Chocolate, it hurts so good

It was the most painful chocolate bar. Ever.

It started off innocently enough. I was enjoying an ice cream cone at Sharkey’s Coffee in downtown Hilo a few months ago, when I saw the sign for a chocolate making class over at Tom Sharkey’s farm.

“What a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon.”, I thought. A leisurely stroll through some cacao trees, a little lecture about the history of chocolate, some time in the kitchen molding chocolate. Sure, I’m up for it.

Cacao tree and fruit

Little did I know I would be picking football-sized cacao pods (some as heavy as a newborn baby), then hauling burlap sacks full of these pods up a steep hill and then having to crack them, caveman-like, onto the concrete floor to scoop the slimy seeds out. I really could have used a rubber mallet, but why? I kept thinking to myself, “Atouk zug zug Lana.” (It isn’t everyday that I can reference “Caveman.”)

Ripe cacao pods

Okay yes, I did know I’d be working; Tom did tell me, I just conveniently forgot about it.

Why I am working so hard, you ask? It could be the endless amounts of coffee, chocolate and delicious macadamia nuts that Tom provides while you’re working. I was visibly vibrating from my caffeine overload.

The Girl and the Pod

I’ve never seen my daughter do so much manual labor. She practically faints from exhaustion if she even thinks of cleaning her room, much less picking up hundreds of empty pods and throwing them into a trailer for composting. I think it was a means to an end; chocolate being her favorite food group.

The fermentation begins

Then, there’s the fermentation, roasting, grinding, etc., etc., etc.. It was a truly eye-opening experience. The small-batch artisan chocolate coming out of Tom Sharkey’s kitchen has three ingredients: cacao, sugar, vanilla. That’s it. The work that goes into that small bar of dark chocolate is unbelievable. Hard, manual labor? Yes. Math? Yes. (How else can you calculate a 75% chocolate bar?) Delicious? Absolutely.

The finished product

My legs and arms were a little sore when I got home later that afternoon. The next morning, though, I thought I had been hit by a truck. So much for my relaxing Sunday excursion.

Molding chocolate hearts

Interested in taking this class? Tom offers them about once a month, so email him at for dates and availability. You’ll never look at a Hershey Bar the same again.

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