Cacao FAQ

Cacao Facts:

What is Cacao?


ca·ca·o - (kəˈkou,kəˈkāō)

Cacao is the purest form of chocolate you can consume, which means it is raw and much less processed than cocoa powder or chocolate bars. Cacao is thought to be the highest source of antioxidants of all foods and the highest source of magnesium of all foods. It has been used throughout many cultures for years for health purposes and even used as a high trade commodity

The cacao fruit tree, also known as Theobroma Cacao, which in Greek means “Food of the Gods”, produces cacao pods which are cracked open to release cacao beans. From there, cacao beans can be processed a few different ways.

The old classification system of criollo, forastero, and trinitario is no longer appropriate, but Hawaii grows all types of cacao. While we do have some pure criollo trees; most seedling trees are unique combinations having parentage from 3 to 10 of the newly recognized cacao types.   

Who are Hawai'i's cacao growers?

There are many “mom and pop” cacao growers in Hawai'i; growing anywhere from 2-20 trees on their property, but state-wide, there are currently 5 large-scale growers and just a couple of medium-size growers.

What is the average size of an adult cacao tree?

An average cacao tree will grow to 50 feet & have the life expectancy of 50 years! 

As with most fruit orchards, trees are pruned to a manageable height to make harvesting easier.  

What are the health benefits of cacao?

Cacao is considered a super-food! In its raw state, chocolate has more than 300 nutritional compounds and is one of the richest sources of antioxidants of any food on the planet! Minimally processed, raw chocolate contains many vital vitamins an minerals such as:

  • Magnesium, and other essential minerals. 

                (such as calcium, sulfur, zinc, iron, copper, potassium, and manganese)

  • Polyphenols, antioxidant rich flavonoids
  • Vitamins: B1, B2, B3, B5, B9, C, E
  • Essential heart-healthy fat: oleic acid a monounsaturated fat
  • Protein
  • Fiber 

The nutrients found in raw chocolate have been linked to a number of health benefits, including:

1) Lower blood pressure & improve circulation.

Flavanols, theobromine, and other components found in cacao may lower blood pressure and enhance circulation by promoting dilation, strength, and health of blood vessels.

2) Promotes cardiovascular function & health.

The antioxidant power of flavonoids and essential minerals and vitamins found in cacao can support healthy heart functioning by lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow, lowering LDL cholesterol, and reducing plaque buildup on artery walls.  

3) Neutralizes free radicals.

High levels of antioxidants protect the body from a buildup of free radicals from sun exposure, pollution, cigarette smoking, etc., which may damage healthy body tissue giving rise to cancer and cardiovascular disease. Our bodies need antioxidants to 'mop up' free radicals that can damage our cells. Scientists from Cornell University recently discovered that raw cacao powder contains nearly twice the antioxidants of red wine, and up to three times the antioxidants found in green tea.

4) Raw chocolate can improve digestion.

A sufficient amount of fiber delivered with each serving of cacao supports digestion while cacao stimulates the body’s production of digestive enzymes. 

5) Raw chocolate can enhance physical and mental well-being.

There are many components of cacao including alkaloids, proteins, beta-carotene, leucine, linoleic, lipase, lysine, and theobromine, that all work together to improve physical and mental health. For example, theombromine helps to stimulate the central nervous system, relax smooth muscles, and dilate blood vessels, giving the body a boost of energy; “bliss” chemicals found in cacao help to increase circulation and availability of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in brain, improving mood and combating depression. 

Why do fresh cacao seeds not taste like chocolate?

Fresh seeds contain the chemical precursors that will eventually become edible chocolate, but they first need to undergo fermentation in order to develop the complex flavor we call chocolate. 

What does single-origin cacao mean?

Generally it means cacao from a single-origin location, but it can also mean from an island, county, even a country. 

What is cacao butter?

Cacao butter is the naturally occurring vegetable oil inside each cacao bean, which makes up more than 50% of bean weight. In the finest chocolates, extra cocoa butter is added to create a creamier-tasting product. Composed mainly of stearic and oleic acids, cocoa butter has a beneficial effect on human cholesterol levels. Unlike most saturated fatty acids, stearic acid does not raise blood cholesterol. Oleic acid, a mono-unsaturated fat, also doesn't raise cholesterol levels, and may even reduce them. To make cocoa butter, hydraulic presses squeeze the oil out of cacao nibs. Cocoa butter is a valuable ingredient in cosmetics, particularly skin creams, and because it is expensive, many mass-market chocolate brands substitute a synthetic industrial chemical called polyglycerol polyricinoleate (abbreviated as PGPR) in place of the real thing. Cacao butter is removed from the bean during production and the remaining part of the fruit is used to produce raw cacao powder. 

What are cacao nibs?

Cacao nibs are simply cacao beans that have been chopped up into edible pieces, much like chocolate chips without the added sugars and fats. Cacao nibs contain all of the fiber, fat, and nutrients that the cacao bean does. Cacao nibs are the raw ingredients of chocolate. 


chocolate faq

Chocolate Facts:

What makes Hawai'i chocolate unique?

Hawai'i is the only state to grow cacao. Therefore chocolate made from Hawai'i-grown cacao is the only American chocolate. But don’t take our word for it…Hawai'i chocolate makers continue to bring home top awards from Chocolate Industry festivals and competitions held all over the world! 

Can anybody call their product "Hawaiian Chocolate"?

What are the guidelines for authentic "Hawaiian Chocolate"?


The geographic regions designated are: Hawai'i is state of Hawai'i, Hawai'i Island is island of Hawai'i, Kauai, Maui, Molokai, and Oahu are the same named islands. Only chocolate made from cacao grown on one of these islands can use the name of the island in the identity statement, for example Hawai'i Island chocolate means made only from Hawai'i Island-grown cacao, Kauai chocolate means made from only Kauai-grown cacao and so on.

Chocolate makers may make chocolate from cacao from other non-Hawai'i origins mixed with cacao grown within the state, but use of any geographic region name is prohibited except for Hawai'i. Any Hawai'i and non-Hawai'i chocolate mixture must contain no less that 51% cacao grown within the state.  The identity statement must state the percentage of Hawai'i cacao in the chocolate and use the phrase “Hawai'i Cacao Blend Chocolate made with or contains” and must state the exact percentage of Hawai'i Cacao. For example this identity statement is correct “Honolulu Chocolate Company, Hawai'i Cacao Blend Chocolate made with 60% Hawai'i cacao. The phrase “Maui Cacao Blend Chocolate made with 51% Maui cacao” is prohibited. Only Hawai'i, the state name, is permitted on cacao blend chocolate made of Hawai'i and non-Hawai'i origin cacao.

The percentage is calculated by dividing the weight of Hawai'i-grown cacao divided by the weight of the Hawai'i cacao plus the weight of the non-Hawai'i cacao in the chocolate. The weight of additional ingredients such as sugar, vanilla, fruit, nuts, cocoa butter is not used to determine the Hawai'i cacao percentage.