Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Sexy Hawaiian Chocolate

Chocolate from Hawaii is, well, let's face it, right sexy these days. I mean, isn't everyone who lives in Hawaii super hot to begin a with? Tanned all the time, wearing flowers about their necks and men in short-shorts.  Okay, I just aged myself with these stereotypes and by outing my love for Tom Selleck in Magnum P.I. But for a girl from the cold, cold Canadian north, where people walk around in parkas for half of the year, Hawaii seems like the sexiest place on earth. And in fact, Buzzfeed did name it The Sexiest State in 2013.

So 'The Aloha State' already had it going on when cacao really started sprouting commercially in Hawaii in the 1990s, and bean-to-bar chocolate makers started popping up on the islands in more recent years.

And then at the Seattle Craft Chocolate Maker's Unconference in November, I met Nat Blatter, Madre Chocolate's cofounder and 'Flavormeister', who was about the awesomest dude at the conference.

Source: Madre Chocolate's Instagram @madrechocolate

Nat was walking around with a backpack filled with rare cocoa beans (soooo totally sexy to a choco-geek like me), and offering up some to taste at random.  I was one of these lucky people who tasted the rare beans, while chatting with him in the lunch line one day at the conference. Not only is his chocolate - fully made in Hawaii for several years now - award-winning and delicious, but Madre Chocolate is committed to helping cacao farmers improve their processing techniques and thereby improve their lives by boosting the price of their cocoa beans. If you follow Madre Chocolate on Instagram (@madrechocolate), you'll see that Nat is always traveling around the world, visiting cacao farms and contributing to the overall growth of the craft chocolate industry.

Adding to the sexiness of Hawaiian chocolate, Manoa's Hilo Hawaii Island 70% dark chocolate bar has a totally sexy flavour. It's all honey-like in taste. In fact, two Hawaii-origin chocolate bars that I tasted, from both Manoa Chocolate and Puna Chocolate Company, were just dripping with the taste of sensual honey.  Manoa's Hilo bar was more like a dark honey-molasses mix with floral overtones, whereas Puna's Hilo District (Mahilani Estate) 70% dark chocolate bar was like light, warm honey with dark cocoa and strong floral notes. And the Manoa 50% dark-milk chocolate bar was all warm milk and honey in my mouth. Puna's 50% dark-milk had a malt and milky-cream flavour with low acidity. Again, sexy stuff.

Many of the Hawaiian chocolate makers also offer chocolate made from cocoa beans grown in other regions of the world.  Partially because Hawaii doesn't yet produce enough cacao to meet their needs, and partially because craft chocolate makers love to explore chocolate of different origins. I've tasted several of Madre Chocolate's single origin chocolate bars over the last few years, but at the Northwest Chocolate Festival, I picked up their 81% Guatemala bar.  This bold-flavoured chocolate was full of blackberry and red grape skin flavour, with an astringency and upfront bitterness that was certainly hard-hitting.

Manoa's Single Estate Ecuador (Costa Esmeraldas) 70% dark chocolate bar made with cacao harvested in January & February of 2016, was intriguing. It was very full of flavour, with low acidity and strong floral notes, with perhaps aloe, some roasted nuts with the slightest bitter aftertaste of walnut. Unique and surprising, and certainly mysterious. Super sexy chocolate.

There are several more chocolate makers from Hawaii, all making delectable chocolate, and I intend to write about them all, just as soon as I can get my hands on them. But for now, if you want to explore your sensual side with Hawaiian chocolate, look to the chocolate makers and bars that I mentioned above. Or better yet, get your sexy on and visit Hawaii this winter.  Attend one of Madre's chocolate-making classes or visit a cacao plantation. Maybe Nat will be there handing out cocoa beans from his backpack.


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