Until we had mature trees producing cacao pods, our time and effort was directed at maintaining and developing the farm. Ripe cacao pods changed that.
We were already about eight years into the adventure and didn't yet know if our beans could make be made into good chocolate. We resolved that uncertainty by sending 22# of freshly harvested beans by air to Oahu for processing by Madre Chocolate Company. After waiting "forever" for Madre to ferment, dry, and process the dried beans, we got the verdict: "good..fruity" chocolate!
We purchased table-top processing equipment, a small wine cooler to store our nibs and finished bars in, and went about trying to make chocolate in our condo kitchen. Unfortunately, despite adding a window air conditioner and a shower curtain partition to provide some temperature and humidity control, we had little success. We knew the high temperature and humidity on Kauai could be problematic. You might say we "confirmed" this with our first efforts to convert dried beans into chocolate...
In addition, if we didn't process our chocolate in a certified, commercial kitchen, we'd not be able to legally market it. Thus began a search for a suitable, certified, kitchen near the farm. The search was...fruitless. We'd have to either move an existing structure to the farmland or build one on site.
Costs of construction on Kauai are astronomical..so we looked for something that could be moved to the farm. We explored several possibilities over the course of two to three years. All were expensive and none of them would be certifiable as commercial kitchens...we'd have to build a chocolate factory.
Finding an architect..and then a builder was the next major hurdle. We ran several dead-ends..all the while eating up time and forcing us to store the chocolate nibs we'd been producing in the small wine cooler in our living room. Before long we would not be able to put another bag of nibs in the cooler..and still no factory.
Finally we found an architect, a "local boy", who knew a builder who'd also grown up on Kauai. This was the magic we'd needed. We sat down with the architect and laid out our dream plan. We needed a prep room, an office space/living quarters, restroom, storage space and, most importantly a well insulated, air conditioned, de-humidified kitchen that met Health Department standards for certification. Easy, right? Of course not!
It turned out nobody had ever built a certified commercial kitchen on farm property before. A year had passed by the time we were able to obtain the precious building permit..that included a requirement for a special septic system (that could service a large restaurant)...and septic systems don't come cheap. Oh well...
We broke ground on April 13, 2018 (one day before the Great Flood that devastated Kauai's north shore) and finished construction, complete with Health Department certification, on December 14, 2018. It was all we'd hoped for! NOW we could make chocolate. Check out The HouLau Process for more on this.