Most people don’t know that only countries within 20 degrees up and below the equator can grow cacao. Europe processes them but they can only import and process the very jewel that makes chocolates what it is. In Asia, Vietnam joins Indonesia as the only two countries offering cacao beans for fine chocolate-making. What’s funny is that many Filipinos tell us they actually had cacao in their backyards when they were growing up! They’d swear to the sweetness of the cacao fruit and how their moms or grandmoms would make home-made chocolate drink after drying the beans. As more lands in the city became subdivisions and trees started becoming few, the tradition of making tablea (chocolate tablets) also disappeared.
Today, the world’s growing appetite for chocolates truly makes us in dire need of more cocoa beans and the Philippines is poised to be the third Asian country to bring fine cacao beans to the world. We are doing our share of educating communities in our country, encouraging them to revive their crops and see how it can be a viable source of livelihood. At the same time, we emphasize the need for quality beans. We, as cacao doctors, and as founders of “OFW para sa Magsasaka” refuse to keep cacao farmers poor while on the very top we keep wealthy the chocolate-makers. We don’t want to be another Cote d’ Ivoire with the bulk beans and the dirt-poor farmers. We love our fellow Filipinos too much.