Cebu's chocolate queen opens 'Casa de Cacao'

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Cebu City (CNN Philippines, September 3) — A perfect blend of bitter and sweet is how most people describe Filipino chocolate.

Tablea or 'chocolate tablets', they say, comes from the tale of Maria Cacao, the spirit that brings cacao seeds from her mountain home down to the seven rivers of Cebu and beyond.

Widely known in Cebu, Maria Cacao is also said to bring not only cacao seeds, but also other gifts to poor people living near rivers.

The tale of Maria Cacao is what inspired Raquel Choa to develop her own brand, and spearhead an advocacy to make authentic Philippine chocolate known to the world.

Choa, whose chocolates were given as gifts to visiting ASEAN leaders, launched Casa de Cacao in Cebu on Saturday. It is a cafe, restaurant, and a museum of chocolate artistry.

Apart from a menu that features chocolate in all of the featured dishes, the cafe also offers people the opportunity to learn how chocolate is made from cacao beans, as well as how to make tablea truffles.

Chocolate tasting is also available at the Tsokolate Bar where various chocolate drinks and cakes are sold.

Among the pastries available include the Argentinian chocolate cake developed for Pope Francis' visit to the Philippines, and the Cerveza Cake filled with beer.

Choa said she rediscovered her love for chocolates or cacao  five years ago when she recalled how her family in the upland barangay in Balamban survived during dry season.

When she was a little girl, she said her family survived by drinking the only available crop: cacao beans. They had no choice as their farm was very far from the poblacion in Cebu City.

Choa is helping several cacao farmers by encouraging them to continue planting crop as there is a market ready to take their products.

Choa hopes that someday, the Philippine tablea could rival the world's finest gourmet chocolate.