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CEO: Why 65% Dark & 60% Dark Milk



April 30, 2020

When we decided to make chocolate and build a factory we immediately knew that we needed to perform a lot of R&D chocolate making to formulate our recipes so that when the chocolate factory was ready we were ready.  We purchased a ball mill and a conche that were designed at 1/10 the scale that we intended to use in the factory but otherwise had identical features.  In May of 2017 Dan O’Doherty set up this equipment in rented space at Manoa Chocolate in Kailua (mahalo Dylan!) and started making chocolate using their roaster and tempering/molding capability.  The cacao we used came from Costa Esmeraldas, Ecuador, the single-family estate that Dan was working with to develop one of the finest cacao beans in the world.  The deep cocoa flavors and mild fruitiness of these beans provided great flexibility in recipe formulation and also the opportunity to add flavors that complemented the chocolate.  The first decision was what percentage of cacao our dark chocolate should be.  We tried a range and settled on 65% because it gave the best balance of sweetness and chocolate flavors.  I also felt that we needed the base chocolate to be amenable to added flavors so making it a higher % cacao would have eliminated most of the flavor options.  We have since gone back and made a 78% cacao chocolate from the Costa Esmeraldas beans and will be releasing it soon.

The dark milk chocolate was developed at the same time.  Dan had sourced a roller dried milk that imparted not only the creaminess expected from a milk chocolate but had the added benefit of adding a caramel flavor derived from the milk drying process.  Unlike spray drying of milk, roller drying of milk exposes the milk to higher heat that caramelizes some of the milk sugars.  Until I tasted this chocolate I was never a fan of milk chocolate but I am now.  The decision to make it a dark milk chocolate (60% cacao) was to attract dark chocolate lovers to a deeply flavored chocolate but one that had other dimensions of flavor.

All cacao is a combination of cacao solids and cocoa butter. Although chocolate can be made from cacao without adding additional cocoa butter, we choose not to do so because we prefer a more luxurious mouthfeel found in the European style of chocolate making.  The melting characteristics of the chocolate have a lot to do with the perception of flavor so chocolate that does not melt well does not taste as good as it could.  A simple experiment will convince you if you taste chocolate at room temperature and then have a few swallows of cold water before tasting the chocolate again.  The drop in temperature following the cold water will inhibit the melting of the chocolate in your mouth and you will notice a big difference.  Cacao from different parts of the world and even different harvest years can have different proportions of cacao solids vs. cacao butter.  In order to deliver what we believe is the best flavor we add just enough cocoa butter to create the right melting characteristics, the primary property of mouthfeel.

At the beginning of 2018 we moved our R&D equipment to UH Maui College and established a State Dept of Health permitted chocolate production facility.  We made more than 600 kg of dark and dark milk chocolate there and started supplying restaurants with the chocolate.  That enabled us to get feedback from chefs and make sample bars by hand-tempering the chocolate in our newly developed KU‘IA molds.  We also perfected the addition of Maui MokkaÒ coffee to both the dark chocolate and the dark milk chocolate.  Maui MokkaÒ coffee, in my humble opinion, is the best coffee produced by MauiGrownÒ Coffee and its flavor profile complements our chocolate perfectly.  Because the coffee is ground into the chocolate during the milling operation at the same time that the cacao is milled, it is not a flavor that can be added after the chocolate is made.

The next R&D decision was what to do, if anything, about flavors or inclusions such as nuts.  Nuts were quickly eliminated based on allergen concerns.  We go to great lengths to ensure that milk cannot contact our dark chocolate because milk proteins are a significant allergen.  We run two independent production lines to keep the milk chocolate separate from dark chocolate.  Adding nuts to the factory would complicate it further so no nuts.  In fact, we will not make chocolate with any inclusions because the molding operation is inefficient at incorporating inclusions and wrapping is made more difficult.  The only flavoring additives that we use are essential oils and flavor powders that can be mixed into the chocolate in a homogeneous manner and do not affect molding.  Food grade essential oils are available for a variety of plant-based sources and are highly purified by steam distillation.  After trying more than 20 we settled on three that work in both our dark chocolate and dark milk chocolate.  Those three are blood orange, lemongrass and peppermint that can be found in our current products.

The flavor powders are a project that I have been working on since 2017 and are finally becoming a reality.  The motivation to use flavor powders is to make it possible to incorporate Maui fruit flavors in our chocolate.  Flavor powders are developed with a company on the mainland that has a Kosher production facility so they require the ingredients to be both Kosher and pasteurized.  Until the factory was up and running we were only able to do R&D work with them.  Recently we obtained Kosher certification for the factory and are now progressing toward the production of three amazing Maui flavors to be added to our chocolate.  The powders are very fine and we use so little to flavor the chocolate that there is no noticeable mouthfeel from the added powder.  The three Maui flavors are mango, guava and Calamansi.  The mangos used to make the flavor powder are grown on our cacao farm and we use only Mapulehu mangos that are very aromatic, low acid, almost fiberless and picked at the peak of ripeness.  The puree is made and pasteurized in the factory before being frozen and sent to the mainland for production of the powder.  Similarly, guava puree is made from hand-picked guavas that grow wild up the road from my house and the Calamansi are grown at my house.  A potato ricer is used to extract juice from the Calamansi and bruise the skins at the same time to release some of the oil.  Once a year during peak season I pick the fruit in sufficient quantity to make enough powder to last until the next year. 


Mahalo nui loa,

Dr. Gunars E. Valkirs

CEO & Food Safety Officer