Garden Island Chocolate is the premier gourmet Hawaiian Chocolate bar. Our locally grown cacao infused with the flavors of Kaua‘i and the Big Island of Hawaii produces some of the finest chocolate in the world. Mahalo for helping us to sustain and support local agriculture, and in turn a healthy and happy community.
I’m Koa and I founded this small company with the vision of making the world’s best chocolate. Garden Island Chocolate’s goals are to bring to visitors and local residents of Kauai a chocolate bar made from locally grown cacao. This stimulates the local economy by providing jobs and a viable and sustainable agricultural crop. As an avid farmer and father, I had a dream of sustainability and always looked to the land and sea to support my wife and children. We plant organic gardens to feed our bodies and enrich our souls. Clean healthy organic food, pure untreated water, and pristine ocean air in our opinion is true wealth.
“GARDEN ISLAND CHOCOLATE’S GOALS ARE TO BRING TO THE VISITORS AND LOCAL RESIDENTS OF KAUAI A CHOCOLATE BAR MADE FROM LOCALLY GROWN CACAO.”
I spent nine years in various colleges, traveling the world, receiving my undergraduate degree with honors from the University of Colorado at Boulder and a Masters in Polynesian/South East Asian Art History from the University of Hawaii. On my extensive travels I delighted in the different regional foods and always visited the local markets. My friends called me a picky eater, I like to think of myself as a gourmet foodie.
Believe it or not, plants have a consciousness. They are very intelligent and if you ask they will reveal much to you. If you crack open a cacao pod and taste a seed, it does not taste like chocolate. I was always mystified how they got the chocolate flavor out of the cacao beans but this mystery was left to incubate in the recesses of my consciousness. While on a vision quest in Waipio Valley on the Big Island, I met a Kahuna and we got to know each other while working in his ancestral lohi. Next to his hale, I noticed a very healthy cacao tree with a few ripe pods. My curiosity was reignited and I tried to roast the fresh beans in a cast iron skillet. Still no chocolate flavor. When I returned to Kauai a friend who lived up the street had two beautiful fruiting cacao trees. She did not know what to do with the pods. I knew this was the universe telling me something.
No one on Kauai was making chocolate so I went back online to do some research. Even with the plethora of information available, I was still not able to find out how to make chocolate. I learned that fermenting was a crucial step in the process to develop chocolate flavor and my first few attempts resulted in moldy beans. In school, I learned a lot of fascinating esoteric knowledge about ancient civilizations, but nothing that would help in my quest to make chocolate. I did develop a skill at research, so I doggedly kept at it, knowing the answer was out there somewhere. The libraries and bookstores on Kauai had nothing to help in my research on cacao. Online, I started buying chocolate books and amassing a small library, not knowing if the book was going to be useful or not. After a year of searching for old, used, out of print, and very expensive books I finally found out the techniques for proper fermentation. Now all I had to do was adopt them to the unique climate of Kauai and with a lot of experimentation, we did it. And so it went with all the steps in the chocolate making process until we perfected it.
“ONCE I HARVESTED AND TASTED THE CHOCOLATE THAT WAS DONE RIGHT, I REALIZED I HAD BEEN EATING INFERIOR LOW-GRADE CHOCOLATE MY ENTIRE LIFE.”
We have a dozen different varieties of cacao on Kauai and each one has to be fermented and roasted separately. The pivotal moment came when I was making a batch of 100% Criollo and everything just fell into place. All the steps were implemented just right and the alchemy was magical. The resulting chocolate bar was simply divine. I have a confession to make, I am not a chocoholic. I like chocolate but my annual consumption was rather low. It was determination and unrelenting curiosity that led me to unravel the mysteries of making chocolate.
Once I tasted chocolate done right I realized I had been eating inferior low-grade chocolate my entire life. It is no wonder I never liked it that much. Now that we grow and make our own I just love it. But too much of a good thing is dangerous. The chemical content and potency of freshly made cacao are very high and often when I am making chocolate I stay up all night with my hand shaking from being overly stimulated. What keeps me going is not the drugs in chocolate (they help) but the fact that there is so much left to learn about this amazing plant. We are in a renaissance of chocolate making. The ancient Mayans and other Mesoamerican cultures were far more advanced in their understanding and use of cacao.
We are just scratching the surface in terms of chocolate being used as a medicine and sacrament. After all these centuries we are just beginning to relearn the secrets of chocolate. It is the current slow food, organic, fair trade movement that is facilitating the awareness of where our food is really coming from and how it was treated along the way. Ultimately the cacao grown on Kauai will become part of a sustainable agricultural crop that will nourish generations to come. Cacao enables us the opportunity to become closer to the land, to understand the complexities of the natural environment and how we fit into the web of life. When each of our sons was born we placed their placentas under a coconut sprout, so the tree will grow strong and provide food for the life of our children. When I die, a mango tree will be planted over my body so that the tree will produce sweet fruit and cool shade for my grandchildren.