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By Joanna Georgiev. February 11, 2013 - 11:48 am
Chocolate remains one of the most popular treats to give to your sweetie on Valentine’s Day.
Back in the day Pilgrims would give sweet confections to their loved ones. Today, there has been growing interest among consumers to buy locally, and when it comes to chocolate people seek handmade gourmet chocolate to satisfy their sweet tooth.
Nat Bletter, local owner of artisanal chocolate company Madre Chocolate, received his PHD in Botany from the City University of New York. He first came across cacao on a trip to Peru while documenting exotic fruits and vegetables and the exploring the power of medicinal plants.
He began experimenting with the cacao plant and making chocolate from scratch.
Bletter would concoct all kinds of chocolates in his small kitchen and pass them out to friends. The response was overwhelming, he soon decided with business partner David Elliot to open Madre Chocolate in Kailua.
“Throughout North America and Europe people are interested in craft, small batch made, artisan chocolate” said Elliot.
Madre Chocolate, winner of six Hawaiian, US, and Intenrational awards, celebrates the origins of cacao by incorporating spices and traditional ingredients of the Aztec, Maya and Olmec tribes.
The sustainable business model works directly with cacao farmers here in Hawaii and Central America to craft a chocolate straight from the source. The owners oversee every step of the process.
Elliot says that he frequently has people asking him whether the chocolate is grown here in Hawaii and where it is made.
“I get really excited when we can tell them both. We are making it here on the island, and its grown by the farmer down the road or on the Big Island.”
Madre Chocolate features a unique lineup of flavors: passion fruit, pink peppercorn, smoked salt and green tea to name a few. The flavors are incorporated in two different lines of chocolate, xocaltl, a traditional bold dark chocolate made from Caribbean cacoa and the kokoleka, a rich dark chocolate made from Hawaiian-grown cacao.
The cacao bean is very similar to that of a wine grape, the climate and soil conditions play a role in producing a certain flavor to the chocolate.
Bletter says Hawaii could become the Napa Valley of chocolate. Hawaii is the only place in the US that cacao can be grown.
Ranging from $6-$10, the chocolates tantalizing flavor is well worth your buck. The chocolate has a rich and invigorating complex flavor but still melts smoothly on the tip of your tongue.
Madre owners offer the public the chance to be part of the chocolate making experience. If you’re a wannabe chocolatier check out madrechocolate.com for available chocolate making workshops, a cool video, and a blog to learn more about the social mission behind Madre.
“We have kind of become obsessed with finding something new and exciting in different cacao beans and different ways to bring out those unique qualities of the bean,” said Elliot.
This Valentines they will be offering a basket full of Madre goodies, which includes a red heart shaped anthurium instead of a rose.