JUST like the legend of Maria Cacao, believed to be the queen of cacao forest who traveled all over the world on a magical ship, Raquel Choa’s incredible story about her discovery of cacao in the remote hills of Balamban has been fascinating chocolate aficionados.
Her continuing successful pursuits as tablea maker and is now alluded to as the “Chocolate Queen” continues to unravel—the art of enjoying a velvety anti-oxidant rich cup of “Sikwate”; creating exquisite Ralfe Gourmet chocolates, and the creative use of cacao as beauty products branded as Raquel Emmolience.
At the same time she is very passionate about her advocacy in raising cacao awareness especially among farmers. She uses 100 percent locally grown cacao beans from all over the country.
She has also been putting Cebu in the global map as a chocolate ambassadress and dreams that the Philippines will one day be known as “Chocolate Islands.”
Forty-year-old Raquel embraced motherhood as a teenager.
She married at the age of 16 and is now a mother to eight wonderful children who are very supportive of her love for chocolate.
Sixteen-year-old Hannah, the eldest among the girls, is following in her mother’s footsteps, showing a natural flair for making “tablea” as well as creating chocolates and pastries.
And to further involve her children in the Chocolate Chamber business, “Batirol” was recently launched in time for their summer break. Instead of the usual ribbon cutting, a symbolic cacao filled with chocolates was cracked with “batirols” by the guest of honors.
“Batirol” is a salute to Philippine cacao as the Chocolate Chamber enlivens a chocolate drinking tradition using premium beans from the different regions to create 100 percent cacao drink.
“Batirol” or “batidor” is actually a whisk made of wood with a long solid handle and a spiky or grooved head that does the whisking. This is as basic as a spoon in our grandmother’s kitchen.
Most of us grew up enjoying this traditional “sikwate” or “tsokolate” prepared by whisking the drink with a batirol in a chocolatera (pitcher made of clay or cast iron).
The “Batirol,” the kiosk, is conveniently located at the entrance of the Ralfe Gourmet Chocolate Chamber Boutique in Mabolo, a stone’s throw away from Sarrosa Hotel.
This way, Raquel explains, affordable chocolate drinks paired with cakes and tablea infused stuffed buns can be enjoyed, streetside cafe style.
There are cozy tables and chairs outside the chamber and the convenience of ordering and taking them home (to go).
Brother and sister Jonathan and Hannah are in-charge of preparing the Sikwate while the younger siblings assist in serving.
There are three choices for the hot chocolate drink: Sikwate, the traditional hot chocolate; Chocodense, sweetened with condensed milk; and Chocomallow, sweetened with marshmallows.
Hannah takes pride in the cupcakes she created with her mom using tablea powder: Sikwate, Spanish and Mud Pie cupcakes.
The delicious tablea-infused buns are soft and doughy stuffed with longaniza, tocino or bacon. There is also an assortment of cookies to pair or dip into that silky hot invigorating chocolate drink.
To all of us mothers, Happy Mother’s Day!