by Don Tagala, ABS-CBN News, New York
This Christmas, the next big thing could be cacao de bola – like queso de bola, but made of pure chocolate.
The cacao de bola is made from 100% cacao nib, pounded and shaped into a ball, with no sugar additives – only a natural, sweet taste.
The chocolate tablea (tableya) is roasted, ground, and fermented pure cacao beans, molded into tablets.
The cacao tablet, often used in truffles and Philippine hot chocolate, can be used to enhance the flavor of just about every meal.
“Cacao de bola is to garnish or to infuse – it’s like, more on the sweet or savory side of chocolate. You can infuse it in your pasta, pizza, barbeque, steak, salmon,” says Raquel Choa, president and founder of The Chocolate Chamber.
Choa is known as the Chocolate Queen of Cebu.
Her journey growing and harvesting chocolate brought her from her hometown’s cacao forests to the big city of New York, with one goal in mind.
“My dream is to tell the whole world that we Filipinos know how to make chocolate,” Choa said. “I believe New York is the gateway, the entrada [to the world]; it’s the beginning of my dream that will come true.”
Choa told her story in a TEDx talk in Chiang Mai, China, earlier this year.
She was only seven-years-old when her parents left her and her siblings to their Lola, a tablea-maker, who lived in the mountains near the cacao forest.
At 16, Choa became a mother and was unable to finish school. So she turned to something passed on from the traditions of her Lola – making handmade pure tablea chocolate.
The hobby soon became a successful business, and a way for Choa to carry out her Lola’s legacy, and to enhance the rich Philippine chocolate tradition.
New York Philippine Consul General Tess Dizon-de Vega said the global need for cacao is great – at least 4.7 million metric tons. The growing demand has given rise to the 2020 Philippine Cacao Challenge.
“[The challenge] is a program being pushed by Cacao growers by the Mindanao Development Authority…to enable our cacao producers to produce the quantity and quality which we need for our local consumption, and also to export to other countries,” Dizon-de Vega said.
For Choa, showcasing the Chocolate Chamber in New York is both a dream fulfilled, and an opportunity to behold.
“Of course to bring the Chocolate Chamber here in New York and to the world, it’s like Starbucks – makilala, meron tayong store kung saan saang suok ng mundo – by using the Philippine cacao.”