A short lesson on the cacao plant that turns into a decadent feast, Raquel Choa’s The Chocolate Journey at the home she calls Casa de Cacao is an experience that is not to be missed.
Imagine an afternoon of sikwate (chocolate drink) in any flavor you can think of: sweet, dark, spicy, flavored with hibiscus, jasmine, or mint.
Mix and match your warm cup with variety of chocolate-based goodies: cookies, crispies, brownies, cakes.
Settle down as the woman behind Ralfe Gourmet and The Chocolate Chamber (TCC) tells you the bittersweet story behind her love affair with chocolate and the need to recreate Maria Cacao’s palace in her Cebu residence.
This particular culinary indulgence, Ralfe Gourmet marketing manager Edu Pantino said, starts fittingly enough with the American evergreen tree that bears the beans from which chocolate is made.
“The Chocolate Journey of a thousand miles begins with one cacao step,” he cited, in reference to the intricate chocolate-making process and Choa’s journey as the woman behind the artisanal cacao-based food and products that are marketed under the Ralfe Gourmet brand.
He shared how the cacao plant grows large fruit pods from tiny flowers, what conditions allow it to flourish, and the process the beans go through – fermentation to roasting – before these are finely pounded and formed into the bitter chocolate rounds we call tablea.
Choa, aided by her kids and long-time staff, shows how they make tablea the old-fashioned way at Casa de Cacao. She then uses the newly-formed chocolate rounds to make Cebu’s famous sikwate using the wooden beater called batirol.
My favorite was the spicy sikwate which she made by grinding pieces of chili on a small platter, adding atsuete as flavor enhancer, and straining the mix into a jug of chocolate concoction simmering over a hot stove.
We tried a variety of flavors: sikwate with hibiscus, with mint, with jasmine.
The hot sikwate pairs perfectly with Choa’s cake creations baked without milk, eggs, and water: the torta de cerveza uses cerveza negra while torta de Francisco (hatched in anticipation of the visit of Pope Francis) is made with olive oil and wine.
When I thought I couldn’t take another bite, out came the choco ryza (chocolate crispies), cookies, and brownies courtesy of Choa’s kids and they were just too scrumptious to pass up.
Casa de Cacao
Choa grew up with her grandmother’s stories about Maria Cacao, with her golden ship and resplendent palace in the balete tree. Although no human can ever see or visit this place, it didn’t ever stop Choa from wishing.
Casa de Cacao, venue of The Chocolate Journey, is Choa’s creative recreation of Maria Cacao’s palace in the mountain.
“Mi casa, su casa (My home is your home),” she would tell guests who go on The Chocolate Journey with her, adding it is the realm where chocolate is the artist’s medium.
The Chocolate Journey
Cacao Bean Evolution
Trails and Tales of Maria Cacao
The rate is P1,500 per person for groups of 11-15, P1,800 for groups of 6-10, P2,100 per person for groups of 4-5, P3,000 per person for groups of 2-3, and P4,800 for one person going on The Chocolate Journey.
Hot choco at The Tsokolate Bar
Rate is P550 per person.
Rate is P1,000 good for five persons.