Ocean Vodka Tour, Maui

Hawaii Sea Spirits

Hawaii Sea Spirits

IMG_3049Setting out for a day of exploration on Maui, we stumbled upon Ocean Vodka. Our guide at the Surfing Goat Dairy tour informed us that Ocean Vodka Distillery was located next door. Hawaii Sea Spirits has created Ocean Vodka and, more recently, Wave Rum which was introduced in September 2013. The first thing you will notice when pulling into the 80 acre property is the still distillation with columns soaring to 60-feet.

Sugar Cane

Sugar Cane

The tour starts off as guests take a seat on the picnic tables overlooking the gorgeous grounds while the guide describes the hand processing of the 27 different native Polynesian varietals of sugar cane grown on property. Ocean Vodka is grown in volcanic soil and certified organic, which means the sugar cane is pesticide and herbicide free. Consumers can find Ocean Vodka in 36 states, Washington DC, and Canada.IMG_3050

IMG_3019Next, we walked along side the sugar cane as the guide described how the sugar cane is harvested and the process by which it is added to the vodka. We asked a lot of questions and he was very patient and informative with his answers.

Heading over to the garden area, where an event was taking place later that day, our guide described the distillation process and green manufacturing. The facility opened in 2013 and was designed to support a ten-fold increase in business with opportunity to include whiskies. Notice the solar panels which line the roof of the warehouse. This allows Ocean Vodka to generate 100% of the power that they use and then a little extra for their community.

Warehouse

Warehouse

Take a walk inside the 6,000 square foot solar-powered warehouse and bottling center where you may just spot Master Distiller, Bill Scott, working on production of the spirits.

IMG_3046Sample time!!! Just what we have all been waiting for, sampling of the vodka and rum. What better way to sample than in an outdoor, open air sampling room where the guide explains the art of spirit sampling. We were fascinated by the process in which the vodka is made with deep, ocean mineral water.

Gift Shop

Gift Shop

At the end of the tour, IMG_3307wander on over to the air-conditioned gift shop to pick up your complementary shot glass souvenir. You will also find Ocean Vodka logo wear, Vodka, truffles and other fun gifts.

First, sample the water and then move onto the vodka and rum. During your spirit sampling, take small sips to allow the flavors and smoothness to set in. I found the second and third sip to be much less intense than the first. Enjoy!IMG_3030

The family friendly tour is $10 per person. Tour includes a sample of vodka and rum or a truffle for those under 21. Complementary shot glass souvenir. Call 808-807-0009 for more information.

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Steelgrass Chocolate Farm Tour, Kauai

Watermelon Radish

Watermelon Radish

IMG_0791While 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

Papyrus

Papyrus

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.

Sugar Cane

Sugar Cane

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.

Walking tour

Walking tour

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.

Lychee

Lychee

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.

Soursop

Soursop

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.

Chiku

Chiku

Ice Cream Bean

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

Presentation in the garden

Cacao Trees

Cacao Trees

cacao pod

cacao pod

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!!!!

Local Chocolates

Local Chocolates

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 info@steelgrass.org for more information.