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Research & Seminars


Each person will take home a half pound of Kauai chocolate as well as eating and drink chocolate all day. This seminar is for the chocolate aficionado who desires to learn about all the aspects of making and growing chocolate from soil to finished bars. We will be tasting and making the three major types of Theobroma Cacao: Criollo, Trinitario, & Forastero.


  1. History
  2. Growing/Harvesting
  3. Fermenting
  4. Roasting
  5. Winnowing
  6. Melanging
  7. Tempering
  8. Food & Beverage Pairings

Sustainability – What does this mean to you?

Kauai in its splendid isolation and abundant natural resources has the potential to be completely independent of the mainland in terms of energy and food. Sustainability is the capacity to maintain a viable cacao crop and supply chocolate to the population of Kauai indefinitely. The concept of sustainability is applied more specifically to all the living organisms on the entire island of Kauai. In terms of the human community, sustainability has been expressed as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainable agriculture refers to the ability of a farm to produce food indefinitely, without causing severe or irreversible damage to ecosystem health. Two key issues are biophysical (the long-term effects of various practices on soil properties and processes essential for crop productivity) and socio-economic (the long-term ability of farmers to obtain inputs and manage resources such as labor). Sustainable agriculture integrates three main goals: environmental stewardship, farm profitability, and prosperous farming communities.
Cacao trees are an exemplary crop that is ideal for creating sustainable and profitable agriculture.

When planting cacao trees on Kauai we are looking at and studying its natural environment in the fragile rainforests of Central and South America, where in many places the rain forest and cacao groves blend together, providing the cacao tree with resources it needs to survive, such as assemblages of pollinating insects and an abundant flow of fallen leaves and other debris to enrich the soil as mulch. This provides a dual economic incentive of conserving agroforestry and creating a balanced sustainable agricultural ecosystem. We strive to unite the economic incentives with biological conservation. We are not just planting cacao but are creating an entire sustainable ecosystem with great biodiversity.

A happy and content community grows out of agroforestry systems using sustainable permacultural principles.


Theobroma Cacao grows extremely well on Kauai, but it has some essential requirements for a high yield. The most important factor for growing cacao in Hawaii is wind. Cacao does not like wind. The large leaves are very vulnerable to mechanical damage by rupture at the pulvinus. Windspeeds as low at 3-4 meters per second can cause severe damage.

The second factor is direct sunlight. For the first year cacao thrives in partial shade, it is an understory tree. A few hours of direct sun are tolerated if the soil remains wet. 50% shade is optimal. If the soil is light and fluffy, the trees small feeder roots can get established, this is a factor in thick clay soils.

The large seeds have enough stored energy to allow a new seedling to grow for several weeks without fertilization. Too much nitrogen in the first months of growth will kill cacao.

Shade trees to be planted with cacao are typically Gliricidia, Albizia, and pigeon pea, due to the nitrogen-fixing properties. Fruit trees also work well, supplanting nutrients by adding fertilizer. Bananas are a crucial companion plant. They provide much needed lateral wind protection and assist in providing a breeding ground for cacao pollinators.

Mulch is helpful in the first 4 years, after that the cacao canopy provides is own cover.

In terms of sustainability and food security interplanting with avocados and coconuts is a traditional practice.

The spacing of cacao can be as little as 2 meters. Mono-cropping of cacao can squeeze 1000 plants into one acre. This is not recommended. Building a sustainable cacao ecosystem with 300-500 cacao plants per acre is optimal.

Holing and planting are quite simple if the soil is good only a small hole is necessary. If the soil is poor a larger hole is needed.

The average yield per tree around the world is 20 pods a year. On Kauai, we have had 100 pods per tree per year. The simple fact is that we can afford fertilizer, water, and access to the latest studies, technology and information. We also do not have the diseases that can decimate a cacao crop.

A tree begins to bear when it is three or four years old. In one year, when mature, it may have 6,000 flowers, but only about 20 pods if the pollinators are not encouraged. About 300-600 seeds (10 -15 pods) are required to produce around 1 kg (2.2 lb) of cocoa paste or chocolate liquor.

Cacao minimum water requirement is 60 inches a year. What to look out for on Kauai. Wind, wind, wind.

The Chinese beetle can eat a lot of leaves off of the seedlings when first planted. Hot petter wax, mulch and diatomaceous earth around the tree, plus a solar garden light will slow the beetles down, but to avoid any beetle damage apply milky spore 3 -6 months prior to planting. This will kill the larva and eradicate the beetles from the area. Pigs tend to dig up seedlings when freshly planted. The solution is to trap and hunt the pigs or fence off the planting area. Watch out for ants, millie bugs, and aphids, these can kill new leaves. These can be controlled by a neem/mint/pepper spray. Once established the cacao will outgrow all these challenges.

Cacao thrives in a diverse ecosystem where its roots take full advantage of mycorrhizae. In terms of fertilizing, we recommend creating a compost with EM. The concept of effective microorganisms(EM) was developed by Professor Teruo Higa, University of the Ryukyus, Okinawa, Japan. EM consists of mixed cultures of beneficial and naturally-occurring microorganisms that can be applied as inoculants to increase the microbial diversity of soils and plant. Research has shown that the inoculation of EM cultures to the soil/plant ecosystem can improve soil quality, soil health, and the growth, yield, and quality of crops. EM contains selected species of microorganisms including predominant populations of lactic acid bacteria and yeasts and smaller numbers of photosynthetic bacteria, actinomycetes and other types of organisms. All of these are mutually compatible with one another and can coexist in liquid culture.

What is chocolate?

There are over 400 hundred chemicals identified in chocolate, science has not yet figured out what the majority do or and how they work synergistically.

Theobromine is the primary alkaloid found in chocolate. Theobromine, also known as xantheose, is a bitter alkaloid of the cacao plant. It is in the methylxanthine class of chemical compounds, which also includes the similar compounds theophylline and caffeine. Theobromine is a water-insoluble, crystalline, bitter powder; the color has been listed as either white or colorless.It has a similar, but lesser, effect to caffeine, making it a lesser homologue. Theobromine is an isomer of theophylline as well as paraxanthine. Theobromine is categorized as a dimethylxanthine, which means it is a xanthine with two methyl groups. Following its discovery in the late 19th century, theobromine was put to use by 1916, where it was recommended by the publication Principles of Medical Treatment as a treatment for edema (excessive liquid in parts of the body), syphilitic angina attacks, and degenerative angina. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition notes that theobromine was once used as a treatment for other circulatory problems including arteriosclerosis, certain vascular diseases, angina pectoris, and hypertension. In modern medicine, theobromine is used as a vasodilator (a blood vessel widener), a diuretic (urination aid), and heart stimulant. In addition, the future use of theobromine in such fields as cancer prevention has been patented.

Anandamide, also known as arachidonoylethanolamide or AEA, is an endogenous cannabinoid neurotransmitter found in animal and human organs, especially in the brain.

Tryptophan is one of the 20 standard amino acids, as well as an essential amino acid in the human diet.
Phenylethylamine – A Neurotransmitter from which amphetamine is derived. Often described as a ‘love chemical’, however it is quickly metabolized by monoamine oxidase, so it has no effect on the central nervous system. Phenethylamine is a natural compound biosynthesized from the amino acid phenylalanine by enzymatic decarboxylation. It is also found in many foods such as chocolate, especially after microbial fermentation. However, trace amounts of food is quickly metabolized by the enzyme MAO-B, preventing significant concentrations from reaching the brain. Antidepressant drug therapy is an indirect (pharmacological) “replacement” of brain phenylethylamine.Phenylethylamine brain levels can be increased by a 1000 fold when taking an MAO Inhibitor such as THC, yet there are no clinical studies of this and how it affects the brain.

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