Delicious. Decadent. Contains a myriad of health benefits. What's not to love about chocolate? How about not only chocolate, but an entire cacao plantation where people can visit, see and taste cacao, learn of its importance historically and how it's cultivated and processed?
In the United States, the only place this is happening is in beautiful, Hawaii.
Narrowing it further, on the island of Maui is a 100-plus-year-old famous route called the Road to Hana. It was originally established to allow easier passage for the workers on the island’s sugar plantations along its north shore. Now, it's traveled frequently by guests from all over the globe because of its historical significance as well as the beautiful sights the road inter-twines with. Something not nearly as old, yet making a profound mark in Hawaiian history for other reasons, is a newer establishment called Manawai Estate Chocolate.
It's a cacao plantation. There you can not only see cacao trees up close via plantation tours, but you can also observe how they’re cared for and how the cocoa is harvested and processed to ultimately produce the food so many of us love in a multitude of varieties called chocolate.
Why is this important? The Manawai trees are being grown without chemical pesticides and growth enhancers. They're also being grown from heirloom seeds meaning they've not been genetically modified. They're also being cultivated in a way that doesn't cause vast acreage of irreplaceable rain forest to be destroyed.
At the helm of this daunting and rewarding operation is Master Chocolatier and Gardener, Melanie Boudar.
Melanie has come a long way from being fresh out of high school and wanting to become a professional artist and jewelry designer in the American West.
She got a one way bus ticket, accomplished her dream and mission only to have new ones blossom. In time, Melanie established deep roots in Hawaii, where her love and passion for design and botany flourished into a new business.
She stretches herself pretty thin with both the physical and business aspects of both Manawai Estate Chocolate and Sweet Paradise Chocolatier. In all, she and her business partners manage a property that houses a cacao plantation, a commercial chocolate kitchen, cacao processing center, interactive museum, tasting room and boutique.
"I have been a master gardener both in New Mexico, where I'm from, and also Hawaii. In New Mexico I had an eight-acre property with a lot of fruit trees. Tropical gardening is more of a challenge - no winter die off of bugs.
"Rose beetles love cacao so it's a constant battle (keeping the trees free of them), especially for an organic farm. I do farm tours every week and get to talk to people about building healthy microbial activity in the soil. Alive soil makes food nutritious and delicious. It's more work than using chemical fertilizers and sprays but people appreciate it and the land deserves it." Melanie Boudar
Melanie's business partner, Mark Meador, says this of their unique station in the cacao industry ...
"It is a blast – cacao and chocolate and Maui! Who would have thought? We are doing something truly unique in the world, I believe. Nobody – as of yet anyhow – combines world-class chocolates, cacao farm & processing and an interactive chocolate museum in the same place. Plus, we are huge proponents of the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Initiative."
Now, so you can see some of the wonderful things that come from cacao plantations, let me share a brief visual with you of the sort of excellence this awesome company is producing ...
So, how's that chocolate-crave coming along? Manawai is the stuff many dreams are made of but thankfully, if you can't get to Maui, they have a website that will bring at least some of Maui to you!
You can visit Manawai Estate Chocolates and Sweet Paradise Chocolatier for virtual tours via their websites. The photo collections are wonderful and there is so much more to learn about what this business is doing in regards to being interactive with their community and clients.
The links to each are embedded for you and I do hope you'll pay them a visit and get better acquainted with this company, the work they're doing and why it's important.
Holidays are hurtling toward us, so if you were stumped on what to get that's unusual and extra special, now you should be totally un-stumped ...
That's it for this one!
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