The Hāmākua region is located on the northeast coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. Known for its gentle tradewinds that bring the pure rains, Hāmākua is translated from Hawaiian to mean “the breath of God”.
The Terroir of Hāmākua, (the special characteristics that the geography, geology and climate bestow upon the beans) deﬁnes Hāmākua chocolate. Unlike the rest of the island, the deep, mineral-rich, well drained volcanic earth provides the perfect soil conditions for the cacao. Being on the winward side of the island, the tradewinds bring daily showers that naturally irrigate the trees while the partial overcast conditions provide a natural sunscreen to the understory trees.
Cacao is best grown between 20º north and south of the equator. Being located on the southernmost island in the US, the Big Island is the only island of the Hawaiian chain to fall within the optimal cacao growing zone. And of course Hawaii is the only state in the US that can commercially grow cacao.
The Hāmākua area is known for its spectacular waterfalls, tropical gardens and dramatic coastline. Originally of course, the rough volcanic lava broke down to become deep soil for lush native forests. Starting in the 1800ʼs, much of the forest land was cleared to become the home to 7 main sugar plantations. The sugar plantations eventually were consolidated into the Hamakua Sugar Company that had its ﬁnal harvest in 1994. Since then, the region has become the home to many family-owned farms, pastures and forest reserves.
Cacao, native to South and Mesoamerica was ﬁrst introduced into Hawaii in 1850. In the 1890ʼs, the trees were ﬁrst planted in the Hilo / Hāmākua region. Today, a number of small, family-run plantations continue to produce exceptionally high quality cacao beans for the specialty chocolate market.