By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City – From the cacao (chocolate beans) in the farm, to tablea (chocolate paste) in my grandmother’s kitchen, and finally the hot ‘tsokolate’ (chocolate drink) for our breakfast in tiny porcelain cups, I have the fondest and most loved memories of chocolate in the Philippines.
I miss the tsokolate that I have known since I was a child, and I would often ask my visiting friends to bring me a few packets so I could taste that wonderful tsokolate.
Now, the homemade ‘tsokolate’ that I have cherished and filled the air of my grandparents’ home with its sweet and delicious smell is coming its way to the Big Apple.
Raquel Choa, touted as the Chocolate Queen of Cebu, presented breakthroughs in chocolate creations from the Philippine cacao, the raw material for ‘tsokolate’ at the Philippine Center on November 28, 2016.
She introduced to an amazed crowd her latest creation, the cacao de bola, which she uses for garnishing dishes like noodles, pasta, charcuterie, and desserts create a sweet and savory flavor.
“That was so interesting and exciting,” remarked Lumen Castaneda of the teachers’ organization Unified and the Fil-Am Press Club of New York.
In an interview with OSM!, 40-year-old Choa recalled that she was so poor growing up in the rural village of Balamban, in north western Cebu, that all they had was ‘tsokolate’ (hot chocolate drink) before going to school. They also sold ‘tablea’ in order to survive.
Raised mainly by her grandmother whom she called Nanay Nila, Choa recalled that she and her siblings were encouraged to plant cacao because the enchantress of the ‘Maria Cacao’ would provide them abundance.
Such was the story she grew up believing in from her grandmother in the war-torn villages of Balamban.
Choa said that she never realized the health benefits and business potentials of cacao since five years ago when she established her ‘tsokolate’ business with her husband Alfred and their eight children. With a starter capital from government, Choa set up a boutique and café chain of chocolates called The Chocolate Chamber and Ralfe Gourmet Chocolates.
Her business has flourished with its inclusion in Cebu City’s guided tour program and it has boosted incomes of farmers who supply her with tablea. Asked if she was going to set up a chocolate chamber in New York, she paused and said, hopefully.
Choa recently visited Guam to present her ‘tsokolate’ to the business and local community there.
Now, the Philippine cacao is poised for a breakthrough at the United Nations in New York, as the Filipino-American community, led by Consul General Ma. Theresa Dizon-De Vega, welcomed Choa warmly for the presentation of her business attended by the press, community members, and the business sector.
On December 6, Choa’s TCC will participate at a chocolate tasting fair entitled “Le Salon Du Chocolat” at the United Nations Lobby, from 6:00 to 9:00 pm. The Arab Ladies Club to the United Nations (ALUN) and the United Nations African Ambassadors Spouses Group (UNAASG), in celebration of the holiday season 2016, invited 21 Consulates General/ Missions to Le Salon Du Chocolat.
The event promises to bring the best chocolate products and brands from around the world to the tasting. The event is expected to attract a sizeable crowd of traders and buyers based in New York as well as the diplomatic corps and officials of the United Nations..
The Philippine Consulate General will also be presenting other popular Philippine chocolate including the award-winning Malagos Chocolate of Davao at the event. (With a press release from the Philippine Consulate General of New York)