HCP Heirloom Cacao 4

Hawaii Agriculture Research Center, Maunawili Experiment Station

Provided by Daniel O’Doherty, Cacao Services Inc.

Designated 2014

Bursary Sponsor: The Chocolateers

Heirloom Cacao

Discover Heirloom Designated Cacao Farming in Hawaii

Hawaii is a very small producer of cacao on a worldwide scale but has received recognition for high quality and unique flavor profile via an Heirloom Cacao Preservation (HCP) designation at the Hawaii Agriculture Research Center’s Maunawili Substation and several Cocoa of Excellence awards (CoEx) across the Islands. Because Hawaii does not suffer from devastating fungal diseases such as frosty pod or witches’ broom, there is a unique opportunity to grow a wide range of varietals without high loss from disease.

The Hawaii Agriculture Research Center’s Maunawili Substation is an 80-acre farm situated in Maunawili Valley near Kailua, Oahu. Utilized for centuries as an ideal location for agricultural production, the Hawaiian Sugar Planters’ Association (HSPA) began work on the site in the late 1920s. Operations at Maunawili have expanded to include production of select varieties of coffee, cacao, and tropical hardwoods. Daniel O’Doherty supported the establishment of the cacao tree identification and development of post-harvest processing of the beans to bring out their unique flavor.

Currently in Hawaii, there are no clonal gardens or germplasm collections that maintain the collection of trees that have produced award winning cacao. Genotyping performed by USDA-ARS has revealed high diversity in Hawaiian populations, with many trees being Upper Amazon hybrids, Upper Amazon x Trinitario hybrids or Trinitario, but also a number of ancient Criollo cultivars.

When the focus of the substation moved away from cacao, Dan, along with chocolate maker, Dylan Butterbaugh, leased 60-acres of agricultural land and established Kamananui Estate, LLC, (KE). KE is ideally located on the north shore of Oahu, with favorable climate conditions, soil with optimum chemical and physical properties, and an independent irrigation source of high quality well water. In addition to developing a commercial cacao farm, KE seeks to develop the first comprehensive clonal garden of heirloom cacao varieties in Hawaii and to eventually execute replicated field trials of high potential selections.

Learn About the HCP Nursery Projects

In 2019, Kamananui Estate, was awarded an HCP grant funded by the Lesley Family Foundation.  Through this grant, before the end of 2019, trees will be planted on site to establish a clonal garden. The clonal garden will be comprised of several grafted local selections that were included in the HCP and CoEx samples, five different ancient criollo cultivars, and recognized fine flavor clones obtained from the USDA-ARS germ-plasm collection in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.

An onsite nursery will be constructed to raise seedling and grafted heirloom cacao trees for field planting and also for distribution of verified high quality plant material for farmers throughout the state of Hawaii.

In March 2019, a 50’ x 14’ long gothic tunnel greenhouse was constructed on a leveled and graveled pad at the farm site.  The greenhouse is covered in 5 mil polyethylene plastic and 50% shade cloth, and the ground is lined with weed matting.  Grid-top nursery benches facilitate maintenance, grafting and allow air pruning of potted trees to prevent root damage during transplanting.

To read the most recent program report, contact HCP Executive Director, Anne Zaczek at info@hcpcacao.org

Tasting Panel Notes

This complex, but balanced flavor has highlights of raisin, cooked plums, candied figs, and pineapple flavors.

USDA Genetic Profile for cacao beans from Hawaii Cacao farm trees

Heirloom cacao genetics