During my trip to Hawaii last month, I got to meet with quite a few folks involved in the chocolate business, which is logical given that Hawaii is the only state where cacao grows. Some such meetings were accidental, such as my impromptu discussion with Derek Lanter of Waialua at an open water swim race. Others, I arranged, and of course I'll talk about those visits incessantly as I wouldn't want you to miss out on reading about all the fun I had.
Fun I had at places like the 220 Farmers Market, where everything sold comes from within 220 miles of the market site in Waikiki.
It was there that I caught up with Nathan Sato, half of the Malie Kai team.
The other half of the team, Miki Azuchi, was occupied with preparing and distributing samples for eager customers while I discussed Malie Kai's work with Nathan. Their bars, which I will be reviewing later this week, are all made with beans from the North Shore of Oahu. As Malie Kai does not currently have the equipment required to produce chocolate bars directly from the beans, it is sent to the mainland for production and quickly returned to Oahu for Malie Kai's use. Though limited in their current chocolate making capabilities, Nathan and Miki do produce their own line of nibs.
Nathan indicated that in the future, they hope to procure equipment necessary to undertake production themselves to create a truly native Hawaiian product. In the meantime, I was able to sample several milk and dark chocolate bars - some with nibs and coffee beans added in.
Though I'd spotted some Malie Kai at Biagio earlier this year, Nathan noted that they have had a hard time maintaining distribution of their bars on the mainland, as few chocolate shops have an appreciable interest in promoting Hawaiian chocolate. This is truly a shame because first, several of the Malie Kai bars are quite delicious, with a mild but complex flavor characteristic of many Hawaiian chocolates, and second, because it's a 100% American product.
So, chocolate shops in the contiguous 48 states, I ask you this: Where is your American pride? And where is your Malie Kai chocolate? Or any Hawaiian chocolate, for that matter? I'm going to be looking, because I'd like to have regular access to it.
In the meantime, I'll savor the 15+ bars I picked up while in Oahu.
Do any shops near you carry Hawaiian chocolate?