Madre Chocolate

Nat Bletter

Cofounder and Chocolate Flavormeister

Dr. Nat Bletter has 15 years of experience in botany, documenting exotic fruits and vegetables, gathering food in the wild, herbal and traditional medicine, and exploring Asia, South America, Central America, and Africa. He has a Ph.D. in Ethnobotany from the City University of New York and New York Botanical Garden, where he researched medicinal plants of Peru, Mali, and the Guatemalan Mayans, ethnobotany, taste-modifying plants, and stimulant plants such as cacao, which has spurred him to start a traditional-ingredient, high-antioxidant, artisinal chocolate company Madre Chocolate. He will co-lead a culinary, medicinal plant, and music tour of Bali in August, where he has spent many months exploring the landscape, music, fruits, food and medicine since 1994. He now works at University of Hawai'i Manoa researching plants and migration in Thailand and Laos, and making chocolate from scratch.

Dave is a bicontinental chocolate maker, avid traveller, and promoter of all things delicious. After working on rural development and environmental justice issues in cacao growing regions of Ecuador and Bolivia for many years, David was living half the year in the epicenter of chocolate in Mexico, Oaxaca City. He tasted many excellent, traditional drinking chocolates there, but couldn’t find a fine eating chocolate that gave testimony to Mexico’s long love story with cacao and he saw an opportunity. His excitement only grew when he saw the potential for a chocolate company with a social mission to make a positive impact on the lives of cacao farmers and their communities.  

David Elliott

Cofounder and Chocolate Production Manager

Beyond Sustainable: bringing you cacao and chocolate direct from its roots, ecologically

We purchase raw, fermented beans directly from farmers and cooperatives that we then roast and process in small batches to craft our chocolate bars. Fermentation is a vital step to bring out the complex chocolate flavors and fruity notes in the cacao bean. Getting well fermented beans is a huge challenge for farmers and chocolate-makers, because the the process has to occur within a couple weeks of picking the cacao, which is usually before the product is shipped off to another country for resale and then processing. The amazing thing about making chocolate in Hawai’i is that we can work closely with cacao farmers to dial in the fermentation and drying process for great tasting chocolate. Many cacao farmers in the Latin America and Africa have never tasted the chocolate made with their beans. A couple of weeks after we get beans from a farmer, we’re back at the farm tasting the chocolate and comparing notes on what we’d like to improve to really make their beans shine.

Direct trade, where we get to know every farmer we buy cacao from, goes well beyond fair trade in that we see every farm we buy cacao farm, see the conditions of the people and the ecology on the farm, rather than going through a middle man with overhead costs. This way we can ensure that each and every cacao farm we work with are treating their land, plants, animals, and people well, and we can be confident that we are giving you truly sustainable chocolate that we see through every step of the process.

The History of Chocolate in Our Logo

We saw the Maya glyph for cacao (Above, left) and thought it would be perfect for our logo as it encompasses the Maya’s highly developed civilization that helped make chocolate what it is today along with a fully developed writing system developed completely independently from that of the West. Though long thought to be a pictorial writing system where each concept is represented by a complete picture (e.g. a fish is written as a simplified image of a fish), Mayan writing was finally deciphered to actually be a phonetic system, as detailed in Michael Coe’s excellent book, “Breaking the Maya Code.” This book details how after centuries of confusion, after consulting with modern Maya speakers, researchers realized that there were many ways of writing each syllable in the language.

So in the glyph above both the comb shape on the left and the monkey/fish head represent the sound “ka”. The left curly cue under the head is “u" and the right curl is “wa”. Put it all together in left to right order and you get “ka-ka-u-wa”, “kakau(w)a”, or “cacao” as we write it today. We took this image, swapped out the comb on  the left for an actual cacao pod and leaf, and turn the monkey’s frown upside down since, obviously he is starting at and represents something that makes the delicious and happiness inducing chocolate, so he should be smiling! We hope this will help you think of the long, beautiful, and complex history of chocolate every time you look at and start to devour one of our bars!

Biomimicry: basing our chocolate making on the living world

Biomimicry is the basic idea of modeling engineering or human systems on biological models. Nature has been working for millenia on ways for plants & animals to stay clean, collect water, find the shortest path between two points, and make amazing materials with very basic natural ingredients. We can learn from these millions of years of engineering experience while making a lighter impact on the world. We strive to use biomimicry in every aspect of our chocolate making, from growing cacao, processing chocolate, to packaging and delivery.

business model

Nature has shown that many species can easily coexist in the same ecosystem in different niches, and businesses can do the same, regarding each other not as competition, but cooperators. This “multicrop” economy built on bartering, trading, local monies, and cash is much more sustainable and resilient than the existing “monocrop” economy that relies on a single type of transaction and can fail with the slightest error in a decimal place on the stock market. It’s well time cacao should be used as trade again since it was so sacred to the Maya & Aztec that it was their money.


We are in awe of the ways certain flowers stay immaculately clean in the dirtiest swamps and animals collect abundant water in the driest of places on earth. By using models such as the self-cleaning method of the lotus flower and the water collection of the namib desert beetle, we can greatly improve our processing of cacao into delicious chocolate, while using less resources and energy.


Our chocolate boxes will soon be shaped like the cacao flower and give you the experience of opening a cacao pod to reveal the seeds inside.


We not only deliver via bicycle and 100% biodiesel made locally in Hawaii from used fry oil, we model our delivery routes on the short-cut finding methods of ants exploring their environment.


A short video to explain how we make chocolate working directly with cacao farmers in Hawaii and Central America

video made by Chop Chop Media in Honolulu, an excellent local foodie website video production company.