Make Mine Chocolate: Lavaloha Chocolate Farms

November 24, 2019, 2:56 PM HST (Updated November 24, 2019, 2:56 PM)
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  • Cacao varietal. PC: Karen Rose
  • Red cacao. PC: Karen Rose
  • Raw cacao. PC: Karen Rose
  • Cacao roasting process. PC: Karen Rose
  • Roasted cacao. PC: Karen Rose
  • View from Lavaloha Chocolate Farms Visitor Center. PC: Karen Rose
  • Cat Rehberg, CEO of Lavaloha Chocolate Farms. PC: Karen Rose
  • SWIPE LEFT OR RIGHT
    • Cacao varietal. PC: Karen Rose
    • Red cacao. PC: Karen Rose
    • Raw cacao. PC: Karen Rose
    • Cacao roasting process. PC: Karen Rose
    • Roasted cacao. PC: Karen Rose
    • View from Lavaloha Chocolate Farms Visitor Center. PC: Karen Rose
    • Cat Rehberg, CEO of Lavaloha Chocolate Farms. PC: Karen Rose

Author Sandra Boynton said the greatest tragedies were written by the Greeks and Shakespeare — because neither knew chocolate.

This is far from true in Hawai‘i, the only state where cacao is grown and produced into the world’s perfect food. Big Islanders love to dine out, however, local foodies often fall into the habit of returning to the same few restaurants instead of venturing out and trying something new.

Those looking for a more adventurous food-related experience, save room for dessert and head up to Lavaloha Chocolate Farms outside of Hilo town for a fun and tasty chocolate-lovers experience.

Hawai‘i is unique in that it is the only state where kokoleka (the Hawaiian word for chocolate), is made. Cacao is grown and processed here, making the state the only producer of true American chocolate. Cacao is becoming an increasingly popular crop among local farmers and some, like Lavaloha Chocolate Farms, offer onsite tasting tours.

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Chocolate was believed to have its beginnings over 5,000 years ago in the Amazon rainforest. Cacao and chocolate were introduced to Hawai‘i relatively late, with the first mention of its divine properties first mentioned in 1831. Today, artisan chocolate created from Hawaiian cacao is gaining popularity worldwide.

“Many chocolate makers are bean-to-bar,” said Cat Rehberg, CEO of Lavaloha Farm. “We consider ourselves to be tree-to-chocolate. We grow all our cacao and make all our own chocolate right here onsite. As a result, the flavors are very distinct and reflective of our terrain.”

Lavaloha Farms uses sustainable practices in their cacao and chocolate production. Their workers handpick the cacao pods at the peak of their ripeness, and their chocolate makers keep a close eye on the fermentation process, sorting the beans by hand prior to roasting them. This fastidious attention to detail results in high quality, delicious chocolate.

Guests can tour the farm and learn the art and science of being a chocolatier. Cruise around the farm in an open-air mini bus while your tour guide gives you the tasty scoop on chocolate making.

Afterward, venture up to the visitor center and taste the various types of chocolates made right on site. Relax on their front porch and enjoy the panoramic view of Hilo Bay reaching just beyond the cacao trees.

Lavaloha Farms chocolate flavors include pure Hawaiian chocolate swirled with lava marbling, dark chocolate with Hawaiian chili peppers, dark chocolate with orange zest, white chocolate with cacao nibs, milk chocolate with macadamia nuts and milk chocolate with sea salt.

Learn various ways to incorporate chocolate into your daily diet. For example, cacao nibs are cocoa beans that have been chopped up into edible pieces. They resemble tiny chocolate chips but without added sugar and fat. Cacao nibs are the raw ingredients of chocolate. They have the same amount of fiber, fat and nutrients as cacao beans. Sprinkle them on yogurt, add to cookies or throw some into a smoothie. They are both nutritious and delicious.

Next time you’re looking for an adventurous and fun gourmet experience, give Lavaloha Chocolate Farm a call and reserve your dessert and tour experience.

For more information, visit lavaloha.com.

Karen Rose
Karen Rose is a writer and journalist living on the Big Island of Hawai‘i. Her writing focuses on food, wine, travel, arts and entertainment. She never met a food she didn't like—except black licorice.
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