Manoa (meaning thick or solid in the Hawaiian language) is another bean-to-bar chocolate maker, set up in 2010 by Dylan Butterbaugh and fiancé Tamara Armstrong. Butterbaugh is a Kailua local, but didn’t discover cacao until traveling in Indonesia that he discovered cacao – a tree that happens to grow quite well in Hawaii!
With Dylan away finding beans in Costa Rica, it was Tamara who met us at the Manoa factory shop, a converted real estate office. It’s a little larger than Madre’s shop, but still very small for a factory. But with a little more space to play with, Manoa have managed to be quite creative with their layout.
Around half of the building is dedicated to production, and the other half is a spacious shop and tasting area. Large windows separate the two halves of the factory, meaning visitors to the shop can have a clear view of the entire chocolate making process. This also enables Manoa to run regular events and guided tours of the space.
In 2012, Manoa launched a successful Kickstarter campaign, raising over $18,000 for new equipment. The video they produced to go with the campaign is a great little introduction into Manoa, and also shows the construction of the current factory & shop.
The factory is now full of beautiful chocolate making equipment, but there is at least one link to the past. The old “Winnowing Device” has been modified and improved over the years, but like many small chocolate makers, it’s still a homemade contraption held together with duct tape and glue with a shop vac attached to one side.
This is the machine that removes the papery shells from the cocoa beans after breaking them, and it’s often one of the biggest challenges a small chocolate maker faces. While a conventional oven or coffee roaster can be used for roasting beans, and companies like Cocoa Town produce a range of grinders for small chocolate makers, nobody really sells an affordable winnowing machine.
Many small batch chocolate makers end up having to make their own machines, and more often than not, they simply use a series of tubes and a vaccuum cleaner to blow the lighter shells away from the valuable cocaa beans.
It works, and the Manoa winnowing device is a marvel of ingenuity, but with well over 100 bean-to-bar chocolate makers in the US alone, I can’t help but think there’s a gap in the market!
For me, the most impressive piece of kit was the beautiful San Franciscan roaster. Designed for roasting coffee beans, it does a great job evenly roasting cocoa too.
After showing us around the factory, Tamara insisted we sit down and try some chocolate.
Like Madre, Manoa use locally grown Hawaiian cacao where they can, but supply is limited, so they also need to look elsewhere. Their current range includes cacao from Costa Rica, Liberia, and Papua New Guinea in a variety of flavours, with their “Breakfast Bar” – a 60% dark milk chocolate made with nibs and coffee beans their most popular offering. I also enjoyed their Dark Milk with Lavender and spicy Ghost Pepper bars.. although I have to admit, I was’t so keen on the Goat Milk Chocolate! But there really is something for everyone in the range.
I have to confess, I loved Manoa. I love that they’re telling tourists and locals alike about the exciting world of Hawaiian chocolate. I loved the chocolate, and most of all, I loved how friendly and welcoming everyone was. I can’t wait to go back.
You can find Manoa Chocolate at:
315 Uluniu Street, Suite 203