luxuriating in hawaii’s madre chocolate

Recently, someone found my site by asking the following question:

If a chocolate bar was a wish, what chocolate bar would it be?

I would like to suggest that perhaps, just maybe, that chocolate bar would be one of those created by Madre Chocolate. I first learned of Madre from Victoria’s lengthy series of posts on the subject. My interest was caught amongst the seemingly endless torture that was her well-documented trip to Hawaii. But wait a second – hold the phone.

I got to visit Hawaii too ! I ate lots of Spam. I devoured a wonderful Paleta. I visited a crazy set of stairs built for athletes.

And oh, yes – I was able to make a stop at Madre Chocolate as well.


These photos of Hawaii stand out to me, as they are the first film images (other than Polaroids) that I have developed since I lived in France in 2007. It feels comforting to be able to hold negatives in my hands once again.

But back to the nonstop comfort that is Madre Chocolate. I bought a five-pack of bars at their store, because there were only five bars available on the day I visited. Only five ! So sit back, grab a paleta if you have one, and get ready for the fantastic whirlwind that is Madre.


Madre is an interesting company in a few ways. For example, some of their chocolate bars are labeled as “Kokoleka,” and are made with regionally-sourced, Hawaiian-grown cacao. The ultimate in bean to bar.

The first bar I sampled was the hawaiian coconut milk & caramelized ginger bar. As an unnecessary aside, let me mention  how much I enjoy seeing uncapitalized words in important places, such as on the face of a chocolate bar. As an asider aside, let me now mention that I took painstaking care to make sure that all songs, artists, and album titles were uncapitalized in my first iTunes library. Ah yup.

This bar starts with a spicy coconut aroma, and has a soft snap to it. The fresh and well-spiced flavor is much snappier on the palate than its physical feel led me to believe it could be. Taste and texture-wise, the flavor additions dominate the experience of this bar. Despite being a mostly anti-ginger [the food, not the hair color], I found this to be an excellent flavor combination, which paired cleverly with the milky smoothness of the texture. Lingering hits of sharp spice and mellow chocolate rounded out the experience.


The chipotle allspice dark chocolate bar, made with chipotle chiles, xocoxochitl (Aztec for allspice), and chocolate from the CONACADO cooperative in the Dominican Republic, is a terrific smoky kick that never overwhelms, but comes close. It has a smoothness similar to the previous bar, but is not nearly as soft.  This smoothness is well-matched by the slow spicy burn at the back of the palate.

The bar contains vanilla and bergamot oil as well; if I think hard enough, I can almost make out a taste reminiscent of Earl Grey tea.

There’s a lot of goodness to be found here: bergamot is a homeopathic remedy for depression and digestion, and chiles are appetite suppressants and pain relievers. Eat a lot of this bar and you will be happy, and pain- and hunger-free.


The hibiscus dark chocolate bar is another in the line of Dominican CONACADO-sourced cacao, containing bergamot oil as well. More important here is the incorporation of hibiscus flowers, which dominate the experience of this bar in a wonderful way.

From the delightfully fresh snap of the block, to the sweet and enticing floral aroma, to the tangy and juicy flavor profile, this bar is a treat. I was impressed by the difference between scent and taste, and was also glad to have taken the time to enjoy the sweetness of the aroma, as it didn’t come through strongly in the tasting experience.

This bar is billed as a refreshing and antioxidant-rich chocolate. I agree fully that it tastes refreshing, but would also add that it is quite a delicious experience. While not as in-your-face as the coconut milk & caramelized ginger bar, the hibiscus bar offers a thorough appreciation of Dominican cacao’s earthy flavor profile.


Fancy more of that single origin Hawaiian-grown cacao? Get a straight-up fix with Madre’s 70% Hawaiian dark chocolate bar, made from beans grown on the Hamakua coast on the Big Island.

This bar has a bitterly tangy and enticing aroma, reminiscent of coffee. Once again I am shocked at the difference between aroma and taste – there is no bitterness to be found on the palate. The chocolate is very smooth, melting softly, and offering a bit of tang only when allowed to linger. When eaten quickly, the end notes take on a smoky hue.

Bar after bar, I am impressed by what Madre Chocolate has put together.


The final bar in this delicious quintet is the pink peppercorn smoked salt dark chocolate bar, also made with 70% Hawaiian-grown cacao. See those pink flecks in the image above? Beautiful.

Both the peppercorns and the salt used to flavor this bar are Hawaiian-grown as well – a tribute to the great bounty of edibles available across the islands.

The bar has an intoxicatingly peppery aroma that is interspersed with a sweet floral essence. The saltiness is brought forth immediately upon tasting, and works nicely to mellow out the intense pepper. As the salt fades out, the pepper remains, but feels so multifaceted in flavor that to just label it as pepper seems wrong.

I’ve tried quite a few pepper and salt bars before, but none have truly impressed me before this one. The tastiness here originates in the pink peppercorn, or ‘Christmas berry,’ plant. Native to Brazil, the plant is invasive in Hawaii (what is an island? who is Brazil?). Therefore, do your part to eradicate invasives – which, perhaps sadly, isn’t very probable – by eating a few of these bars.


Madre Chocolate {an amazing array of creative, inspired chocolate bars}

20-A Kainehe St
Kailua, HI 96734


Hours: Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 9h00-18h00 – call to confirm hours.

Shop online or purchase from any of these fine purveyors. Find them on facebook or follow them on twitter. So many links !


26 thoughts on “luxuriating in hawaii’s madre chocolate

  1. I love the film shots. Every time I read your chocolate thoughts I feel like I have so much to learn about chocolate (and I want to spend every last dime I make on chocolates).

    1. sarah, each time you comment and tell me you want to learn about chocolate, I am fueled to do continual “research” and write heaps and heaps more for you. And the vicious circle continues, but I’m happy for this burden;)

      At least spend a few dimes !

  2. The only things that looks better than the chocolate bar are the shots of the beach. Someday maybe in another life, I will get to see Hawaii. For now, I will just look out at the brown grass of a warm North Dakota winter and look at your wonderful photos. Fun!

    1. lucindalines, it’s a brown grass winter here in Maine, too. Pretty gross, where’s my snow at??!

      I long for the beach, too. It was a fluke that I was able to go to Hawaii, so maybe such luck will happen your way at some time in the future:)

  3. Man, the ginger, chipotle, and pink peppercorn ones sound most appealing to me! Love how they mold and package everything.

    About lowercase, I noticed how you kept my blog title lowercase in your blogroll. :) And yay for film! It’s like you took a trip back with the Polaroids and are working your way back to the future.

    1. Jessica, they all sound most appealing to me:P

      Love me some lowercase – depending on the font, I can enjoy a good capitalized letter every so often… but rarely:)

      Working my way – – back to the future, you say?

      Film?? Where we’re going, we don’t need film! Couldn’t resist my favorite BTTF quote (caps required here:)

  4. Yum! I went to HI in 2004 and was so impressed with the offerings of the island. I’m going to check these out!

    1. thecoastallivingmom, I definitely was, too. I wish I could have traveled to other islands, but alas, I was only there for a week.

      For sure check Madre out, they’re well worth the time and effort !

  5. Happy New Year to you Emma!

    I have to tell you that you inspired me to get off my butt and get another poloroid. Just bought it on Ebay and fingers are crossed that it works.

    And now you are shooting film again – you are rocking it old school and I love it!
    And of course your musing on delicious Hawaiian Chocolate are making me so hungry;)


    1. Erin, happy new year to you as well !

      I’m so pleased to hear that you purchased another Polaroid:) I’m gearing up to buy some new film, but would love to have an instant camera that is nicer than the one I currently own…

      But yes, film of any kind is a delight, I’m so glad to be getting back into it. Now to find an enlarger and get back to making prints !

  6. I could look at your photos all day…more, more, more!
    Love the look of these bars. Very pretty…wheeeeeeeeeee!

    1. Mum Mum Mum, you must wait wait wait! I’m glad you were able to find a computer screen that didn’t make all of my images dark and depressing:)

      Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeee, we saw some pretty scenery today. Also some interesting accommodations ! I’ll tell you more about it when I’m less sleepy. Weeeeeeeee xo xo

  7. Love this post! I grew up in Hawaii and go back to visit my family every year, but hadn’t heard of Madre Chocolate. Don’t think my relatives know about it either. Thanks for all the enticing descriptions. I’ll definitely have to taste for myself next time I’m in the islands :).

    1. jama, how very lucky to have grown up in a place of such stunning natural beauty – I’m envious !

      Do try these next time you’re on home turf, you will love them. They’re a bit pricey, but they’re such an experience. There are many more flavors to choose from as well:)

  8. Would you believe I became so excited by the creativeness of the coconut milk and ginger chocolate that I completely forgot for a few moments that I avoid crystallized ginger like the plague! (And I used the “z” instead of the Aussie “s” there just for you, because I care.)

    I’ve had pink peppercorn chocolate before and found myself preferring chilli as a heat source, but you do make this sound lovely. And where shall the next overseas conference be, my dear!

    1. Hannah, Being so normally against crystallised (ooh, weird) ginger myself, I was so pleased with this bar. The coconut milk was so creative, and even more delicious.

      And the pink peppercorn was made all the more lovely by the beautiful pink flecks that studded the bar. What an experience, it just seemed so exotic.

      I don’t think there are any conference in my near future, as I’ll be exiting the world of academia for an indeterminate period of time. But heads up, I know where I’m moving soon. It is so far removed from big cities that the only way I can think to convince you to visit is that it’s closer to Québec City than anywhere else;)

      1. We’re so linguistically kind to each other.

        Emma! “[T]he only way I can convince you to visit”?! *You yourself* are the only way needed to convince me to visit! (That made no sense, but I’m fairly certain I can trust you to understand.) Timing of hypothetical trip has changed; I’m so hoping I can fit everything in! Hopefully you’re not going to be toooo far away!!

        1. It is exceedingly removed. But as a fellow Honda driver, I am happy to utilize my car whenever possible to get wherever works for anyone. Even if hypothetical trip timing has changed!

          Linguistics are my business;) Or no, more like my hobby.

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