Discover Heirloom Designated Cacao Farming in Hawaii
Hawaii is a very small producer of cacao on a worldwide scale but has received recognition for high quality and unique flavor profile via an Heirloom Cacao Preservation (HCP) designation at the Hawaii Agriculture Research Center’s Maunawili Substation and several Cocoa of Excellence awards (CoEx) across the Islands. Because Hawaii does not suffer from devastating fungal diseases such as frosty pod or witches’ broom, there is a unique opportunity to grow a wide range of varietals without high loss from disease.
The Hawaii Agriculture Research Center’s Maunawili Substation is an 80-acre farm situated in Maunawili Valley near Kailua, Oahu. Utilized for centuries as an ideal location for agricultural production, the Hawaiian Sugar Planters’ Association (HSPA) began work on the site in the late 1920s. Operations at Maunawili have expanded to include production of select varieties of coffee, cacao, and tropical hardwoods. Daniel O’Doherty supported the establishment of the cacao tree identification and development of post-harvest processing of the beans to bring out their unique flavor.
Currently in Hawaii, there are no clonal gardens or germplasm collections that maintain the collection of trees that have produced award winning cacao. Genotyping performed by USDA-ARS has revealed high diversity in Hawaiian populations, with many trees being Upper Amazon hybrids, Upper Amazon x Trinitario hybrids or Trinitario, but also a number of ancient Criollo cultivars.
When the focus of the substation moved away from cacao, Dan, along with chocolate maker, Dylan Butterbaugh, leased 60-acres of agricultural land and established Kamananui Estate, LLC, (KE). KE is ideally located on the north shore of Oahu, with favorable climate conditions, soil with optimum chemical and physical properties, and an independent irrigation source of high quality well water. In addition to developing a commercial cacao farm, KE seeks to develop the first comprehensive clonal garden of heirloom cacao varieties in Hawaii and to eventually execute replicated field trials of high potential selections.
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Tasting Panel Notes
Growing the Future of Cacao
This episode touches on some of the unique aspects of our cacao farm here in Hawaii and the big question: Why are we going through the effort? Five years ago Manoa Chocolate partnered with Cacao Services on a cacao farm on the Hawaiian Island of O'ahu. This orchard fulfills a dream to vertically integrate the process from the tree to the bar. The expertise from Cacao Services has also ensured that this farm (Kamananui Estate) has a vast genetic diversity, including hybrids with remarkable productivity and flavor.