While visiting the Garden Island of Kauai, escape the traffic in downtown Kapaa and drive up to Steelgrass Chocolate Farm nestled in the hills above on Kauai’s Coconut Coast. You will enjoy a 3 hour chocolate farm and botanical garden tour
which is spread over 3 acres consisting of 25 types of palm trees, 30 varieties of fruit trees, 24 types of hardwood & flowering trees, 24 different tropical flowering plants, 26 varieties of bamboo and 13 Hawaiian plants. Our tour guide was really funny, high energy and most of all, very informed on all of the plants, foods and gardens. Steelgrass Farm tour is educational and fun! Sample 10 varieties of the finest chocolate and up to 20 types of tropical fruit depending on what’s in season. I have lived on Kauai for 12 years and still never heard of, much less tasted, many of the fruits which were available during the tour. This is a family-friendly, interactive tour and involves a bit of walking. There is a vehicle available to transport guests who have difficulty with walking on some of the steep parts of the trail. Be prepared to touch, smell and sample produce along the way.
As you arrive at the beautiful farm, staff will be present to assist with parking vehicles. I highly recommend bringing your own bottled water as it can get hot and there is a bit of walking involved. Definitely bring a camera! The grounds are absolutely breathtaking and a great place to snap a few family photos along the way. Much of the trail is shaded which is nice and there was a breeze the day we toured; however, it is a great idea to apply sunblock beforehand. Bug spray, all natural of course, is provided throughout the tour.
I thought it was fascinating to learn that Hawaii is the only state where chocolate trees grow. In the beginning of the tour, we sampled a stick of sugar cane (KO in Hawaiian) served with a Tahitian lime wedge to rub on the cane before indulging. It was so good and not overly sweet or splintery.
Next, we followed our tour guide 400 feet along a shaded trail passing rare black bamboo, papyrus plants, exotic orchids, vanilla vines and much more. I stopped to take pictures along the way. The guide stopped in front of most of the tress, plants and fruits to talk about what they were, where they originated from and where are they found today. There’s nothing more refreshing than stopping along the trail, in the shade to sample fresh lychee! Yum! In the picture at the top of the page, you will see the watermelon radish which is gorgeous to look at. The taste is intense, as most radishes are, but the Kauai red salt on top took away that strong bite and we went back for more! The funny thing was to watch some of the people on the tour actually eat the radish slice like a watermelon, leaving the green outer rim. I highly recommend using this radish, thinly sliced in a garden salad. Plus, it is just gorgeous to look at. The colors are so vibrant.
The tour guide led the group to an area in the middle of the botanical garden with benches to sit down and listen to the presentation. He described the various fruits and then passed them around while he spoke about them. Guests were encouraged to ask questions and come up for seconds. It was a true paradise in the garden. Nice and cool and every time the wind swept through, you could see and hear the trees swaying.
There were some rather unusual fruits to sample on the tour. One of my favorites was the soursop AKA Custard Apple. Not exactly an appetizing name, but it was surprisingly very sweet and soft. The next fruit which was equally unusual was an Ice Cream Bean which many people on the tour were familiar with. The Ice Cream Bean was almost a furry, fuzzy-like texture but the flavor was sweet. I really appreciated seeing what the fruit looked like with the skin on prior to seeing it cut up. Now when I go to local farmer’s markets, I will know what the fruits are and how they taste.
Ice Cream Bean
The fruit that just blew me away was the Chiku AKA Sapodilla. I have not seen, heard of, nor tasted this fruit before. It looks a little unappetizing, brown and mushy but tastes like apples marinated in cinnamon. I couldn’t believe it! There are so many more fruits that we sampled during the tour such as longan, starfruit, guava, jabong, Ka’u orange, acerola cherry AKA Vitamin-C Tree, lilikoi and dragonfruit. The nice thing is that each guest will leave with a print out of what fruits and chocolates were included in the tour. Then you can go home and research the areas and seasons the fruits can be found in.
Presentation in the garden
The tour is called CHOCOLATE FARM tour, so let’s shift gears and start talking about chocolate. The chocolate portion of the tour takes place after the fruit & farm tour. The guide handed us off to a member of the Lydgate family who is the farm owner and well versed in the process of International chocolate production. First, he talks about the cacao plant, then breaks one off of the tree, cuts it open for everyone to see and passes it around. Did you know that cacao has the highest concentration of antioxidants in any familiar food? Yes, more than broccoli, alfalfa spouts, plums, spinach, acai berries and even kale! Milk chocolate contains 6,740 units per 100 grams and dark chocolate is 13,120 units.
Next, we move over to a covered area where Mr. Lydgate offers an hour-long presentation, along with 10 chocolate tastings from around the world. Each guest is given a sheet to jot down the notes that he/she tastes in each chocolate such as dried herbs, earthy, roasted, molasses, honey, berries, caramel, woody, citrus, etc. At the end of the presentation, the chocolate types are revealed. It is similar to wine tasting. A children’s tent is available with activities such as tattoos and coloring for those who don’t want to sit for an hour. All of the chocolates are gluten-free and do not contain any nuts. The presentation was very educational, learning that chocolate made with high cacao % is actually much healthier than the fillers used in the store-bought milk chocolate candies. Most of the chocolates in the tasting contained 60%+ of cacao and many of them were more than 70% cacao. The milk chocolate contained 50% and the white chocolate is 32%. We learned about which chocolates are commonly used by pastry chefs and why. We learned why some chocolates are gritty while others are not. There are a total of 13 samples of chocolate between the tasting tent and the welcome tent. At the end of the tour, there is an opportunity to purchase some of the local chocolates and other products. You can also find cacao nibs which are bits of the cacao bean that can be added to salads and used in various other recipes. In fact, they provide a free recipe book for the nibs. Unfortunately, the Steelgrass chocolate bars are not available on-line nor sold anywhere else. If you enjoyed the Steelgrass chocolate samples, be sure to purchase them at the farm!!!!
The chocolate farm tour is available M, W & Friday for $75 per person, 12 & under free. Reservations are required. Call (808) 821-1857 or visit firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.