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Is chocolate good for you? According to Debbie Williamson, owner of Wild Kauai Chocolate, the answer is a wholehearted “yes.”
“Anything made with love is healthy,” Williamson said with the same unbridled enthusiasm she has shown for all her professional designations, from aromatherapist and songwriter/lyricist to yoga teacher and raw food chef.
Williamson now channels her passion into helping people learn how to make chocolate. With her husband, Mark, and business partner, Kellie Lin Knott, she opened Wild Kauai in 2017 as way of connecting clients not only to chocolate, but also to Kauai’s future.
“Hawaii is the only state in the U.S. where cacao can grow and flourish,” Williamson said. “Cacao has the potential to reinvigorate Kauai's agricultural economy in a big way. We help our guests learn about a crop that is becoming ever more important to Hawaii as they create something luscious to take home for friends and family to enjoy.”
Chocolate-Making WorkshopWild Kauai’s Build a Bar workshop takes place in its Kapaa headquarters, on Kauai’s east side. Measuring just 275 square feet, it’s a remarkably productive space thanks to Williamson’s ultra-efficiency.
The experience begins as participants sample tastes of Wild Kauai’s six different types of bars. The first three feature 70%, 85% and 100% chocolate, while the other three are enhanced with either peppermint and matcha, island-made coffee or local granola.
Then, it’s time to get hands-on. Wearing plastic gloves, clients will learn how to temper thick, molten chocolate by scraping it back and forth on a counter. Once it reaches the optimum temperature, they take turns spooning the chocolate into bar-shaped molds.
Next, each guest will get two molds to customize; they can choose from more than 30 flavorful ingredients — including blueberries, coconut, ginger, hemp, potato chips, rose petals and sea salt — and essential oils, such as basil, black pepper, lavender, lemon and red mandarin.
Exploring the ShopAfter putting everyone’s molds in the refrigerator, Williamson leads the group around the shop and describes the steps involved in chocolate-making, starting with the cacao itself.
“Our beans come from Ecuador and Indonesia, with a small amount from Kauai,” she said. “In time, however, we hope to work primarily with Hawaii-grown beans.”
Williamson roasts beans in tabletop-size drums, listening patiently to make sure that not a single bean burns; it’s a process similar to making popcorn in the microwave.
“That’s one of several ways I can guarantee that my chocolate will taste good,” she said.
A winnowing machine then separates the roasted beans into husks — which are saved and used for Wild Kauai’s cacao tea — and nibs, which are transferred into grinders for 24 hours. At just the right moment, organic sugar is sprinkled into the smooth mixture, which is then aged.
“Loads of people make chocolate,” Williamson said, “but it’s your process that makes it unique, like what type of beans you use or how much sugar you add.”
Sweet SouvenirsAt the end of a tour, Williamson returns to the refrigerator and removes the guests’ hardened, molded bars, which clients can then wrap with gold paper before heading out the door with delectable keepsakes of their bean-to-bar experience.
“We want Kauai visitors to learn about the unique and fun process — involving both art and science — that goes into people-crafted chocolate,” Williamson said. “Most importantly, we want them to have a great time while making delicious memories.”
For clients interested in taking their education to the next level, Wild Kauai offers an in-depth, four- or eight-day chocolate school, during which students can become certified chocolate makers.
It sounds like the perfect excuse for a Kauai vacation.
- Build a Bar workshops for clients ages 6 and older are offered Tuesday through Friday for $60 per person.
- Workshops are limited to 12 guests per session.
The DetailsWild Kauai Chocolatewww.wildkauaichocolate.com