Food & Travel

Crazy for Cacao: The New Filipino Food Frontier


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#MUNIonThis: World-famous mangoes and delicious coconuts have bee the Philippines’ claim to fame thus far, but what other resources can we use to start a Filipino food revolution?

Sweet, sweet, chocolate. Milk or dark, slathered on toast, baked into cookies or sprinkled over ice cream, its no doubt that this decadent treat is not just a food– it’s a way of life. In the Philippines, the current market has been saturated with imported brands. Today, with the help of four brands that herald Philippine cacao, we will tell you why our own, homegrown chocolate is ready to take the world by storm, and why it is better for our culture, our environment, and our people.

Why choose local?

Cacao is an equatorial crop, which means that the Philippines is one of the best places in the world to find the highest quality product. Believe it or not, areas such as Davao and Malagos are actually world-famous for their cacao. Thus, by supporting local brands such as Malagos Chocolate  and Cacao de Davao, we are supporting these areas’ local farmers and nourishing our entire country’s economy.

“Philippine cacao farmers… are one of the most dedicated and passionate farmers I know,” says Maxine Qua of Made by Max, a collection of delicious cacao nut-butters. “The more we support them, the more we can help local farming grow and flourish.”

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Philo Chua of Theo & Philo adds that in other countries, cacao farming has also been much associated with deforestation and child labor practices. “The Philippine cacao industry is different in that these kind of malevolent practices are practically unheard of,” he says.

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Better farming, better flavor

“Cacao is not called a superfood for nothing,” says Elaine Lim of Cacao de Davao. “It’s very high in antioxidants and flavonoids, which may help fight a wide array of diseases, including heart disease and diabetes.” She adds that because of our year-round rainfall and abundant sunshine, local cacao beans taste better, are healthier, and even grow bigger! And as we know, eating local is not only better for the economy, but for the environment, and ultimately, our health as well (as long as we consume in moderation, and choose variants that deliver more cacao richness than sugar).

To put it simply: “Good beans made through good practices makes good chocolate,” as Malagos Chocolate says.

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Still, how does it taste? Malagos Choolate describes the local cacao flavor as “distinct and pronounced,” while Theo & Philo define it as “earthy and, if I were to describe the taste like wine, tannic with hints of mushrooms and dark cherries.” It is so good, in fact, that Elaine Lim reminds us: “A lot of our cacao is being exported, and even big international chocolate brands are getting their supplies from us.”

Decadent dreams

For all these local cacao brands, one big goal is to turn Philippine cacao into a world-famous, globally-competitive product, starting with promoting local products in our own country.

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“I want Pinoys to know, have a taste, and be proud of the great things we have in this country—one of which is cacao,” says Cacao de Davao‘s Elaine Lim, while Maxine of Made by Max wishes her brand to “be a key instrument in bringing Philippine nutrition to the forefront… not only your health, but the health of your neighbor, and the health of our farmers.”

The cacao industry has seen a re-emergence of popularity and interest in recent years, and rightly so. Now, with the help of local brands such as Malagos Chocolate, Cacao de Davao, Theo & Philo, and Made by Max, our local crops are getting the attention they deserve.

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