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Hawaii Cacao Farm

Farm to Chocolate Factory Program in Hawaii

The Farm to Chocolate Factory Program is an opportunity to experience the chocolate making process from tree to bar including the business of making chocolate. You’ll be guided by experts Daniel O’Doherty, Max Breen, and Dylan Butterbaugh through this unique, 5 day learning experience that begins on the Maui Ku’ia Estate cacao farm and ends in its state-of-the-art chocolate factory.

Next program: April 25 - 29, 2023

You'll learn about modern best practices in cacao cultivation and post-harvest processing, and how these practices impact bean flavor and quality. On the final day, you’ll step into the state of the art Ku’ia Estate chocolate factory to learn the ins and outs of production, and building a chocolate making business. This program and the expertise that Dan, Max, and Dylan have to share are not to be missed!

Registration fee (does not include travel to and from Lahaina, Hawaii nor accomodations or meals except what is noted in the itinerary):

To hold a seat in this popular program, payment of $1,500.00 US is due no later than March 15, 2023.

If you are ready to register, please read the What more do I need to know? section below first, then click:


Registration fee includes:

On the farm training and instruction with:
Cacao farming and post-harvest experts: Daniel O'Doherty and Max Breen, and Chocolate-making expert: Dylan Butterbaugh
4 lunches, including farewell lunch
Welcome dinner
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. Book early with cancellation option as Hawaii has become a very popular destination because of the Pandemic.
Any meals and transportation not specified in itinerary

We love these videos from Maui Ku'ia Estate that introduce you to the farm:

And take you through the factory where the section of the program on chocolate making will take place.

Cacao nursery
Cacao pod
cacao tree

5 day program

This hands-on program starts at the Maui Ku’ia Estate cacao farm (see the patch of green up the hill in the photo above), where you’ll dive headfirst into cacao planting, protecting, harvesting, fermenting, and drying. You’ll understand how each of these processes impact the flavor and quality of the beans, and ultimately the chocolate that is made from them.

You'll spend the last day of the program in the Ku’ia Estate chocolate factory that Dan was instrumental in designing from concept to production. You will learn about how they have set up their machinery and production and the pros and cons of different options. You will understand their entire chocolate making process, and how they are building a chocolate company and brand, including marketing and distribution.

Program itinerary:

**Legend for meals included in your tour:
L=Lunch, D=Dinner

* 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. Note that the program starts early in the morning so you are not out on the farm in the heat of the afternoon which can be quite intense on this coast of Maui.

Tuesday: D

Independent arrivals on Maui. 4:30 PM arrival at the farm (instructions will be provided) for Orientation with Dan and Max, followed by Welcome Dinner.

Wednesday to Friday: L

8:00 AM arrival at the farm. We will spend the morning working on the Farm with Dan and Max. Mid-morning snack. Lunch with tasting and discussion of the day's learning experience. Approximately 2:00 PM wrap-up. Free afternoons for naps and nights for dinner.

Saturday: L

8:00 AM arrival at the Ku'ia estate factory. We will spend the morning focused on chocolate making at the factory with Dylan, Dan and Max. Mid-morning snack. Farewell Lunch. Approximately 2:00 PM wrap-up. Free night for dinner or independent departures.

What more do I need to know?

Please check the Hawaii - PLANNING YOUR VISIT AND PRE-DEPARTURE to make sure you have the right paperwork and vaccinations to enter Hawaii. To protect our participants and instructors, we will require registrants to provide proof of full vaccination for Covid-19 upon confirmation of the program.

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 book your accommodation (with cancellation option) when you register BUT wait to book your flight to Hawaii until we confirm that the minimum number of students have registered.

Program certificate:

Students completing the program will receive a digital Ecole Chocolat Certificate of Achievement.

Cracking cocoa pods

What our graduates have to say

"Both Dan and Dyan brought incredible knowledge to the table. I learned so much about the process and have a huge respect for how both cultivation and chocolate making came together. The hands-on experience of harvesting, fermentation and drying was truly the highlight of this experience. I have a new perspective with the highest respect for the cacao industry and value the knowledge learned throughout the whole experience.” Sara, 2022 Graduate

"The class was awesome. We are still talking about all we learned! The science behind what Dan and Dylan are doing to make cacao a commercial crop on the islands is fascinating and Dylan's insights into craft chocolate making are phenomenal. Having now experienced the steps involved in tree to bar chocolate gives us more confidence when discussing our product with our customers. Also, the connections made during the week were fantastic. " Anthony & Desiree, 2022 Graduate

"5***** I could not imagine having a more immersive experience learning the bean to bar process than this course offered. All our senses were utilized! I was very appreciative of the time and knowledge Dan, Dylan and their coworkers shared with us. Excellent Instructors. Excellent environment! Highly recommend." Ilonka, 2022 Graduate

Cancellation policy:

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.

Your Instructors

Daniel O'Doherty

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.

Manoa Chocolate

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.

Max Breen

Max Breen - Cacao Services

Max is a Senior Consultant and Agronomist at Cacao Services, Inc. based on the island of Oahu. Before making cacao his focus, Max served as a sustainable agriculture Peace Corps volunteer in Panama. While pursuing a Master of Science in tropical agriculture at the University of Hawaii, Max worked in research and extension to serve cacao growers across the state. His current responsibilities at Cacao Services, Inc. include consulting for cacao growers in Latin America, Africa, and Hawaii.

About Maui Ku‘ia Estate

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.

Back to list of our other Graduate Chocolate Programs

Images from the Program

Harvesting cacao

Harvesting cacao pods.

lesson on growing cacao

Lesson on growing cacao.

cacao pod harvest

Gathering the cacao pods.

cracking cacao pods

We get cracking.

cacao fermentation boxes

Cacao beans go into fermentary.

Cacao fermentation temperature

Taking the temperature of the fermentation.

covering the cacao fermentary

Placing a layer of banana leaves.

cacao bean fermentary

Tucked in for overnight sleep.

cacao drying

Testing the cacao beans in the drier by eye.

cocoa bean roaster

Ku'ia Estate Factory Roaster.

chocolate ball mills

Chocolate ground in ball mills.

chocolate tempering machine

Tweaking the chocolate tempering machine.

chocolate packaging machine

Bright yellow packaging machine.

chocolate squares

Ku'ia Estate chocolate squares.

Want to see more photos from the program? Just search #ecmaui on Instagram

Get reminders about upcoming classes! To receive program updates and news, click the link below.

Photography by Jessica Washburn, Bliss Chocolatier and Ecole Chocolat

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