Hawaii has had a variety of different crops over the years; sugar cane, pineapple, macadamia nuts, coffee and now cacao is becoming a popular option to plant and harvest.
In 1850 a German physician William Hillebrand introduced cacao where the Foster Botanical Gardens are in Honolulu. Over the years it’s been a difficult crop to make money from. Hawaii is at the northern part of the belt where cacao can grow. The typical location is between 20 degrees north or south of the equator. The climate can be difficult in Hawaii and the cost of land and labor to produce the cocoa also makes it a challenge.
After the initial introduction of cacao, many years went by and the industry disappeared. Within the last 20 years there has been a renewed interest and these days there are a number of small producers of cacao in Hawaii as well as corporate interest. We are most interested in those that are the independent producers. The growth of cacao is relatively new within these islands but is definitely a crop that will continue to expand.
As with all quality products, it takes time to nurture and grow the cacao trees, which start from seed. It takes about 4 years for the trees to mature to the point where it can produce a sizable number of cacao pods.
During our trip, we will be visiting the cacao farms that are currently on Kauai and will report on our experiences next week. Stay tuned for part 2.