Known for its golden pineapples, white sand beaches and righteous surfing, Hawaii can now — thanks to Dylan Butterbaugh — add fine chocolate to its “reasons to visit” list. 

Butterbaugh, the 26-year-old owner of Manoa Chocolate, and his staff, which he affectionately refers to as “oompa loompas,” recently celebrated the grand opening of the factory and store in Kailua, Oahu. The launch, however, certainly isn’t Butterbaugh’s first experience with cacao and chocolate.

At 19, the Kailua native saw cacao for the first time on a surf trip in Indonesia. A few years later, Butterbaugh began experimenting with the process by spending time between classes in the University of Hawaii’s Cacao Lab.

Now, as an established confectioner, Butterbaugh uses cocoa sourced directly from the Dominican Republic, Peru, Ecuador, Samoa and of course, from Hawaii. But to transform cocoa beans into his dark chocolate bars, one of the pieces of equipment Butterbaugh uses — a winnower — is powered by a stationary child’s bicycle. In this manner, the bean-to-bar confectioner aims to offer chocolate that is both premium and sustainable.

While making products such as the Breakfast Bar, a 60% dark chocolate bar with coffee beans and cacao nibs, Butterbaugh strives to limit waste and promote Hawaiian cocoa as a commodity that deserves attention.

That’s pretty sweet, brudda.


Name one of your favorite movies.

The movieSlumdog Millionaire was really good.


Describe your perfect dream vacation.

A year-long surfing trip through Central and South America.


What book are you currently reading?

I have two going right now. One is a chocolate snob book by a woman named Chloe [Editor’s note: The Chocolate Connossiuer by Chloe Doutre-Roussel]. The other is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.


What is your pet peeve?

One of them is when people don’t use their turn signals. Come on people! You know who you are.


I’d give anything to meet:

Hmmm, this is tough because I don’t really care about meeting anyone famous, but I’m going to go with Tupac or Stephen Hawking. Why? Either way it would be a really interesting experience.


The best piece of advice I’ve received:

If you try you may fail, if you don’t, you already have. Also, a person’s character is based on how nice they are to someone who can do nothing for them. Live by these and nothing will stop you.


What excites you most about your job?

Hanging with my oompa loompas, playing music ungodly loud and making amazing dark chocolate.


Aside from a family member, with whom would you most want to be stranded with on a desert island?

 Probably Jesus. Not for any religious reason, but because of his abilities to turn water to wine and to walk on water and carry me off the island. Does the island have waves? Wait, maybe I’ll stay and bring my favorite surfboard shaper.