Tablea for Merienda: How to Snack on the Philippine Cacao
Thanks to the growing chocolate industry in the Philippines, tablea has become more well-known around the world. But these tablets of ground-up cacao beans have always been an accessible local treat to Filipinos. It is commonly dissolved into water to make tsokolate, a hot chocolate drink. But there are many other ways to enjoy it too!
What is Tablea?
Tablea refers to "a ball of ground-up cacao beans" molded into tablet-like rounds. It is made from cacao beans, the same agricultural product from which chocolate comes from.
To make chocolate, cacao beans are harvested, fermented, dried, roasted, peeled, then ground, before being combined with cocoa butter and sugar to make chocolate bars. Tablea is made following a similar process, except it stops at the grinding stage with more coarsely ground beans. These are then massed into balls for later use, or shaped into tablea as we know them.
Because tablea does not go through the additional steps for refining as chocolate does, it retains a deeper, earthy, bitter chocolate flavor. It also does not contain other ingredients or additives; although sometimes, sweeteners like muscovado sugar are added.
How to Enjoy Tablea for Merienda
Merienda is a Spanish word that translates to “snack,” one that refers to a light snack often eaten in the afternoon. It is a habit that Filipinos adopted from Spanish colonizers but have made their own, becoming an indispensable part of Philippine culture. Merienda also now includes light snacks taken in the morning, both before and after breakfast, as well as late-night snacks.
Tablea is a popular merienda option. It is often made into tsokolate (known as sikwate in the Visayas region) by dissolving it in hot water or milk. You can also customize it with your choice of sweeteners and mix-ins. Tablea is also largely used in champorado, a chocolate rice porridge made using ground tablea and glutinous rice. Champorado is usually eaten for breakfast or morning merienda as a sweet, heavy, hot snack.
There are many other ways to enjoy tablea for merienda. Thanks to the creativity of Filipinos—and the versatility of tablea—we have seen many snacks that incorporate tablea into the recipe. Once ground or crumbled, it works similarly to cocoa powder or other dry flavorings.
You can turn them into almost anything: bread rolls (like cinnamon rolls, except with tablea), cookies, puddings, macarons—you name it! It even works in quick savory recipes like tablea adobo or tablea-rubbed steak. Those aren’t really merienda, but if you eat it between traditional meals, it counts!
Tablea can also be used to make drinks in the form of iced beverages, shakes, and even cocktails. You can mix it in or use it as a topping. Tablea has also become part of commercial merienda items like ice cream.
Tablea is also already a snack in itself! If you just want to enjoy its flavor at its purest, do as the locals do and simply nibble on the tablets!
Where to Buy Tablea in Australia
Filo Artisan Trade, a purveyor of Filipino products in Australia, carries several brands of tablea that you can use to make merienda. We also have tablea packs that come with up to four different brands and even a batirol, a traditional wooden tool used to make tsokolate.
We deliver Australia-wide or you can opt to pick up your order in Caroline Springs, Melbourne.