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From Ecuador to Maui

From Ecuador to Maui-Maui Kuʻia Estate Chocolate

With a growing demand for top quality cacao, farms across the globe are beginning to refine their production processes. Many farms are undergoing transformation with the help of Dan O’Doherty, our VP of Chocolate Operations. Dan helps farms refine all aspects of production from grafting trees in the orchard to post harvest processing. Read more about Dan’s work here.  The Costa Esmeraldas farm in Ecuador is his largest project. He has been working with them closely for four years, helping to design and build a state of the art fermenting and drying facility, as well as teaching workers how to properly ferment cacao.
Workers at Costa Esmeraldas turning cacao during fermentation. Photo: Dan O'Doherty


Dan’s close relationship with the farm has given us access to some of the best cacao in the world, which we are using to make world class chocolate here on Maui. Having direct communication and control of the farm allows us to get the highest quality bean possible. Dan frequently returns to Ecuador to monitor the operation and along with checking on quality control he brings back with him exclusive samples from each harvest and ferment. 

Sliding drying decks designed by Dan O'Doherty allow flexible control of the drying process  Photo: Dan O'Doherty

Back on Maui, we take these samples and create test chocolate. We first crack and examine the dried cacao beans from each individual lot and study their characteristics. This gives us a good sense of how the cacao beans were fermented and helps us look out for any lots that may have been over or under fermented. Next we blend samples and create separate mixes for each month. Each month’s blend is roasted and processed using identical profiles. This allows us to taste and rate each chocolate solely on its unique flavors from each lot of cacao with no other variables. Once we have all our chocolate refined Gunars Valkirs, our CEO, and Nainoa Moore, our chocolate maker hand temper test bars for tasting. Once in bar form we take tasting notes on each lot of chocolate and collectively decide on which one we like the best. This tasty testing process allows us to pick and choose the best of the best from each harvest to create our final chocolate. We recently received and tested samples from the Costa Esmeraldas Fall 2018 harvest with some phenomenal results. We have picked out our favorite lot, and we look forward to sharing this one of a kind chocolate with you soon!

Test chocolate bars are hand tempered and ready for tasting  Photo:Nainoa Moore


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