Malagos Chocolate: Tree to Bar at Its Best
By Maria Steinberg
Filipinos have a long history with chocolate, and it’s intertwined with the story of the food preferences of their Spanish conquerors. Cacao arrived in the Philippines by way of Spanish-governed Mexico, some 400 years ago. The seeds were planted and cultivated in areas such as Negros Occidental and Batangas, where the cacao trees easily flourished. Pretty soon, members of the Spanish ruling class and the mestizos could not get enough of the hot drink which came in two versions – “tsokolate E” for espeso, or thick version, and “tsokolate A” for aguada, the thin watery version. It’s been said that back then, one was deemed a VIP if served the “Eh.”
Cacao pods harvested at the Malagos Chocolate farm | Photo Courtesy by Malagos Chocolate
Over time, the drink became a fixture at Filipino breakfast and merienda tables, most especially during the cool Christmas season. The chocolate came in the form of tablea, made from cacao beans that were ground until it formed a paste, and then shaped into balls or disks when pressed into wooden molds.
Fast forward to the 21st century: farmer Charita Puentespina essentially used this process to make tablea from the cacao trees that already existed on her family’s leased land in Davao – leading to the humble beginnings of their now highly successful chocolate making venture, Malagos Chocolate. In 2012, Charita and her husband Roberto established Malagos Agri-Ventures Corporation, and started producing single-origin cocoa liquor for their chocolate, which come in bars and discs for baking and drinking. Their son Rex, their sales and marketing head, helps run the thriving business among many the family owns in Davao, which also include cheese making and horticultural ventures.
Mother and son chocolate makers, Charita and Rex Puentespina, at their cacao farm in Davao | Photo Courtesy by Malagos Chocolate
Their multi-awarded chocolate comes from cacao trees grown on their farm named Malagos, at the foothills of Mt. Talomo in Davao City. The word Malagos is derived from “malakas na agos,” meaning “strong flow of water,” a name which suggests strength and abundance and highlights its single-origin roots. The combination of the water, sun, soil, and climate at this location all join together to form the unique “terroir” that helps create the distinctive fruity taste and flavor of their chocolates.
The beans are dried in special solar dryers at the farm before roasting | Photo Courtesy by Malagos Chocolate
The entire chocolate making process is done at the farm. Terroir notwithstanding, the company also believes that the whole farming process of preparing the bean influences the flavor of the chocolate. Malagos Chocolate is on a high these days having just received a “Best 50 Bean Samples” recognition — out of a global 160-bean samples submitted — from the 2017 Cocoa Excellence Programme recently held in Paris. It simply means that their beans are among the world’s best. Their bean variety is Trinitario, a hybrid of the rare Criollo and more common Forastero, and considered one of the finest cocoa beans worldwide.
Farm worker breaks cacao pods to extract the beans after harvest | Photo Courtesy by Malagos Chocolate
The company, according to Rex, hopes to see their brand become a preferred ingredient of Filipino pastry chefs in the coming years. They’re also launching flavored chocolate bars for the consumer market, which will make use of local ingredients and flavors.
Single-origin Malagos Chocolate bars have won international awards for their distinctive taste | Photo Courtesy by Malagos Chocolate
Making high quality chocolates is far from their only goal. The company has worked hard to maintain their fair trade and sustainable farming practices. Apart from their own farm’s harvest, they work with over 90 other local cacao farmers to source their beans. The farmers have also been trained at the Malagos farm to engage in sound agricultural methods.
Farmer transporting freshly harvested cacao fruit | Photo Courtesy by Malagos Chocolate
The brand’s products include their 65%, 72%, and 85% dark chocolate bars, roasted cacao nibs, as well as unsweetened chocolate bar and discs. There’s something for every baker and chocolate lover — indulge in hot chocolate with ensaymada, bake a chocolate cake, or make Rex Puentespina’s favorite Malagos version of panna cotta.* Filipinos have come a long way from their tsokolate E’s and A’s and now have world-class Philippine-made chocolate at their fingertips!
Malagos Chocolate is available at specialty gourmet shops and baking supply stores in Manila, Davao, and other parts of the country. Click this link http://malagoschocolate.com/retailers-resellers/ to check out the stores.
* Here’s the panna cotta recipe: http://malagoschocolate.com/malagos-chocolate-panna-cotta/