Tea Made From Cacao: Nothing Goes to Waste at Mānoa Chocolate Hawai‘i

This Kailua bean-to-bar chocolate company turns its leftover cacao bean shells into tea.
Photos: Diane Lee


We recently went on our first chocolate factory tour to Mānoa Chocolate Hawai‘i in Kailua, where we discovered a sinful, very local treat: chocolate tea.


That’s right, tea made from chocolate. Chocolate tea is a byproduct of the candy manufacturing process. The roasted cacao shells are separated from their nibs using a winnower powered by a power drill. Most chocolate-makers keep the nibs to make chocolate and throw away the brittle shells. However, Mānoa Chocolate packages and sells those leftovers as “chocolate tea.” So far, it’s been a hit with customers.


“I feel like we’re selling more tea than chocolate,” jokes Dylan Butterbaugh, owner of Mānoa Chocolate.


For $5, a 4-ounce bag of loose cacao shells comes with tiny pieces of nibs. You’d brew it as you normally would with coffee grounds or loose leaf tea. The leftover cacao shells look like dark brown pencil shreds—not exactly appetizing—until you steep it in hot water. And, surprisingly, it tastes like black tea with a subtle hint of chocolate—it’s refreshing!


Don’t like the aftereffects of caffeine in coffee or herbal tea? This beverage might be for you. Butterbaugh says there’s only a small amount of a caffeine-like stimulant called theobromine. He says it’s like an aphrodisiac.


Butterbaugh, who has a degree in sustainable development, says he didn’t want to see anything go to waste. His business churns out between 15 and 20 pounds of cacao shells every week. When a customer called asking if they had Choffy—a brand of hot beverage made from ground cacao—Butterbaugh started experimenting. He roasted the shells once more, before brewing some. Butterbaugh says he didn’t like the taste at first, but soon grew fond of the earthy tea flavor.


“Now I drink it every day,” Butterbaugh says.


This Kailua bean-to-bar chocolate company is less than three years old. Today, Mānoa Chocolate works out of a small factory located just above Cinnamon’s Restaurant.


Mānoa Chocolate sources cacao beans from Hāmākua, Waiāhole and Maunawili on the Big Island and Haʻikū on Windward O‘ahu. Because there’s a limited supply of chocolate in Hawai‘i, Mānoa Chocolate also sources beans from Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Liberia, Madagascar and Peru. You can find its products locally at Whole Foods and even abroad in Japan, Belgium, Amsterdam and Quebec.


Will Mānoa Chocolate start selling chocolate tea outside of Hawai‘i? Not yet. The small business is still trying to keep up with the demand locally. Good news for locals folks: Indulge away!


315 Uluniu St., Suite 203, 262-6789, manoachocolate.com.


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