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 …
(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.)