Saturday, April 6, 2013

Mānoa Chocolate

Today I'm looking at a new-to-me company inspired by a trip home to Hawaii: Mānoa Chocolate. While picking up a few groceries I found several Mānoa bars, and more or less went all-in on this pricey chocolate, selecting three to take back home with me. 

Corporate Info: Mānoa Chocolate is new new new. Though the "history and mission" link on the site only brings up a brief "about" page, the oldest blog post on the site is from April 2012, when they were still building the factory in Kailua, Oahu and sourcing beans from Hawaii and abroad. Here you'll find a great video interviewing Mānoa's young founder, Dylan Butterbaugh, and taking you on a tour of the very small operation. The company has a great mission--among other things, to expand Hawaii's locally-grown cacao industry; thus, Mānoa makes its chocolate bean-to-bar, though as I said, only some of the cacao is from Hawaii. It also uses other Hawaiian ingredients like sea salt and coffee beans, and while the focus here is not crazy flavors, Mānoa makes some bars with goat milk, which I don't think I've seen elsewhere. An intriguing start for a young company! Oh, and in case you're wondering why Mānoa comes out of Kailua and not, well, Mānoa, supposedly it's not about the location.
Today's Bars: 
  • 72% Bolivia Goat Milk: Cacao nibs (presumably Bolivian), cane sugar, goat milk powder, cocoa butter. 
  • 66% Goat Milk Hamakua Hawaiian Crown: Cacao nibs (presumably from Hamakua, on the Big Island), cane sugar, goat milk powder, cocoa butter. 
  • 60% Dark Milk Breakfast Bar: Cacao nibs, cane sugar, whole milk powder, cocoa butter, coffee beans (Hawaiian).
Note: Mānoa Chocolate's product line changes continuously. It routinely uses Hamakua cocoa beans, for example, though based on the website, as of this writing it's only in a 72%, non-milk bar. The Bolivian bar seems to be the current incarnation of the 72% single-origin bar, though I think it always includes goat milk. And the listed goat milk option is still 66%, but with (at least in the photo on the site) Peruvian beans. Either way, you get a fun blend of different milks and non-milks, Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian cacao, and so on.

Appearance: All three are shiny and smooth, in a rich red-brown, and the reverse of the Breakfast Bar is densely sprinkled with nibs and whole coffee beans.

  • 72% Bolivia Goat Milk: Wow that's good, full and rich and beany and fruity, with some rawness, a little sourness, and no bitter or "off" odors.
  • 66% Goat Milk Hamakua Hawaiian Crown: Not unlike the above in terms of the description, but slightly muted and with a higher, nutty note.
  • 60% Dark Milk Breakfast Bar: Even more muted, less raw, with something thin and bitter underneath, though still rich and full. No clear coffee scent.
  • 72% Bolivia Goat Milk: Texture is a little chalky, then melty. Flavor is bright and rounded and a little sour, not goaty at all, but with a little of milk chocolate's smooth, easy-to-eat character and plenty of dark chocolate's punch. 
  • 66% Goat Milk Hamakua Hawaiian Crown: Texture is only slightly chalky and thicker. Flavor is not nearly as strong, with some freshness in the back of the throat and a smooth, sour cream vibe, not as interesting as the 72% Bolivian by my taste but pleasant and still somewhat raw.
  • 60% Dark Milk Breakfast Bar: The texture of the chocolate is, again, chalky and thick, with the soft crunch of the nibs and brittle crunch of the coffee. Flavor is nice, dark but not strong, nutty, without the sourness of the other bars, and just a little coffee from the beans (roughly one bean per rectangle). Not bad, but not my favorite.

Conclusion: To focus on one standout feature: Goat milk complements dark chocolate with the mellowness of dairy but also meshes its sour flavor profile with cacao's raw, sour, beany notes. For that and other reasons, Mānoa Chocolate is a neat addition to the Hawaii chocolate scene.

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