An artisanal chocolate industry is brewing in Cebu

A not-so-secret Chocolate Garden aims to shine a light on this delicious local crop

The Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort & Spa in Cebu has a secret: hidden in the lush tropical grounds is La Tierra del Chocolate (the Land of Chocolate). Follow the path through the tropical vegetation and you emerge in a small cacao farm with a rustic wooden table at the center.

Here you’ll be greeted by chocolate sommeliers Amelyn Ba-at and Sheena Acedo, the first people to hold this job in the Shangri-La and the whole of the Philippines. The pair — trained by Cebu’s “chocolate queen” Raquel Choa of the Chocolate Chamber — will teach you how to roast, shell and pound this crop until it becomes the basic form of dark chocolate, a tablea. Then comes the fun part: a sikwate tasting.

Sikwate is Cebuano hot chocolate and the closest thing you will ever get to pure chocolate in a cup. The drink is bitter and strong, but your sommeliers will help you temper it to your tastes, by adding burnt local sugar and coconut, and pairing it with Cebu’s famous mangoes and sticky rice — a combination that seems at odds, but is really just a version of that other local delicacy: mango chocolate.

Once you discover the secret garden, you will see that La Tierra del Chocolate is reflected all around the Shangri-La, from a Chocolate High Tea in the Lobby Lounge, to the hotel’s own range of artisanal chocolate in partnership with Auro, a Philippine chocolate maker (we highly recommend the chocolate martini).

“We’re proud to do our part in drawing wider attention to our native cacao traditions, as well as the exciting new things that the local chocolate industry is doing,” says Cassandra Cuevas, the resort’s director of communications.

. . .

More chocolates from local specialists

Risa Chocolates. Weighing in at 70% dark chocolate, Risa’s single-origin bar, made from South Cotabato cacao, has spicy caramel flavours. Team it with: a slice of fresh mango.

Auro Chocolate. This Manila-based chocolatier offers a huge 77% dark chocolate with cacao sourced from Davao. Team it with: a creamy chunk of blue cheese.

Malagos Chocolate. This famous and award-winning Davao-based chocolate company cranks it up to 85% dark chocolate. Team it with: a glass of gutsy Cabernet Sauvignon.

This article first appeared in the December 2018 issue of Smile magazine.

Written by

Paul Chai

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