Jane Hiranaga volunteers as a greeter for her senior community at The Plaza Assisted Living at Waikīkī. She also organizes group outings to Mānoa Valley to visit her granddaughter, Erin Uehara, a specialty chocolatier and owner of the Choco Le‘a chocolate shop.
“Who doesn’t love chocolate?” says Erin. “Seniors especially love our shop because it is like the candy stores of long ago. Tutus tell me the chocolate aroma and display cases evoke the nostalgia of going to their favorite candy store when they were keiki.”
The shop sources its chocolate locally and from Europe, making the ganache and fondant centers from exclusively local ingredients. Creamy caramels, butterscotch and crunchy nut clusters are customer favorites, but Erin raises the bar with her own local-flair creations, like creamy, chocolate truffles that surprise the palate with bits of tangy, tropical fruit jelly, or smooth kaki mochi. The truffles are a kūpuna favorite. For Chinese New Year, she makes gau truffles to bring good luck and satisfy the local custom and taste buds.
The benefits of consuming chocolate go beyond flavor — the sweet treat actually contains a molecule that is the same natural substance the body produces when falling in love! Made from the seed of the cocoa tree, it is one of the best sources of antioxidants on the planet. And dark chocolate has added health benefits as well, including reducing the risk of heart disease and lowering blood pressure. Research also shows that dark chocolate may also improve the function of your brain! So Jane’s sweet outings offer seniors a happy and healthy trip down memory lane. Maybe that’s why they are always packed!