When I’m planning our trips, we’ve been married long enough for me to know the things that will be a definite yes or absolute no. As I pitched this excursion during our time on Kauai to Sharon, I was 99% sure that she’d be in. So I had no hesitation in asking, “Do you want to go on a tour of a chocolate farm?”
The response of “There’s a Hawaiian chocolate farm?” meant I now had to fit this into our itinerary. I have to mention that I never would have known about this opportunity if it hadn’t been for the Kauai Revealed guidebook.
Of the two options, we went for the tour of Lydgate Farms. Located in the mountains to the northwest of Wailua, the chocolate farm is at the end of a residential street. Don’t be surprised if you think you’re on the wrong road while on your way to the tour.
It was about a 45-minute drive to get to the farm from the Grand Hyatt Kauai. We already experienced the traffic on Kauai’s one-lane roads so we left early so we’d arrive on time.
When checking in, we were offered hand sanitizer and insect spray, as we’d be walking around the farm on the tour. We were also told to use the restroom inside if needed as there were no facilities when on the tour.
While meeting our guides, we were given samples of the award-winning Lydgate Farms chocolate. This was mainly to tell the difference between the milk and dark chocolate and this one with cocoa nibs.
From the entry, we started our walk around the farm. Our first stop was a tree that had vanilla beans growing inside.
Our guide Mel (short for Melanie) told us how the farm grows real vanilla beans, which they dry and sell. Even though the ones on the tree were past prime and for display, you could smell the vanilla.
As we talked some more, Will, the current manager of the farm, came to meet the tour. He showed off one of the rare species they grow on the property. Picking off a leaf from a kaffir lime tree, he offered a smell to everyone on the tour. If you’re a fan of Southeastern Asian (Thai or Vietnamese) food, you know how rare it is to find this outside of that region.
From here, we walked through the property past a field of papyrus plants. That’s the plant you learned about in school that the Egyptians used to make the first paperlike product.
We also learned that Hawaiians also learned how to take one of their local plants and turn it into a fabric which they then stamped with symbols.
Finally, we reached the chocolate. Or so we thought.
These pods hanging off the trees do have chocolate, or more correctly cacao inside. But it’s nothing like we think of a candy bar.
Mel cracked open one of the fruits and showed us what was inside. She then offered us to take a taste.
Once you got past the slimy mouthfeel, it had a similar taste as if you were chewing a coffee bean. More tart than sweet. Not great but not terrible. And certainly not anything like chocolate as we know it in its final form.
At this point of the tour, we were also given samples of several local fruits grown on Kauai. Everything from bananas like you’ve never tasted and blood oranges that weren’t red (they require low temperatures to change color) to more exotic options. Guests were encouraged to finish all of the samples so come to the tour hungry.
We then went to a tent to learn more about how chocolate is made. How the fruit is dried, processed and eventually becomes what we know as chocolate.
The final part of the tour was what everyone was waiting for, the chocolate tasting.
The first options were the chocolates made by Lydgate Farms. Our favorite was a 75% dark chocolate made with Koloa Rum. The cocoa is soaked in rum for days before it’s removed and used to make the chocolate. The leftover rum is used by a local company to make chocolate rum (more on that one later.)
We also tried samples of other chocolates, including a 100% baking chocolate, which brought back memories of when you found this in the cabinet and snuck a cube before realizing what a mistake you made.
One of the biggest revelations of the tour was when Mel brought out the “white” chocolate.
While many on the tour shuddered at the idea, she explained that the reason people hate while chocolate is that they’ve never tried the real thing.
After trying the Valhrona “Dulcey” White Chocolate, we were converts. It has the same mouth feel as regular chocolate, just not the bitter parts. We liked it so much that we bought a bag from the gift shop.
Like most of the activities in Hawaii, the Lydgate Chocolate Farm tour isn’t cheap. Tickets are $125 for adults and $95 for children 7-12. Currently, there’s only one 3-hour tour daily at 9 AM and tours usually sell out to capacity. We booked about 1 month in advance and some dates were already sold out.
Since Sharon and I are fans of unusual tourist attractions, this one was right up our alley. Not to mention we got to eat our full of chocolate and Hawaiian goodies along the way.
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