Monday, July 14, 2014

Review: Madre Hawi, Hawai'i criollo

Richard's Rating: 8.0
chocolate makerMadre
plantationHealani Orchards
cacao treesCriollo
size43g ~ 1.5oz
cocoa solids70%
added fatcocoa butter
other ingredients(none)
list price$11.00
colorlight brown
PANTONE 19-1241
Tortoise Shell
appearancesmooth, raised shapes, image imprints
aromafruit (tropical, date), sweet (marshmallow), roast (cocoa), nut, spice (clove)
snapmedium hard
tastesweet, dried fruit (fig, raisin, date), roast (cocoa), spice (mint, vanilla, anise)
meltmore smooth to creamy
finishsomewhat acidic, slightly tannin
Madre sourced the criollo cacao for Hawi from Healani Orchards on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Hawi contained 70% cocoa solids (organic cacao beans and added organic cocoa butter). The other ingredients were organic sugar and Mexican whole vanilla.

The 1.5 ounce bar was unscored, with raised shapes and imprints of Mayan glyphs interpreted as "ka-ka-u-wa" for cacao. You can read more about these glyphs in The History of Chocolate in Our Logo section of Madre's About Us page.

The bar came wrapped in foil inside a paper sleeve. The best before date on the bar was September 14, 2014.

This chocolate had a remarkably light brown Tortoise Shell (PANTONE 19-1241) color. This is the first time I've seen this particular color of chocolate. The snap was slightly less crisp than most other bars, just into the medium hard range.

Hawi's aroma had both familiar scents of marshmallow sweetness and cocoa roast and uncommon ones of tropical fruit and dates. I also smelled nut and some spice that included clove.

The taste was much sweeter than I expected from 70% cocoa solids. The flavor categories I noticed were roast, fruit, and spice. The roast tasted primarily of cocoa. The fruit was a mix of dried fruits: mostly fig, with some raisin and date. The spices included mint, vanilla, and anise.

The melt was on the boundary between more smooth and creamy. The chocolate had incredible length, with the chocolate flavor consistently lasting more than 60 seconds after the chocolate was gone. Only five of the chocolates in my chocolate review database (of nearly 300 bars) have a length of 60 seconds or longer. The finish was somewhat acidic and slightly tannin.

Overall, this was a great chocolate, with interesting secondary flavors, excellent mouthfeel, and superb length, earning a place on our Best Chocolates Overall. UPDATE: You can again purchase Hawi online for $11.00 directly from Madre's Square shopping site.


  1. So much flavour from the cacao despite the added vanilla! What do you think of vanilla added to chocolate? It almost seems a shame considering the use of good quality beans

    1. Hi Harmony. Thanks for the comment.

      There are two general philosophies about adding vanilla to chocolate. The purists think chocolate should be made from cacao beans and a sweetener (typically cane sugar). Many of those add cocoa butter to facilitate production and/or improve texture. The vanilla advocates, such as Art Pollard, who crafts the wonderful chocolate of Amano, argue that small amounts of vanilla act as a flavor enhancer rather than a flavoring.

      Neither group, nor anyone I know in the artisan chocolate community promotes adding enough vanilla to overwhelm the underlying flavors of the cacao. Heavy roasts and excess vanilla are common, however, in commercial chocolate production in order to create a more consistent (and less interesting) flavor.

      As for myself, while I philosophically like the ideal goal of purer chocolate, my ratings are based on the qualities of the final product and not on the ingredients. When small amounts of vanilla are used, I frequently can't taste it. Of course, ingredients are important, too, which is why I include them in the reviews.

    2. Wow, an inspiring reply. I love learning new things about fine chocolate (regarding vanilla enhancing the flavour)