P is for Papaikou

Maybe it’s the post-holiday blues or that I’ve been trying not to succumb to the cold/flu bug that’s been going around…but I just haven’t been motivated to write my featured “P” post this week 😢 That and mid-week I abruptly changed my mind about which bar to post! 😲

Whenever I feel less-than-enthusiastic, the thing that keeps me going is the fascinating information that I learn each time I research a new origin!

Did you know that in the eyes of the U.S. Census Bureau, there are no incorporated areas in the state of Hawaii below the county level (as in the county of Hawaii)? This means that even large cities like Honolulu or Hilo are considered a Census Designated Place (CDP) for statistical data purposes only! According to Wikipedia, there were 1,314 people in Papaikou in 2010, down from 1,414 during the 2000 census. To put that number into perspective for me, there were about 1,200 students in my high school; which must mean that Papaikou is a close-knit community!

Pāpa’ikou is located on the east side of the “Big Island” of Hawaii, north of the county seat of Hilo. In addition to seeing the small cacao farms and the Tropical Botanical Garden, I’d love to visit the Hawaii Plantation Museum to learn more about the area’s sugar plantation era from its beginning in the early 1860s until the last mill closed in 1996.

Now for the chocolate itself!

In November, when I visited the month-old Romeo Chocolates shop on Historic Pine Avenue in Long Beach, California, I was surprised that, in addition to their own chocolate confections, they were selling co-branded chocolate bars made by Mānoa in Hawaii.

Though it doesn’t say so on the packaging itself, I found additional information about this 50% milk chocolate bar on Mānoa’s website:

“These beans were sourced from Tom Sharkey of Hilo Sharks Coffee and Colin Hart-whom we have sourced since 2015. Sharkey and Colin harvest pods from 6 farms in the Hilo Paliku area, which spans from Wailuku River to Hakalau and the Puna District. They return to Sharkey’s farm to crack and extract wet seed before loading the fermentation boxes. Sharkey and Colin maintain the orchards and manage the post-harvest handling, which is paramount for quality.”

Unclasping the gold foil stamped and embossed outer cardboard packaging, I could immediately see that the plastic inner wrapper had become stuck to the light brown bar and knew that the visual finish would be shiny and marred in spots.

Despite this, the bar sported an intricate mold design on the front with the company name encircled in the center and stylized cacao pods and/or leaves at the top and bottom sections.

At first whiff, the aroma reminded me of peanut butter, but then became more grassy/herbal…which made me wonder if this smell came from the beans themselves, the post-fermentation process or the milk that was used?! If anyone has additional information, I’d love to hear about it!

The bar broke apart easily with a sharp snap, revealing a cross section that was completely smooth in places and looked like Swiss cheese, dotted with air bubbles, in others.

At the break point, there were subtle toasted milk/caramel notes. This aroma carried over to the overall taste during the slow/even, creamy melt. Rather than change or evolve, the flavor remained consistent during the entire tasting and lasted well after the chocolate was gone from my mouth. Honestly, if you told me that this bar was made with camel’s milk (or a non-cow’s milk), I would believe you! Have YOU tried this bar? If so, please leave a comment below with your thoughts/impressions!

To learn more about Mānoa, please visit their website: https://manoachocolate.com/