Spouses of finance leaders swoon over PH chocolates
LAPU-LAPU CITY—It was an intimate gathering filled with sweet treats prepared by no less than Cebu’s chocolate queen, Raquel Toquero Choa.
Spouses of finance ministers and central bank governors from members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) ended up swooning over Philippine-made chocolates.
At Cacao Garden of Shangri-La’s Mactan Island Resort and Spa here, the spouses of the ministers from Malaysia, Laos and the Philippines started to arrive at 9:45 a.m. and learned that Filipinos could make chocolates because cacao trees grow in the Philippines.
“In the mountain of Balamban (town), I learned how to make chocolates but it was not only about five years ago that I realized that I discovered a hidden treasure. That is cacao beans make chocolates,” said Choa, who’s also an Inquirer brand ambassador.
The spouses learned how to pound cacao beans to pasty form, which was turned into “cacao de bola,” Choa’s version of “queso de bola.” Cacao de bola is used to garnish and flavor different food and dishes.
Choa was assisted by her daughter, 16-year-old Hannah Mae, who explained the process of making “sikwate” (native chocolate drink).
The cacao garden, a joint collaboration between Choa and Shangri-La Mactan, showcases the process of fermenting, roasting and pounding of cacao beans. Grafted cacao trees are grown in the garden.
Sharing her humble beginnings, Choa said she had eight children, surprising the spouses, who were assisted by liaison officers and staff members.
“How come you are so slim when you love chocolates?” she said, referring to the unanimous reaction of the spouses.
After the introduction at the cacao garden, the guests, Choa and Hannah proceeded to the business center where a full chocolate spread was prepared for them.
‘Best of Cebu’
On the table were choco mango squares with sea salt, especially made for the Asean Summit, which Choa described as a “product that defines the best of Cebu.”
The spouses were also served hand-rolled truffles with ganache, “alfajores,” “nibcuits,” “pralines” with whole cacao nib, “turrones de tsokolate,” tartufini and cookies.
All these treats were made from “tablea” (cocoa tablets), produced in Cebu by Choa’s company Ralfe Gourmet. The products are sold at The Chocolate Chamber.
Choa decorated the business center with cacao branches, leaves, chocolate paintings, rocks and cacao pods, creating a mountain vibe in the otherwise corporate setting.
The spouses, who were scheduled to visit a furniture store and an art gallery tomorrow, loved Choa’s chocolate creations that they placed orders for more chocolates that morning.
As the gathering was being wrapped up around 11:40 a.m, Cynthia Dominguez, wife of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, expressed gratitude to Choa for sharing her tablea story.
“You are an inspiration to all of us. You are a Filipino woman we want to emulate,” she told Choa.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.