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Raquel Choa: ‘Chocolate queen’

‘I want to tell the whole world that we Filipinos know how to make chocolate. We have our identity.’ — Raquel T. Choa, The Chocolate Chamber founder.

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illustration by glenzkie tolo

Touted as the Chocolate Queen of Cebu, Raquel Toquero-Choa still prefers to be called just a tablea maker.

TABLEA maker, chocolate sommelier and The Chocolate Chamber founder Raquel T. Choa.

The famed lass, who hails from the municipality of Balamban, has long been an advocate of the roasted, grounded and molded nibs of pure cacao beans, the native chocolate we all know as tablea.

CACAO-INFUSED ice cream. | PHOTOGRAPHS BY PAULINE SONGCO FOR THE DAILY TRIBUNE

Her endeavor to enliven its local industry has brought her not only to places but also inspired her to open her first chocolate business, Ralfe Gourmet, and, later on, The Chocolate Chamber (TCC).

“Along the way, as I continued my chocolate journey, I became a chocolate sommelier. I do train some hotel staff. The first one was in Shangri-La Mactan,” Choa told select members of the media at a familiarization tour by the Cebu Pacific and the Department of Tourism Region 7 held last month.

STICKY rice ball with chocolate ganache.

Her creations are all made with tablea using cacao nibs sourced locally, specifically from Davao. TCC’s trio of chocolates, White Chocolate with Cacao Nibs, Choco Cayenne, and Dark Chocolate with Cacao Nibs, are famous among patrons.

PAINTING using chocolate as the medium.

“Some people wonder if I study all these things. I said no. They asked how I did them, I said I developed this with all my senses,” she said.

Choa’s children are all involved in running TCC, too.

“The kitchen is our playground. We always play around with the food items,” her daughter, Hannah, said.

On the cafe’s menu is Chocolate Pizza, a thin-crust pizza infused with tablea, that was actually developed by one of Choa’s sons, Jonathan, when he was only 13. Hannah, on the other hand, concocted their version of Mole, a chocolate Mexican sauce that uses a dozen ingredients along with tablea and three types of chili.

RAQUEL is joined by her children in running The Chocolate Chamber.

TCC’s Grilled Sausage is cooked with cacao oil and cacao de bola which are cacao nibs manually pounded and grated. The drinks, all 21 of them, are also tablea-infused.

Choa also created a chocolate energy bar called Hunat inspired by the Spartan and Iron Man races.

“What I did was mix dark chocolate, the tablea, dried papaya, dried mango and dried guyabano,” she explained.

Choa declined when asked if these were for export.

“I used to travel and share my chocolate journey abroad. A lot of people ask the same question, whether I’m going to open in Manhattan, Guam or Los Angeles. I said no. I want them to visit our country.

“I want to tell the whole world that we, Filipinos, know how to make chocolate. We have our identity,” she said.

TCC currently has branches in Panglao and Nustar Resort. Its Shangri-La Mactan branch is currently closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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