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Exceptional and Noble: The Philippine cacao industry and its fine chocolates

Chocolate, the world's beloved bittersweet snack, and now known as a healthy superfood, may be on the verge of extinction, but new vital players of the cocoa industry are emerging to prevent this alarming prediction from becoming a reality.

Since 2014, a legion of headlines regarding the decline of cocoa production has barraged the media. Africa, home to the most massive cacao production worldwide, is experiencing a blight disease that kills cacao trees rapidly, after just a year of infection. From 70%, the country now only produces 68% of the world's cacao, which is quite a blow. African farmers and their cohorts have no idea about what causes the infection spreading in their crops, so the worldwide chocolate industry is at risk.




The Philippines an alternative cocoa source
Enter the Philippines, a land with a tropical rainforest climate that is rich in biodiversity. Several different crops for consumption are being produced, one of which is cocoa, or what the country calls "cacao."

The Philippines is the first cacao hub in Asia. It was in 1670 when a Spanish mariner first planted a cacao tree in San Jose, Batangas, via the Manila galleon trade. It led to widespread cocoa farming in the entire Philippines centuries after, but it is still not the country's main crop for export and consumption.

During the 1950s, pod borer infestation has occurred in the Philippines. It put a halt to the promising cocoa crops in the country. In the 90s, cocoa farming has declined, with the Mindanao region producing most of the cocoa in the country.
As per 2018, cocoa from the Philippines contributes only 0.16% of the world's chocolate, but the industry is booming.


Davaoeño farmers harvesting cacao
                                                                    

Cacao, the Filipino way
The Spaniards introduced one variety of the cacao, known as the criollo, and most of this criollo produce in the entire Philippines was for tablea, or chocolate tablets, used for drinking hot chocolate. The tablea is also used for one of the country's delicacies called the champorado (hot tablea + rice).

Up to this day, there are still a lot of Filipinos who are not aware that their cacao could be made for different varieties of chocolate.  Hence, making cacao is not entirely huge in the country.


Hot chocolate made of tablea, a Philippine staple drink


Davao: The Cacao Capital of the Philippines and its game-changers
Let me introduce to you the region of Mindanao. While many parts of the country are storm and drought-riddled, the area of Mindanao is quite an exception. Hence, the Department of Agriculture in the Philippines is placing its bets on the region.

About 2,000,000 hectares of coconut is perfect for cacao implants in Mindanao. Now, there are a total of 30,000 active hectares of Philippine cacao lands, and 80 percent of this is in the Davao Region. Hence, the country is currently leaning on Davao City, Mindanao's premier city, in the harvesting and processing of the beloved chocolate source. The Davao region is now coined as the Cacao Capital of the Philippines.

The Cacao Industry Development Association of Mindanao, Inc. or CIDAMI, a non-profit organization, helps cacao growers in Mindanao through their various programs. They educate farmers about the enormous potential of the cacao, primarily because the world is in dire need of another top producer of it. They train several farmers the new and innovative ways to grow and maintain the cacao trees despite their long gestation period. With modern technology, patience, and proper execution, independent farmers and producers were able to create new hybrids and varieties of cacao for different types of chocolates.


Chris Uson, founder of Filo Artisan Trade, at the CIDAMI headquarters
Chris Uson, founder of Filo Artisan Trade, at the CIDAMI headquarters

CIDAMI also ensures that the farmers get what they deserve. They were able to get rid of the middlemen by educating the farmers of the price their cacao produce should cost. In this way, the farmers are encouraged to upscale the quality of their cacao for the best chocolates that will be consumed by many.

For the past few years, CIDAMI has also showcased several new emerging Davao and Mindanao-made chocolate brands to several chocolate festivals around the world. Many of them received praises and awards around the world and are now enjoying a good export market.

Here are more of the best and most ethical cacao brands from Davao:


The Fine chocolates of Auro

Auro Chocolate
Auro chocolates are made from trinitario cacao beans with criollo, a rare variety of cacao in Davao. With natural ingredients combined, Auro was able to innovate several variations of chocolate in their brand's roster. The different types of Auro chocolate won gold, silver, and bronze awards in the UK.


Cacao Culture Farms offering the one of a kind Cacao Tea

Cacao Culture Farms
Cacao Culture Farms is the first company to notice the other benefits of cacao, not just as a chocolate or dessert, but its benefits on our health and beauty as well. Their cacao produce is Vegan; just perfect for many enthusiasts. Aside from chocolates and cacao nibs, they also produce cacao tea, as well as cacao exfoliating soap and regular cacao body soap.

 

Rosario's Delicacies founders Nel and Eyeth Belviz
 
Rosario's Delicacies
Aside from offering 85% Dark Chocolate (one of the more bitter chocolates), 75% Dark Chocolate, and 60% Dark Chocolate, Rosario's Delicacies take pride in the Philippines' traditional use of cacao by producing tablea and cacao powder for drinking.


How can Australians avail of these real and quality cocoa products?
Filo Artisan Trade is an e-commerce website that exports top-notch Philippine products to Australia. In this way, Australians can experience the goodness and benefits of the superfood that is cacao.

With sustainable partnerships, farmer empowerment, and modern technology, there is no way that Davao City, and the rest of the Philippines to follow suit, will not be able to succeed in their 10-year target as one of the leading cocoa and chocolate exporters in the world.