Who are the 14 best Pinoy bean-to-bar chocolatiers?

Who are the 14 best Pinoy bean-to-bar chocolatiers?

INTRO

In this series, we won’t be looking at chocolate brands in the Americas or Europe. Instead we will focus mainly on countries in Asia. Since 2010, many new brands have exploded in popularity. Chocolate really is a rising star in Asia, most certainly due to the region’s rapidly growing middle class. The famous Michelin Guide has also taken notice of this remarkable phenomenon, especially in Southeast Asia.

We continue this series with the Philippines. It actually surprised us how many chocolate brands produce locally in the Pearl of the Orient. We found no fewer than 14 excellent local choices. A lot of them have chosen Davaoa their homebase. It makes total sense because the Davao region of the Mindanao island is responsible for most of the Pinoy cocoa.

The following list is in random order, but we will start with bean-to-bar producers using cocoa of Philippine origin. According to the Philippine Department of Trade and Industry, the Philippines produce more than 10,000 metric tons of cocoa beans per year. The government has established a target for annual production of 100,000 metric tons by the year 2020.

MALAGOS

The story of Malagos started 15 years ago when Roberto and Charita Puentespina took over an existing cocoa farm in Malagos, near Davao City on Mindanao. Malagos chocolate is the most award-winning chocolate brand in the Philippines. All their cocoa beans originate from Mindanao.

RALFE GOURMET CHOCOLATE

Ralfe Gourmet Chocolate is all about its founder, Racquel Choa from Cebu, known as the Chocolate Queen of the Philippines. She is determined to put the Philippines on the map as a cocoa nation. In and around her “Chocolate House” in Cebu city, she not only roasts and grinds the cocoa beans. She also ferments and dries them, after they arrive fresh from the surrounding farms. There are very nice interviews with her on the Spot blog and in the Manila Times

TIGRE Y OLIVA

A Pinoy chocolate with an Italian origin: Italian chocolatier Simone Mastrota discovered that the Philippines is one of the oldest cocoa-producing countries in Asia. Indonesia also claims that title, but it has yet to be decided. He named the brand Tigre Y Oliva, after his two daughters. One more exciting detail… he also created Santa Maria, a chocolate bar infused with whiskey. His argument of locating his bean-to-bar company in the Philippines makes total sense: “We were trying to start something in Europe but it wasn’t the right moment over there,” he says. “It’s harder because cacao isn’t grown there. The kind of investment you need to start is way higher. Here, you just throw a seed somewhere and there will be people who will want to be part of that. I felt that kind of energy.” (source: F&B Report Philippines)

ORO

Oro is a young brand produced by Ginto Luxury Chocolates, with 30-year-old Dalareich Polot as its driving force. After studying the fine craft of chocolate-making in Belgium, she returned to the island of Bohol. Her parents ran here a small chocolate-making business. When Dalareich joined forces with her parents, production increased significantly. As the company needs more cocoa beans than local growers can produce, it currently also buys cocoa beans from Mindanao. You can read here more about her struggles and her success.

THEO & PHILO

Chocolatiers are creative not only with chocolate but also with their brand names—and founder Philo Choa is no exception. You would expect that this bean-to-bar brand from Davao would be named after him. “Philo, however, refers to the Greek word for love, while Theo is a shortening of Theobroma Cacao. Theobroma is the Greek word for cacao: food for gods. Theo & Philo characterizes itself by using native Pinoy ingredients like mangos, turon (a type of banana lumpia), siling labuyo (a small native chili pepper) and Barako coffee.

KABLON FARMS

The chocolate from Kablon Farms (they produce other things as well, including fruits, coconutoil, jams, juices and vinegar) is bean-to-bar made in South Cotabato on Mindanao. The family business began operating in 1956 and is now led by Ernesto Pantua Jr. Their chocolate bars have collected quite an impressive number of awards. However, it is not just their own chocolate bars that receive acclaim. Artisans in Europe using Kablon Farms cocoa beans in their products, such as Dormouse and Pangea, also win awards for their chocolate.

Pam Cinco the Chief Eating Officer

RISA

This highly praised chocolate brand is led by Pam Lim Cinco. She calls herself the Chief Eating Officer, according to this Yummy article: “In my calling card, my title is ‘Chocolate Eating Officer.’ But I’m really just matakaw. Maybe I should change it to ‘Chocolate Takaw Officer’ instead,” One of the unique ingredients in the chocolate created by Risa are the pili nuts. In combination with coconut sugar, it is a fantastic taste experience that brings out the nutty flavor.

CHOCOLIZ

Chocoliz creates chocolate from organic cocoa beans from Luzon. Interestingly, Chocoliz doesn’t use cane sugar, only coconut nectar. I suspect that they mean coconut sugar, made from the nectar, but I’m not sure. Adding pure nectar might make the chocolate mass too watery. They also don’t seem to use milk powder, so their bars contain some of the purest cocoa you can get. The producer of Chocoliz is Saret Organic Farmville who alos makes other organic products as honey and organic herbs and spices.

COCO DOLCE

Francis Gonzalez, a former meditation guru, started in Davao by producing coconut sugar. But he eventually became a chocolatier, joining forces with entrepreneur Peteri Makitalo. They use cocoa beans from the Subasta Cooperative in Davao. Naturally, the key ingredients are organic coconut sugar and even coconut oil. Inspired by Risa chocolates, they are now also using pili nuts in one of their bars.

MAGDALENA’S

Magdalena’s was started in 2011 by Gerry and Cynthia Baron. They only make 20 kilos per week, so this is currently one of the smallest chocolate brands in the Philippines. They don’t use a mold to create the bars; they simply make chocolate drops, setting this brand uniquely apart from other Pinot chocolate bean-to-bar producers. They use the cocoa beans from their own small farm in Magdalena, in the Laguna province.

AURO CHOCOLATE

This company is only a few years old, launched by Kelly Go and Mark Ocampo, but they already have exclusive deals with over 2,000 local farmers in Mindanao. They found the money to buy cutting-edge machinery from Italy and Germany. With their good eye for marketing and their good taste for high-quality chocolate, Auro is poised to conquer a major market outside of the Philippines.

HIRAYA CHOCOLATE

Another bean-to-bar producer, Hiraya started in the last decade, but it is already one of the best-selling local brands in the Philippines. Hiraya doesn’t shy away from bold experiments. Recently, it came out with a bar with roasted coconut particles. That might not sound too crazy, but how about a spicy dark chocolate bar with crunchy pork skin (chicharon) or a bar with salty Edam cheese chunks (Queso de Bola)?

MANILA CHOCOLATIER

Raul Matias is the genius behind Manila Chocolatier. He has created a line of pralines with Pinoy flavors and decorated with Pinoy illustrations. Think of Palawan honey, Kalamansi, Purple Yam, and Coconut Wine and you’ll get an idea of the flavor profile for these treats.

GOYA CHOCOLATE

Although the Goya chocolate snack is definitely not considered an artisan product, it is still locally produced (since 1956). Since becoming part of the Delfi Corporation from Singapore, the company has been rebranding itself in order to rediscover its previous popularity.

CONCLUSION

Compared with all the countries in South-East Asia, the Philippines are really experiencing an explosion of bean-to-bar companies. Cocoa was of course already for centuries available in this country consisting of over 7,000 islands. But only in the last decade local chocolate makers took their chances with Pinoy cocoa beans. Davao is really the epic centre of the Philippino cocoa.

You can find more information on local Philippines chocolate brands on the expat blog Primer and on the blog Pepper.

If you think we are missing out on a new bean-to-bar chocolatier in the Philippines, please don’t hesitate and let us know. We are more than curious and can adjust this article when necessary.

Who is Kamkav Farm?

We from Kamkav Farm produce the very first cocoa in the history of Cambodia. We are located in the ‘wild east,’ in the remote, hilly province Mondulkiri, with huge waterfalls and wild elephants roaming the deep forests. Almost half of the employees of Kamkav Farm are Phnong tribal members. At the end of 2019, Kamkav Farm will receive an organic NOP and EOS certification.

If you want to contact us, please contact us here or email to lambert@kamkav.com