Life!

An afternoon in the Land of Chocolate

Sommeliers pounding cocoa nibs to yield cocoa liquor

NOTHING could have prepared me for the gastronomic experience that was La Tierra Del Chocolate, Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort & Spa’s best kept secret that highlights and celebrates the distinct nuances of the Philippine cacao.

A culinary journey that recreates a series of gracious traditions, The Land of Chocolate spans from sunrise to sunset. From the native Sikwate (hot chocolate) served in the morning to a choice of either Chocolate High Tea or Biko and Mango in the afternoon and finally to their signature Chocolate Martinis in the evening, Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort & Spa takes you on a journey that is distinctly Filipino.

Tucked away in a grove of trees on the resort grounds, one would not expect to find a young cacao farm underneath its canopy. Walking through the footpath that lead to a glade was reminiscent to a mountain hike I went on as a child–surprising, pleasant and a breath of fresh air. It evoked pleasant memories of my childhood that hit me right in the feels.

But I wasn’t really sure if it was the short walk or the smell of tablea that wafted through the air that sent tidal waves of nostalgia my way. Either way, I found myself hankering for a cup of sikwate as we made our way to a delicious spread of biko (Filipino rice cake) and mango right in the middle of a clearing. The sight of which looked like it came straight out of a book.

Bean to bar, nib to nibbles

The Cacao Garden guided tour lets you in on an immersive experience where sommeliers demonstrate the traditional methods of creating chocolate from cacao beans. From the time of harvest, to fermentation, roasting, winnowing (where the beans are cracked open and cocoa nibs are separated from their skin) and finally, to pounding (where the nibs are ground to a paste to produce the cocoa liquor or tablea), guests can witness firsthand how our favorite dessert is made.

With the highlight of the cacao garden tour being the chocolate tasting, we were treated to three hot chocolate concoctions that were every bit as authentic and rooted in nature as the raw cacao from three different destinations–Cebu, Bohol and Davao. It is safe to say that the cacao garden tour ended on a good note. Why wouldn’t it be when chocolate is known the world over as the ultimate comfort food, always giving us the happies thanks to its ability to trigger the production and release of the feel-good molecules, endorphins and serotonin. Yes, my friends, chocolate heaven is for real!

A notable first in the Philippines and within Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, the Land of Chocolate is founded and personally overseen by resort General Manager, René D. Egle, an initiative that was two years in the making. The sommeliers on the other hand were trained in the classic art of traditional chocolate making by no less than Cebu’s chocolate queen herself, Raquel Ochoa of The Chocolate Chamber. Living up to their claim as the first and only experiential cacao destination, The Land of Chocolate does not only allow guests to witness firsthand how cocoa liquor is made, they can also volunteer and try the roasting and pounding themselves to complete the cacao garden tour experience.

The resort is my family’s favorite staycation spot because it is undoubtedly a world-class destination but this time around, Shangri-La’s Mactan
Resort & Spa had me at cocoa.

TAGS: afternoon, chocolate, land
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