We are always looking for opportunities to educate our audience on the cacao growing regions. So we thought this would be a great article to share even though it doesn’t directly relate to our Hawaii Heirloom Designee. There are a number of cacao initiatives on the go in Hawaii including: our HCP Nursery Project at Kamananui Estate, Oahu; the commercial and experimental Ku’ia Estate Cacao Farm, Maui and the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program grant, featured in the article, which will impact a number of cacao farms across the state.

July, 2019, Western IPM Center

Hawaii is known for many amazing things, and some believe it’s time for world-class chocolate to be added to that list.

A dedicated group of cacao growers, processors and researchers are building a cacao industry on the islands aimed at producing distinctive, high-quality cacao, the raw ingredient the world’s top chocolatiers seek out to craft their best bars. Hawaii’s cacao and chocolate has already won some top international awards.

“With our very distinct islands and geography, we have the potential to create a lot of very premium cacao that’s quite distinct as you move across the state,” said Dave Elliott, a cacao specialist with the Oahu Resource Conservation and Development Council. “The direction we’re going in Hawaii is producing beautiful chocolate that tastes different from one side of the island to the other, or even, I hope, from one watershed to the next.”

Bringing that vision to life means developing a brand-new crop on Hawaii and understanding all the elements that turn a tropical fruit into a dark indulgence.

Swapping Sweet Crops

Cacao was introduced to the islands in the mid-1800s but never really flourished. It’s only in the past 20 years or so, as plantation agriculture on Hawaii came to an end, that commercial cacao production began to spread. There are still only a few hundred acres under cultivation, but it’s growing.

“Where we see cacao grown in Hawaii is where there used to be huge plantations producing sugar cane or pineapples, but those are no longer the agricultural reality for the state,” Elliott said. “Everybody’s working hard to figure out where Hawaii’s agriculture is going and what’s going to carry us forward, and cacao is part of that.”