Farm-to-Bar Puna Chocolate Company in Hawaii Makes A Bountiful Bite

When you bite into a piece of chocolate it transports you for a moment to another place and makes you feel happy.

The question of where that chocolate originated might not be the first thing that comes to mind. 

While people buy chocolate for an escape, wondering about its point of origin isn’t a natural inclination. However, a growing number of people are interested in where their chocolate comes from.

If you desire the health benefits and true chocolate taste, paying more attention to those details on your next purchase might very well change your entire chocolate experience. It did for the makers of Puna Chocolate Company in Hawaii. 

Puna Chocolate Company Harvesting Cocoa Pods

 Cocoa pods before harvesting

Cocoa pods before harvesting

 After the harvest

After the harvest

 Shelling cocoa pods

Shelling cocoa pods

Most of what ends up on shelves in the candy aisle of the grocery store is highly processed chocolate far from the original healthy and flavorful bean. By the time chocolate is transported to the U.S., heated and mixed with sugar and additives, it’s a sweet indulgence, but healthy, probably not. 

Because there are big flavor and health benefits to fresh cacao, accessing the real thing and knowing its origins is a treat. In the same way that coffee roasters provide detail on the farm and region where their coffee source, chocolate makers have followed suit to help consumers understand more about what they are eating and from where.

Terms like bean-to-bar reflect the closeness to the soil of your chocolate to the chocolate maker. A chocolatier that is bean-to-bar sources the cacao beans, ferments, roasts and finishes the chocolate based upon their own methods, as opposed to remelting, which is a more common practice.

On the island of Hawaii, Puna Chocolate Company brings the true meaning of bean-to-bar or farm-to-bar to life. They grow their cacao in rich Hawaiian soil in Hilo--pesticide free. When you peel back the beautiful, locally made wrapper, you’re biting into chocolate that’s as close to the tree as you can get in a chocolate bar.

Because the chocolate is produced and grown within the U.S., the time between harvest and your hands is much shorter. You'll experience chocolate that is fresher and more nutritious than most.

 70% Dark Chocolate

70% Dark Chocolate

Puna Chocolate is also what you would call single-origin chocolate — meaning all of the cacao is sourced from one location or origin. This is also a term coffee enthusiasts know well. This distinction helps to define a specific flavor and taste by a farm and region. Cacao or coffee that is not single origin, like what you might find in generic cocoa powder on the shelf, may come from multiple farms and locations, but is also heavily processed so that there is little original character left.

Three friends, Ben Vanegtern, Teri Hagerott and Adam Potter became passionate about growing food as children. Their first encounter with real cocoa pods at a Hawaiian farmers market turned into a life-changing moment. With the natural inclination to test and try new things, they made their first chocolate bar from 3 cocoa pods after fermenting, grinding and pouring. 

The experience of that flavor of fresh cocoa opened their eyes.

“It’s like trying home-baked bread for the first time after living on processed white bread your entire life.” 
— Adam Potter, Co-Founder, Owner, Puna Chocolate Company
kilauea chocolate bar puna

By controlling the chocolate production from growth to final product, they are able to ensure quality and flavor with health and freshness in each bite. The location of their farm and soil also contributes to their product. They are further north than any other chocolate grower in the world. As a result you’ll experience chocolate that is silkier and smoother due to a higher density of good fats and nutrients. 

Each batch is lightly roasted just to unlock the bean and bring out its natural flavor without burning anything out. Their method revolves around the bean. As Adam says, “We let the cocoa bean do all the talking.” The resulting taste sensation is nutty and fruity minimally processed. 

 Island Style with Macadamia and Coconut in Dark Chocolate

Island Style with Macadamia and Coconut in Dark Chocolate

Adam says, “You will taste fruit from the get-go as the natural plant sugars dissolve first. As the chocolate warms up and the fats/butter dissolve, you'll then taste rich chocolate you are familiar with, with notes of banana, coconut, and macadamia nuts.” You can read more about the steps on their website

At a time in history, when cocoa farmers are faced with the challenge of younger generations looking for work elsewhere, Puna Chocolate Company is growing and supports the region and environment with their sustainable farm. When they bought the land they were also careful not to disturb the native rainforest, planting around the trees to preserve them. 

After the cacao is harvested the chocolate is produced and packaged by family in Chicago with colorful and distinctive wrappers made by local Hawaiians.

Puna Chocolate is passionate about growing and making great chocolate and sharing that experience with others and you can see that in the details and taste it in every bite.

Respect the pod. 

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