Best of Lei Chic 2012: Open Bar

(Rewind) Manoa Chocolate opens factory, retail store

Lei Chic As we ring in 2013, Lei Chic is taking a look back into our archives and bringing you some of the best stories we published during 2012. Happy New Year!

Originally published on June 12, 2012

The last time you went to a chocolate factory, things didn't go so well.

One kid fell into a river and disappeared down a pipe. Another bit off more than she could chew and ended up blue in the face. And one kid was so salty that she couldn't take home a squirrel, she trashed the place. Talk about a nut job.

We promise, this next place won't be so Dahl.

Introducing Manoa Chocolate's brand new factory and shop, now open in Kailua. Just follow the irresistibly chocolatey aroma up the stairs from Cinnamon's Restaurant (sorry, no flying glass elevator here) and you'll find owner Dylan Butterbaugh, churning out rich, dark bars of the stuff.

Lei Chic He may not don a velvet coat or top hat, but still, the 26-year-old will gleefully show you around his cozy, plantation-style shop, filled with reclaimed wood, a repurposed deck and chests that date back to WWII. To your left: giant bags of cacao beans from Hamakua, Waiahole and Peru, all grown on farms Butterbaugh has visited himself. To your right: an "oompa-loompa"-sized children's stationary bicycle that crushes beans into nibs; a technique he helped develop while working in the cacao lab at the University of Hawaii (chocolate making was kind of an extra-curricular activity.)

And then, there's the chocolate. Bite into a Breakfast Bar and swoon over creamy dark milk Ecuador chocolate topped with roasted Hawaiian coffee beans and cacao nibs. Or warm up to the fruity notes and slow heat of dark milk Peru chocolate with Hawaiian chili pepper.

Peel back the paper wrapper and you'll discover every bar is sealed in biodegradable packaging. Plus, $1 from every bar made with local cacao beans will go toward reforestation in Hawaii.

Consider that a cause for celebration. And a great reason to buy more chocolate.

Now that's the golden ticket.

$8-10 per bar, $42 for a box of six. Manoa Chocolate is located at 315 Uluniu St., Suite 203 in Kailua. For more information, call (808) 343-3040 or visit Manoa Chocolate's website.