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Saturday, December 9, 2023

From bean to bar

As the King City of the South, Davao is home to numerous natural resources that reward the province with high distinctions from the public, the government, and other private institutions. Although Davao is widely known for its sweet-tasting pomelo and top-quality durian, Davao is also home to an award-winning chocolate brand, Malagos Chocolate.

Malagos Chocolate gets its name from the local neighborhood, which comes from the Filipino term “malakas na agos,” or strong water flow. It’s part of the Malagos Agri-Ventures Corporation, a family-owned business committed to working with nature. One of its goals is to revitalize the Philippine cacao industry while preserving heirloom cacao varieties.

Malagos Chocolate offers a wide variety of chocolate products made from their heirloom cacao

Yet, as all things outstanding, the Malagos Chocolate brand also began with a passion for nature, rooted in a deep love and respect for the land.

It began when the founders, Robert and Charita Puentespina, bought their first farm in Tagakpan, Davao, in 1963. The matriarch cultivated the land by planting many fruit trees, including coconut, coffee, and bananas, and operating a small piggery. Eventually, the pioneer couple expanded their operations and invested in additional farmland.

Roberto (left) and Charita Puentespina

By 2003, Charita grew passionate about cacao after leasing a farm in Malagos, Davao. The farm already had existing cacao trees since Davao is home to many heirloom cacao that grow abundantly in the province’s rich soil. Charita dreamed of revitalizing the industry after it crashed in the 1980s, eyeing to create premium Philippine chocolates to boost the local economy and its products.

Since then, Puentespina Farms improved their cacao growing and post-harvesting processes. They eventually built their factory in 2009 to further refine their chocolate-making to become the renowned brand it is today.

Puentespina Farm is the 16th across the globe to receive a Heirloom Cacao recognition

Through rigorous efforts in perfecting their processes from growing cacao to harvesting to processing, Puentespina Farm launched the Philippine-made Malagos Chocolate, a single-origin, fine-flavor chocolate that embodies the brand’s bean-to-bar process.

In 2015, the Malagos Chocolate brand earned its first international award, training the spotlight on Philippine cacao and the industry’s continued potential. It was the first of many.

Puentespina Farm, located in Malagos, now cultivates around 20,000 cacao trees. It is an optimal spot for growing cacao because of its position along the equator. Other countries along the Cacao Belt, including those in South America and Africa, make for the top cacao-producing countries in the world.

The farm lies along the Cacao Belt, making it an ideal place to grow cacao

With such a lofty dream of promoting local cacao and chocolate, Puentespina Farms sought to preserve the heirloom cacao variety abundant in the region. Fortunately, in 2019, Puentespina Farms officially received the Heirloom Cacao designation from the US-based Heirloom Cacao Preservation (HCP) Fund, making them the 16th to receive the distinction across the globe.

According to the HCP, heirloom cacao is a foundation of great chocolate because the trees and beans of heirloom varieties have an outstanding flavor profile and value and speak volumes about its historical, cultural, botanical, and geographical elements.

Malagos Chocolate offers a selection of products made with their heirloom cacao variety, following a bean-to-bar approach. Besides experimenting with new, modern flavors, their award-winning chocolate drew recognition for its rich flavor.

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