Making chocolate needs a lot of care and attention to detail. It all starts with harvesting cacao pods, fermenting the meat, exposing the beans, drying them well and finally, roasting them.
Before you even make the liquid chocolate or grind the beans to a fine consistency, you will need many hands and women’s hands at that. Just gathering enough cacao beans to make a cup of chocolate will entail many days of hard work. And once you see this process and appreciate the hard work that goes into every bar of chocolate, it tastes all the sweeter.
I met a few women who are totally involved in chocolate making. Charita Puentespina heads Malagos Chocolates and also buys dried cacao beans or wet beans from other farmers near her Calinan, Davao farm. She has also adopted Mars Chocolate’s Foundation into her facility where training is conducted for many cacao farmers in the Davao environs.
There also are two women from the Subasta Cooperative who are part of the Board of Directors, and have influenced even their children to take care of cacao trees.
And the Cacao Queen is Josephine Villegas Ramos, a good friend of mine who since 1997
has helped me with various agricultural projects such as coffee and cacao. Josephine or “Jophine” (say Jo-fine) and I traveled to Guatemala to check coffee and cacao farms, then we visited Guittard Chocolates in San Francisco and the famous Ghirardelli Chocolate factory.
With Jophine, I have learned to eat raw cocoa (cocoa nibs), sucked on fresh cacao with meat of a santol-like consistency, eat pure dark 100-percent cacao, and taste different concentrations of hot chocolate . . . made with less water, more water, no sugar, some sugar and other variations of the “drink of the Gods.”
Jophine can talk about chocolate for days on end. It has been her advocacy to find the best varieties, teach the proper ways to process the beans and finally, cook the chocolate the right way. And we often ask each other why we continue to travel to coffee and cacao areas
like Bohol, Bicol and Davao.
It is because we also see the results of our incessant desire to share what we know—whether it’s process or it’s about markets for coffee and chocolate. We are seeing better chocolate products, and we are seeing more pride in selling and cooking of local chocolate—whether it is in “tableya” or tablet form, Bohol’s chocolate blocks, or in specialty chocolates like Theo and Philo.
I love traveling with Jophine and Reena, as we did lately in Bicol and Davao. Reena fine-tunes the hot chocolate recipes while Jophine attests to the purity of the cacao. No sugar. Just pure cacao. We also learned of the different varieties of cacao: Criollo, Trinitario and Forastero. Each one having a different flavor and each requiring a different degree or method of fermentation.
Check out our latest book—Cacao: Bean to Bar. In this tome, Reena made the recipes, Jophine did the historical and technical part while I interviewed our chocolate processors like Antonio Pueo’s, Patricia Limpe, Malagos’ Charita Puentespina and our good friend Philo Chua of Theo & Philo fame.
We are on our way to gathering all these women who are involved in Cacao. Hopefully, this group will get us to make more specialty chocolate, value-adding rather than exporting just our raw beans. We commend Askinosie Chocolates of Missouri, in the US, for discovering our Davao chocolates and we hope that we can follow up with more companies that will recognize Philippine single origin chocolates.
At a recent Kapihan forum in Davao (it should have been called a Sikwate forum) on cacao organized by the Peace and Equity Foundation (PEF) with Good News Kapihan, we discussed the future of our chocolate industry. We hope to address about 40,000 metric tons of local demand and even more for export. We should also educate our consumers to look for higher quality cacao, chocolate and tableya and not have to contend with “discards” or “scraps” of chocolate pressing which are improved only with sugar and God forbid, palm oil!
Please be a more enlightened chocolate lover. Choose our specialty local chocolates.
Know your Philippine chocolate and take pride in it.
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Chit Juan is a founder and owner of ECHOStore sustainable lifestyle, ECHOmarket sustainable farms and ECHOcafe in Serendra , Podium and Centris QC malls. She also is President of the Women’s Business Council of the Philippines and President of the Philippine Coffee Board Inc., two non-profits close to her heart. She often speaks to corporates and NGOs on social entrepreneurship, women empowerment, and coffee. You can follow her on twitter.com/chitjuan or find her on facebook:Pacita “Chit” Juan. Email her at email@example.com