2909 Lowrey Ave.
Phone number(808) 371-2234
One day long ago, I decided to stop by Choco le‘a to pick up chocolates for my fiancé’s family. It wasn’t to mark a special occasion or anything momentous like that. I wanted to give them something just because and — OK, truth time — needed a good excuse to steal one for myself in the process.
Except, well, here’s the thing: That box of chocolates never did make it to my fiancé’s family. I hoarded it and hid it away in my purse and, eventually, ate all nine truffles myself. I didn’t even feel guilty.
What can I say? That’s just how much of a Choco le‘a fan I am. So much so that this past Christmas, a good portion of people on my gift list got Choco le‘a hot chocolate mix. I brought bags of Macadamia Nut Clusters and Choco le‘a chocolate-dipped fruit as grab bag gifts for holiday parties, too.
So when owner Erin Kanno Uehara recently reached out to me with some pretty exciting news and invited me to stop by, of course I said yes. We’ll get to the news a little later (check out the accompanying sidebar). For now, let’s talk chocolate.
Aside from the fact that everything at Choco le‘a is handmade, I think a lot of its charm has to do with where it is located: Manoa, my favorite place on the island.
Entering Manoa physically calms me. The same can be said of Choco le‘a, though I’d also describe every experience there as exciting as well. While Choco le‘a certainly offers traditional truffles, such as Salted Caramel or Vanilla Bean, it excels at the less conventional.
Among my favorites is Yuzu. The idea of pairing citrus with chocolate may seem, theoretically, nonsensical, but it works well here with a flavor profile that is light and delicately tangy. Like all the Choco le‘a creations I’ve ever sampled, the shell of the truffle is thin, which means more filling and more flavor with every bite.
While other combinations seem less tame — current specials Guava & Pink Pepper-corn, for example, or Birthday Cake (both of which I highly recommend) — the end result always is the same: subtle flavor profiles that make it far too easy to eat too many at once.
Other flavors to be on the lookout for that are Jaimie-approved: Lilikoi, PB&J, Lychee, Lilikoi Habanero, Guinness Beer, Whiskey and Mint Chocolate Chip. Though, if you ask me, the safest thing to do is to get one of everything, duh.
MEET ERIN KANNO UEHARA
For all of you anxiously awaiting the good news Choco le‘a owner Erin Kanno Uehara wants to share, here it is: She now is one of 30 finalists competing for one of 10 spots in the Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Program.
If she wins, Uehara will get to attend a three-day workshop at Tory Burch headquarters in New York. She also will receive a one-year fellowship, a $10,000 grant for business education and the chance to pitch for a $100,000 grant investment.
“It’s crazy,” says Uehara. “It’s such a huge competition. We went through so many rounds, so now to at least bring attention to our company and Hawaii was a big deal for us.”
Uehara needs help to win, though. Now until April 4, she’s asking the public to vote once a day every day for her at toryburchfoundation.org.
Becoming a fellow, says Uehara, would allow the company to move forward with several initiatives. Choco le‘a currently is expanding, for example, building its wholesale line, exporting and focusing on online sales. It also is in need of some equipment, which will allow Choco le‘a to expand its production.
“Once you get in, they have a lot of opportunities for you to continue to grow as an entrepreneur and as a woman and as a business leader,” she adds.
Speaking of being a #girl-boss, Uehara is hoping that her story of success is one that will encourage others.
“Being able to still be married and a mom and own a business and have time to do things that I enjoy on my own is really challenging, but that’s why I find it very empowering,” she says. “Every time I can get through something else and the next challenge, I feel like I can inspire other people. That’s really what I want to do.”
DO NOT MISS Hot Sipping Chocolate and Chips — so good, and only on Saturdays
GOOD VIBRATIONS With friendly service and made-in-Hawaii products, what’s not to love?
WITH PAIGE TAKEYA
If you’ve been keeping up with Gastronome, you know that I can’t eat everything I want these days. That didn’t stop me from once again, hoarding almost everything and sampling a good portion of truffles, but I did stop just short of tasting the newest creation, Choco le‘a Melts. It sounded a bit too creamy for my stomach, and it turns out I wasn’t entirely wrong after “forcing” Metro staff writer Paige Takeya to try it instead. Here’s what she had to say:
One of my favorite purchases at local Japanese patisseries like La Palme d’Or or kulu kulu are their specialty chocolates — little silky smooth, melt-in-your-mouth cubes of joy. This chocolate is exactly like those, except it comes in a box and there are about three times as many. The texture is more akin to a very thick mousse than conventional candy. It feels (and tastes) luxurious. I could eat 80 in a single sitting, so it’s a good thing Jaimie didn’t just hand me the whole box.