By Amy Hammond
The 6th Annual Hawai‘i Chocolate Festival debuted at a new location at the Ward Village Courtyard on Saturday, October 15, 2016. Local purveyors of all things chocolate gathered at the premier showcase of Hawai‘i-grown chocolate products while chocolate-lovers tasted their way around the sweetest of celebrations. The event featured over 20 vendors who highlighted chocolate and Hawai‘i-grown cacao. The event tickets did not only guarantee admission to the Festival to browse, learn about and shop for all things chocolate, but they were also a passport to 10 chocolate samplings from 10 different chocolate vendors.
HC `Skip' Bittenbender, from the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, held several standing room only classes including 'Cacao history in Hawai‘i' and 'Making chocolate from scratch.' Michael Rogers from 21 Degrees Estate acted as our "Cacao Doctor," answering questions in the Chocolate Garden. Keiki had the chance to learn about the plant and color cacao botanical representations in the Keiki Cacao Cove. The event was well attended and received lots of media coverage, including mention above the headline on the front page of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. It was featured on the front cover of the Crave section, and had two additional full pages of coverage in conjunction with the coffee festival taking place in the same area. The festival was also featured in TV appearances on Living 808, which included mention of HCCA, and other paid television and radio advertising and publicity supporting the event. HCCA was one of the leading sponsors, along with the State Department of Agriculture.
The event was the ultimate experience for chocolate connoisseurs to sip and savor everything chocolate, from chocolate tea to chocolate bacon, as well as local artisan chocolates. Some of the featured items included: chocolate honu by Kokolani Chocolates; new packaging by both Manoa Chocolate Hawaii and Waialua Estate; Chocolade Lemonade by Wow Wow Lemonade; thick-cut bacon candied with sugar and spice and then dipped in Waialua Estate chocolate and sprinkled with cacao nibs by EAT Honolulu; chocolate covered pea berries; white and semi-sweet chocolate by I`iwi Coffee & Fine Confections; crepes with dark, milk and white chocolate by Crepes No Ka `Oi; and chocolate soap and lip balm by Hawaiian Bath and Body/North Shore Soap. Plus, Chef Ronnie from Tiki's Grill and Bar featured Hawaiian-style s’mores with coconut marshmallow crème, dark Manoa Chocolate, and a graham tartlet, all dusted with Hawai‘i-grown Cacao. This is a great example of how partnering on such an event may lead to a permanent menu item that promotes locally grown cacao. There were many requests from attendees for Tiki's to add this item to their menu, and it is now being considered.
Festival-goers were treated to ongoing live entertainment by Starr Kalahiki and The Miss Willow Trio. There was also a Chocolate Dream Tree that gave attendees the opportunity to purchase a chocolate charm from the tree, revealing a prize valued from $25 to $250. A portion of the proceeds from the event benefitted Halau O Na Pua Kukui, who also performed at the event. It was one sweet way to spend the day!