at the end. Actually, there does seem to be a touch of under-ripe banana to it – just at the end, the rest of it is milky, wholesome but still undoubtedly dark.
This chocolate is truly remarkable. I’m not just saying because they’ve stuck to their beliefs and remain 100% Hawaiian or that I admire how they’ve taken a big risk started producing chocolate against the odds, but because it tastes damn good! It’s quirky I know, the bitterness isn’t typical but this makes it a great alternative to our traditional dark chocolate paradigm. It’s starting to seem that chocolate from the far reaches of the cocoa world such as Vietnam and Cuba (I think I’ve got some from Haiti somewhere) make far more interesting chocolate from even some of the more well-known producing countries.
I was trying to be good as I’ve got a fair few reviews to do. But I absolutely loved this bar. I’ll save what’s left for mother as she loves dark chocolate (and it is her birthday on Friday) and I’m sure she’ll love its intense aroma and mild and interesting flavour. But what about cost? Well this bar was $15 for 85g which is about the same as the Amano Chuao if you were to buy it here. For three bars it worked out at around £17 delivery which I know makes it expensive, but how often do you get to try 100% chocolate from Hawai’i and made by inspirational people?