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Sep 27, 2022

Origin Trip: Hawaii – Part I

Alooooooo-hah, readers!

At the start of September, two seven-team-member Dandelion groups embarked, one after the other, on whirlwind tours of cacao farms and chocolate factories in Hawaii — our first Origin Trips in nearly four years. As a lucky member of Group 2 (and possibly since I often proofread Dandelion’s newsletters?), our Web team asked if I might share a trip snapshot.

I’d joined Dandelion in November 2019 as a new Guest Experience Ambassador for our 16th Street factory’s dessert salon, Bloom*. (If in late 2019 or early 2020 you were greeted at the factory by a tall, voluble blonde woman, we’ve met!) A sparkly perk of any Dandelion role then was the opportunity to apply, after two years on the job, for limited spots on an employee “Origin Trip”: a company-led excursion to an equatorial cacao farm or cocoa producer. Dandelion’s Bean Sourcerer, Greg D’Alesandre, typically facilitated several Origin Trips each year, for both team members and customers; and as past groups had visited the Dominican Republic, Tanzania, and Ecuador, this future-adventure possibility held terrific appeal.

Then the world closed in March 2020. Dandelion systems (and the food industry at large) shuddered as we scrambled to create new approaches for sourcing cocoa, making chocolate, and distributing products to customers. Already a small business, Dandelion went from mostly brick-and-mortar to almost entirely virtual overnight, and shrank as certain roles ceased to exist. Travel halted. (I felt fortunate to join a newly formed online-guest-care team, and to help out on copy, while working remotely.)

Zoom to 2022: Scientists and public servants expressed optimism about Covid-19 containment, and on April 15, Todd announced that Dandelion would resume our internal Origin Trips program within the year — and invited two-year-plus employees to apply for a projected Hawaii excursion in early fall. Bunches of us raced to submit applications, and on August 4, Anna (of our People Operations team) shared that Greg would lead two Hawaii Origin Trips in September, with slated visits to chocolate makers on Oahu and Maui, and to cacao farms on Oahu, Kauai, and Maui.

The diverse trip groups would include Dandelion chocolate makers, program and fulfillment managers, pastry chefs, chocolate educators, a barista, a bean sourcer, and a copy editor. Group 1 (Eric, Jose, Kayla, Malia, Mary, Nate, and Ruben) would travel September 2 through 7, and Group 2 (Christina, Lori, Pablo, Paula, Roman, Ron, and Trevor) would reach Honolulu late-ish September 7, and return to S.F. on the 12th.

In hindsight, Greg’s jovial introductory itinerary e-mail — “Day 3: We fly over to Maiu to visit Ku’ia Estate, a cocoa farm, fermentary, and chocolate factory run by Dan O’Doherty. We return and eat a late dinner!” — barely hinted at the technicolor tornado we were to experience. (Confession: Had I known a newsletter was in the offing, I would have taken trip notes!)

*Our Events and Pastry teams are already in bustling holiday mode, and we hope to reopen Bloom before the end of the year. Watch this space for updates!

Day 1: Arrival

After two-and-a-half years of tight quarantining, I excitedly (trepidatiously) packed a carryon of quick-dry clothing; stuffed my backpack with N95 masks, alcohol wipes, and bug balm; and hopped an Uber to SFO. The car reached Terminal 3 in short order, and I gulped water, double-masked up, and afixed a ridiculous plastic face shield, then zipped through security to join Group 2 on the plane. Our flight was smooth, and we landed at HNL at 7:30 p.m. Hawaii time.

Greg greeted us at the airport and whisked us to our rental lodging, a spacious, pool-equipped house in southeast Honolulu’s quiet Niu Peninsula neighborhood. He’d kindly pre-ordered for us a fantastic takeout dinner of super-fresh poke, marinated tofu, and pickled veggies, and somehow there was already plenty of excellent chocolate in the house. We all enjoyed dinner and a chat, and sorted ourselves into roommate configurations; then Roman, Trevor, and I borrowed Greg’s Mini to pick up a few groceries. (I dropped yogurt, almonds, and an enormous fresh pineapple in our cart, while R and T gathered a bounty of local snacks: chocolate-coated mochi crackers, locally grown coffee, macadamia-nut ice cream, and multiple interesting salty/crunchy morsels to try.) Once back at the house, we unloaded our treats, and scooted off toward bed.

(Note: Takeout from seemingly any Hawaiian liquor store or mini-market is often equally delicious to swanky-restaurant fare on the mainland. Our group developed a serious obsession with the musubi selection at the nearby 7-11.)

Here are some images from our trip. More coming in the upcoming weeks …

Manoa Chocolate Factory

Manoa Flavors

Manoa Visit 1

Manoa Visit 2

snack stop between Manoa factory and Manoa farm on Oahu

Manoa Visit 3

Manoa Visit 4

Manoa Visit

Paula holding a half pod at the Manoa farm

Manoa Visit

Sunset at the Manoa farm (led by Max)

Manoa Visit 7

Manoa Visit 8

Manoa Visit 9

Lydgate Bars

Shot at the beach

Dandelion crew together

Ku'ia Estate

Pablo in cacao grove at Ku’ia Estate on Maui

Pablo in cacao grove at Ku’ia Estate on Maui

Exploring in Hawaii

Treehouse tasting at Ku’ia Estate on Maui (Greg, Ron, Christina, Trevor’s hat)

Treehouse tasting at Ku’ia Estate on Maui (Greg, Ron, Christina, Trevor’s hat)

Treehouse tasting at Ku’ia Estate on Maui

Treehouse tasting at Ku’ia Estate on Maui

Cacao Pod


Lori and Trevor “helping” at Lydgate

Lori and Trevor “helping” at Lydgate

Napping on cacao pods


Petting a pig(Mahalo to our kind hosts and knowledgeable guides; with special thanks to Dylan at Manoa Chocolate, Will of Lydgate Farms, and Dan at Ku’ia Estate.)


  1. MH

    Great report! I think the Manoa Chocolate guy’s name is Dylan 🙂

  2. Lori

    Thank you so much, MH — and great catch! We will fix that! (-:

  3. Rubenpablo

    Beautifully written

  4. lori lovejoy

    Thank you so much, Rubenpablo — very glad you’re enjoying the blog! (-:

  5. Laura J Barton

    Such an interesting trip report (nice job Lori!), I can’t be jealous this was for Dandelion people only. I would love the opportunity to go on another Dandelion trip (Hawaii, or?) as it would be fascinating to compare other source locations/operations with the still-fresh-in-my-memory 2018 Tanzania trip I will always be grateful for.

  6. lori lovejoy

    Thank you so much for writing in, Laura! And yes, we absolutely hope to be able to resume origin trips for guests! (My understanding is that this year’s small-scale team trips were meant in part to test the travel waters, so to speak, before bringing back more trips on a wider scale! (-: )


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