Beyond chocolate: PH’s ‘cacao de bola’

Beyond chocolate: PH’s ‘cacao de bola’

By Abs A. Abando (PNA)

- in Feature, Food, News

At the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Ministerial Meeting, guests and delegates were treated to a live demonstration on the making of  “cacao de bola,” which is chocolate in its purest form by tablea maker Racquel Choa otherwise known as the Philippine’s “Queen of Chocolate.”

According to Edu Pantino, chairperson of the Philippine Cacao Industry Council (PCIC), if Europe has “queso de bola” the Philippines proudly introduces the “cacao de bola” to ASEAN nations and to the world as this is the first of its kind.

“Cacao is a very interesting crop. It’s not endemic to the Philippines but it was introduced by the Spaniards courtesy of the Mexicans around 1617,” Pantino explained.

In making cacao de bola, only cacao that is 50-70 percent ripe is used since a fully-ripened cacao fruit germinates and affects the taste of the chocolate, Pantino said.

“This is a very labor intensive process since every step from selecting, sleeving, pruning, shelling, winnowing and pounding are all done by hand, especially the shaping of the cacao ball.”

Pantino adds that the making of  Cacao de bola making “is not a complicated… you don’t have to invest in sophisticated machines to come up with the cacao de bola, a creation which showcases the savory side of chocolate.”

The process begins in the selection of cacao nibs which are whole beans after which the nibs are placed in a mortar and pounded by hand using a pestle. Pantino says the cacao they use is propagated because of its high-fat content which is 58 percent more than what is found in the average cacao fruit.

As the nibs are crushed, the pounding produces heat and cocoa butter is released or “volatilized,” making them pasty and a chocolate aroma starts to fill the air.

On a side note, Pantino says that cocoa butter is “where the money is” as this is what big companies extract to make the best skin lotions, mainly because cocoa butter melts at mere 34-37 degrees Celsius – the normal human body temperature.

Back to the making of cacao de bola – once the cacao nibs turn into a pasty dough, it is then rolled into a ball solely by hand, after which it is cured at a cooler temperature for it to solidify and become the cacao de bola. This can then be grated over anything including rice, pasta, coffee or it can be taken as is.

Aside from the cacao de bola, Asean delegates were also treated to a chocolate painting session by Pantino’s son, JP. He demonstrated how chocolate paste can be used for monochromatic paintings.

Pantino emphasized that chocolate is a difficult medium because temperature affects its viscosity and will solidify easily when used in cold climates or air-conditioned rooms.

“JP is being trained to perfect the art of chocolate painting. When he masters it, we will also teach others about this wonderful art form,” Pantino said.

Choa and Pantino will also be at the First Philippine National Congress for Cacao to be held in Cebu on August 8-9. (PNA/Mindanation)

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