Tablea Tales

- Jen F. Vega () - March 27, 2011 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - Before the Starbucks or even the 3-in-1 coffee frenzy created a stir, there was the traditional sikwate or chocolate drink for an early morning quick fix.

This much-loved thick, luscious chocolate drink, with an invigorating aroma, is simply heaven that our appreciation for this healthy drink resulted to the creation of champorado (choco rice porridge), which is also a traditional snack that strongly appeals to the kiddos. These are only but two tablea (a cacao roasting spin off) creations that through the years have influenced our chocolate indulgence.

It was the Spaniards who introduced us to cacao (Theobroma cacao). The plant grows only in areas 23 degrees north and south of the equator. Hence, cacao is endemic in tropical countries like the Philippines. It has anti-depressant and stimulant properties because of components such as serotonin,theobromine and caffeine. Cacao is, foremost, the main ingredient for chocolates. It contains useful antioxidants that reduce the risk of cancer and lowers blood pressure. It’s rich in good cholesterol, carbohydrates, fiber, proteins, iron and calcium. In a textbook entitled Harper’s Review of Biochemistry by Drs. Martin, Mayer and Rodwell, it is taught that plants do not produce cholesterol however, over 70 percent of blood level cholesterol “is produced in our body from the carbon found in sugars and carbohydrates from plants,” therefore it’s a misconception that cacao contains cholesterol. It is in fact a healthy drink and a great coffee alternative.

A Culinary Heirloom

Raquel T. Choa, like most mothers, basically mans the kitchen and runs it her way. As a mother of eight, she has gotten used to entertaining guests with her “creative cooking and artistic food preparation,” and often surprises them with new recipes. Among the favorites of her guests and family are her tablea creations, which, according to her, sprung from her penchant for this wonder culinary ingredient. This was made possible because of the influence of her grandmother, who taught her the ropes and showed her the tricks. More so, the mentoring went beyond the painstaking sikwate preparation of melting tablea in boiling water and continuously whisking the mixture using a batirol to create froth since Nanay Leonila Borgonia made a cacao planter and a tablea maker out of Raquel.

This tablea connoisseur discloses that the secret of a good tablea lies foremost in the cacao beans and the roasting procedure. “It is crucial that the cacao beans are carefully selected, cleaned and sorted. The beans are roasted to perfection over a controlled heat at a specific amount of time.” She also added that tablea with an unpleasant sharp bitter taste is a result of over-roasted and unfermented beans.

“Following the roasting is another crucial stage – the roasted cacao nibs (crushed beans) are pounded very carefully to produce cocoa liquor or cocoa mass or unsweetened chocolate. The cocoa mass is then shaped into plumps, its form resting on the artistic hands that mold them.” This may sound so easy, she said, but the process requires an undivided attention to attain quality tablea.

Endless Possibilities

Her fondness for cooking and baking allowed her to incorporate tablea in her recipes. For her Crème Brulee (refer to recipe at right), instead of using dark chocolate syrup, she opts for tablea puree. She does this also to her pastries (such as pralines, flourless cake, pies, mousses, tablea fountain, fondue) and coolers/shakes. “But mine and my friends’ undying favorite is a generous, unadulterated cup of good old tablea brewed just the way my lola loved it.”

Raquel’s love affair with tablea paved the way for the launch of her and her hubby Alfred’s newest baby,Ralfe Gourmet, a tablea supplier that advocates on “advancement of cacao productiveness vis-à-vis product ingenuity,” as well as educating choco drinkers on the benefits of tablea. The couple is utilizing a nine-hectare parcel of land in Balamban for their cacao plantation. Although the plantation has started just recently, marketing and communications officer Edu Pantino said the Cocoa Foundation of the Philippines, Inc. (CocoaPhil), headed by president Edward David, in which Ralfe Gourmet is a member, has been supportive of their venture by providing them with cacao seeds (with breeds that are resistant to pests and diseases) to sustain the plantation. Moreover, since cacao trees bear fruits only after three to five years, they cultivate grafted cacao trees to speed up the production to 16 to 18 months. While waiting for their maturity, CocoaPhil supplies them with superior quality fermented beans. CocoaPhil is affiliated with Wolrd Cocoa Foundation, ASEAN Cocoa Club, and Philippine Food Exporters Association.

RG is a homegrown company that produces tablea from 100 percent cacao, no preservatives and additives. Recently, RG participated in the First Philippine International Cocoa Conference and Exhibition at the World Trade Center to showcase their products with three packaging varieties: the traditional Singles – a tablea sealed with metal plastic to ensure hygiene and freshness, Tablea Block which is ideal for baking – varies in kilos, and the thin, coin-shaped Quickmelt Tablea ideal for choco drinks, concoctions and ganache.

They are currently the supplier of tablea for some top hotels in the metro while at the same time prepping up for the unveiling of their first Tablea Tavern on August, which is poised to house Raquel’s tablea creations of pastries and drinks. In the pipeline also are: Tablea Premix (akin to the chocolate baker’s choice), Tablea Gelato (a pioneer), and the TableaVendo Machine – all for the love of tablea.

To savor a rich cup of chocolate drink made from pure tablea, give them a call at 316-2220 or email to ralfegourmet@yahoo.com.

A CULINARY HEIRLOOM BEFORE THE STARBUCKS CACAO CHOCOLATE COCOA COCOA CLUB COCOA FOUNDATION OF THE PHILIPPINES RALFE GOURMET RAQUEL TABLEA
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