Tasting Hawaii

Meet the entrepreneurs behind the Aloha State's budding industry, agritourism, and bring an appetite!

Cacao seeds drying in the sun
Roughly half of Hawaii's farms are on the Big Island (which is officially named - though seldom referred to as - "Hawaii"), so with my boyfriend, Noah, I began my tour with a 45-minute flight from Honolulu to Kailua-Kona, the island's center of commerce on the western coast. Kona coffee is the island's best-known crop, renowned for its $20- to $30-a-pound pricetag, but when I realized what else grows there - cacao, tropical fruit, tea - I planned a road trip that would expose us to the full range of small farms on the Big Island.

It isn't far to the Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory (originalhawaiianchocolatefactory.com). In our rented car, we drive 15 minutes from Kailua-Kona up the slopes of Hualalai Mountain - an active volcano that last erupted in 1801 - to Bob and Pam Cooper's six-acre farm, where they do everything from growing cacao beans to wrapping their finished chocolate bars. Cacao grows only within 20 degrees of the equator - the majority of the world's cacao is grown in Ivory Coast, Ghana and Indonesia - making the Coopers' product the only American chocolate grown and processed in one location.

The Coopers moved to Hawaii in 1997 from Raleigh, where he managed a country club and she worked in a jewelry store. Both 50, they decided to buy a home overlooking the Kona coast and find work in Hawaii. The property's previous owner had planted cacao, but just as a hobby. Because Hawaii had no chocolate-processing facility, cacao beans had to be shipped to the mainland, making it an unprofitable crop. "Nobody was growing cacao commercially in Hawaii because there was no market," says Bob. With his tiny jury-rigged processing facility, he has changed that. Since they started the business in 2000, the Coopers have sold cacao trees to other Big Island growers, of whom ten to 15 now sell back their harvest.

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Coffee, tea and - geckos The author tours Hawaii's farms, and sees some surprising sights. (more)
Raising 5 kids, 300 pounds of vanilla The Reddekopps are growing a big family and a profitable vanilla business in Hawaii. (more)
Getting buzzed in Hawaii Tasting different types of java on a coffee mill tour. (more)

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Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.