A Brief History of Cacao in Las Islas Filipinas

Theobroma cacao, one of the oldest cultivated plants, is a small (4-8 meters tall) perennial tree crop that originated in the Amazon basin and traveled as far north as Mexico. According to some historical accounts, cacao first travelled outside of its American homeland in 1670 from Acapulco, Mexico to the Philippines aboard Manila galleons[1]. The first cacao planted in the Philippines was pure Criollo, the rarest and most prized variety of cacao today. With the cocoa belt located approximately within 20° of the equator, the Philippines is truly an ideal place for growing cacao. During the period of Spanish colonization, Filipinos started growing cacao trees primarily in Laguna, Cebu and Bohol and not long thereafter, started making and drinking their own form of hot chocolate known as tsokolate, which is made from discs or tablets of ground cocoa nibs with sugar known as tablea or sikwate.

Due to its long history in the Philippines, tablea (i.e. the local equivalent of cocoa liquor) has become an integral part of Filipino culture. The practice of making tsokolate from tablea with a wooden mixing implement called a batidor is a tradition often passed from one generation to another. While the production of tablea is and always should be an important part of our heritage, the country can stand to benefit more from this key global commodity by rehabilitating our native varieties and investing in technology in order to improve the quality of our products. Knowing this, Oro Filipinas has worked in partnership with farmers and industry experts to design a sustainable solution that guarantees quality in an effort to produce one of the best chocolate from the Philippines.

[1] Source: Blanco, Manuel, and Andrés Naves. Flora De Filipinas. Manila: Plana, 1877. Print.