The first stop in our chocolate tour of Hawaii was probably the state’s best known bean-to-bar maker, Madre Chocolate. Based in Kailua, 25 minutes drive outside downtown Honolulu, Madre was founded in 2010 by David Elliott and Nat Bletter.
Madre describe themselves as Oauhu’s first bean-to-bar chocolate maker, and they have grown quickly. In 2011, they opened their retail store and factory, and this year they opened a second retail location and “cocoa garden” in the Chinatown district of Honolulu.
Production is still based in the original Kailua location, and when we visited, David and chocolatier Carley were preparing to mould some freshly made bars.
But there’s no fancy moulding machinery at Madre. For the small batches Madre produce, it’s simpler and more efficient to mould by hand. So the chocolate is transferred from the tempering machine into a giant piping bag and from there, the moulds are filled manually.
It may seem time consuming and labour intensive, but there’s something wonderful about knowing that every bar has been poured by hand in this way. And in actual fact, the process was quite speedy – in no time at all, Carley and David had turned out over 60 bars.
Madre use a combination of locally sourced cocoa and beans sourced from the Dominican Republic. Like most Hawaiian chocolate makers, they would love to be able to use more local ingredients, but at the moment there just isn’t enough being produced. But we tasted some fantastic chocolate, from single Hawaiian estate bars like the 70% Likao Kula Farm, to the deliciously spicy Coconut Milk & Caramelised Ginger and one of my all time favourite chocolate bars, the Triple Cacao – which is made with both cocoa nibs and pulp.
Madre have an extensive range of bars that changes regularly. This makes sense in Hawaii where small crops mean that certain ingredients may have limited availability, and it also works well with Madre’s approach of micro-batch chocolate making. While at the factory, we must have tasted 15 different bars, and it seemed that there was always something new and exciting to try!
Madre do everything from conching and tempering to moulding and wrapping in their Kailua factory store, but because of lack of space, the one thing they don’t do is the roasting. Instead, they roast all their beans down the road at Lonohana’s factory. This is a great way of sharing resources – particularly in Hawaii, which is after all, the most isolated population centre on earth. The industry in Hawaii relies on this kind of co-operation, and fostering it is one of the major reasons that events like the Big Island Chocolate Festival exist.
If you ever find yourself in Hawaii, a trip out of town to Madre is well worth the effort. It’s just around the corner from Manoa Chocolate’s factory, and if you need any further incentive, it’s also just a short walk from Lanikai – one of the world’s most beautiful beaches…