The Cacao Experience in Hawaii is an opportunity to join Daniel O'Doherty and Dylan Butterbaugh for an intense but fun hands-on learning experience at the Maui Ku‘ia Estate cacao farm. You will gain a deeper understanding of modern best practices in cacao cultivation and post-harvest processing, and how this impacts bean flavor and quality. Be ready to dive headfirst into cacao planting, protecting, harvesting, fermenting and drying over four days of immersion in the processes.
Registration fee (does not include travel to and from Lahaina, Hawaii nor accomodations or meals except what is noted in the itinerary):
$1850 US per participant
Registration will open in Winter 2020. Would you like to be notified when registration opens for this program?
Registration fee includes:
4 lunches, including farewell lunch
On the farm training and instruction with:
Cacao farming and post-harvest expert: Daniel O'Doherty
Chocolate-making expert: Dylan Butterbaugh
Bottled water and snacks on the farm
Program does not include:
On Maui transportation and accommodation - we felt participants would prefer to make their own arrangements as there is so much choice in Lahaina, Maui
Any meals and transportation not specified in itinerary
We will spend our days on the cacao farm learning best practices in genetics, planting, pruning, harvesting, drying and fermentation for the best in fine flavor cacao.
At Maui Ku‘ia Estate, owner Gunars Valkirs, is slowly building out 30 arcres of cacao in 10 acre parcels at a time. With the help of O'Doherty, thousands of cacao tree seedlings have been planed amid experimental windbreak and canopy trees to find just the right combination to promote optimum growth and health. “I’m taking my time, building a forest,” he says. “I’m hoping that Lahaina can produce really great flavor. It has rich, agricultural soil.” Terroir is important, but Valkirs thinks choosing the right cacao varietal is the key to exceptional chocolate, so he and O'Doherty have planted many different types of cacao.
**Legend for meals included in your tour:
* Itinerary subject to change. Every effort will be made to keep the itinerary as it appears here. However, the final itinerary may vary due to schedules, availability and factors beyond our control.
Independent arrivals on Maui. 4:00 PM arrival at the farm (instructions will be provided) for Orientation followed by Welcome Dinner.
Tuesday - Thursday: L
7:00 AM arrival at the farm. We will spend the morning working on the Farm. Mid-morning snack. Lunch with tasting and discussion of the day's learning experience. Approximately 1:00 PM wrap-up. Free afternoons for naps and nights for dinner.
8:00 AM arrival at the farm. We will spend the morning working on the Farm. Mid-morning snack. Farewell Lunch. Approximately 2:00 PM wrap-up. Free night for dinner or independent departures.
This program is delivered in English.
Program participants must be 17 years of age or older. Also note that the program involves a lot of physical labor so good mobility and strength is important. Handicapped access is not available.
Our minimum requirement for this program to run is 6 students and the maximum is 12 students. You'll want to wait to book your flight to Hawaii until we confirm that the minimum number of students have registered.
Students completing the program will receive an Ecole Chocolat Certificate of Achievement.
"I really appreciate your school and as a farmer, to for the first time to ever lay my eyes on orchards and fields and trees and pods and fermentation boxes and drying racks was an exceptional opportunity. Thank you again for creating and facilitating it.” James, 2018 Graduate
"It was a wonderful experience and I have learned so much about cacao!" Siripot, 2018 Graduate
Want to know what past graduates have experienced on our program in Hawaii? We are always happy to connect interested students with past graduates. Just send us an email with this request!
Our Ecole Chocolat Gradute Programs only accommodate a limited number of students and are usually full, with a waiting list. As the programs involve a travel component, we need to contact those on the waiting list in enough time so they can make travel arrangements. If you have to cancel, we'll do everything in our power to find a replacement but can't guarantee that we'll be successful. No refunds will be given after 45 days prior to the program start date. Make sure you're totally committed to the program before paying your registration fee. We also suggest that you take out travel insurance when booking your travel to and from the program country, in case of an emergency.
Back to list of our other Graduate Chocolate Programs
Daniel O'Doherty - Cacao Services and Hawaii Cacao Foundation
Dan is owner and President of Cacao Services, Incorporated. After completing a bachelor’s of science in psychology and a master’s of science in botany, he has worked and studied cacao extensively as a University of Hawaii researcher and as a private consultant. After four years of working with cacao growers in the Hawaiian Islands independently and as an agent of the University of Hawaii, Cacao Services, Inc. was formed in 2012. Dan now travels the world of cacao, consulting on all aspects of the cacao industry from blossom to bar.
Dylan Butterbaugh - Manoa Chocolate and Hawaii Cacao Foundation
Mānoa Chocolate Hawaii is a Hawaiian chocolate maker. Founder and Chocolate Maker, Dylan Butterbaugh was born and raised on Oahu. While still in college, Dylan was exposed to small-batch chocolate making at the University of Hawaii where his friend was researching the potential for theobroma cacao cultivation in Hawaii. By lending a hand in the lab and witnessing the process of setting up micro-ferments, roasting beans and tempering bars, he became fascinated with the art and craft of transforming cacao beans into dark chocolate.
Harvesting cacao pods
and more pods
Lesson on growing cacao.
Tasting cacao pulp.
Gathering the cacao pods.
We get cracking.
Cacao beans go into fermentary.
Listening to the fermentation.
Taking the temperature of the fermentation.
Placing a layer of banana leaves.
Tucked in for overnight sleep.
Testing the cacao beans in the drier by smell.
Want to see more photos from the program? Just search #ecmaui on Instagram
Testing the cacao beans in the drier by eye.
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