|Cocoa beans drying in the sun|
The Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory is one of only a handful of places in the United States where chocolate goes from bean to bar. In fact, it was the very first. And right here on the Big Island, no less.
The Coopers bought the small farm in 1997, with about 1 acre of already established cacao trees. Not knowing exactly what they had, the cocoa beans were tested and revealed to be of both the forestero and criollo varieties, ideal for making high-quality chocolate.
Which is exactly what they did. Today, the Coopers sell their single-bean chocolate (a rarity in the chocolate world) all over Hawaii in addition to offering tours of their farm.
|Mr. Cooper, owner of OHCF, wows the crowd with raw cocoa peans straight from the pod|
Come on a tour and you’ll be treated to the smell of cocoa beans drying on racks in the sun and a glimpse of the otherworldly manner in which cacao pods grow straight out of the trunks of their mother trees. Cooper likens the cacao harvest to an “Easter egg hunt,” as the ripe pods come in various bright hues such as magenta, yellow, and orange. The pods are then split open to reveal slimy white beans that self-ferment in wooden crates until they shed their outer coating. The beans are then dried, cleaned, roasted, winnowed (to remove the hard, outer shell), conched (the process of adding soy lecithin and vanilla powder), and tempered to become chocolate. Witnessing this involved process brings chocolate appreciation to a whole new level and is highly recommended.
|Freshly picked ripe cacao pods|
Tours can be had at their farm in Keauhou on Wednesday and Fridays at 9am for only $15. Be sure to book ahead, these tours sell out fast. More info: http://ohcf.us/tour/
This farm tour was part of the 2013 Big Island Chocolate Festival.