Filipino Chocolate – Interview with Kelly from Auro Chocolate

Philippinische Schokolade – Kelly von Auro Chocolate im Interview
Auro Chocolate was founded in 2015 and since then has stood for fine bean-to-bar chocolate from the Philippines. Not only does the cocoa grow in the Southeast Asian country, but the entire processing up to the finished chocolate bar takes place there. In an interview with Theyo, Kelly Go, founder of Auro Chocolate, tells how cocoa came to the Philippines, what the opportunities and challenges of production are in the country of origin and how the taste of international chocolate fans differs from that of the Philippines.

Companies that produce chocolate in the country of origin of the cocoa beans are still a rarity. How did you get into it?

The idea of ​​making chocolate in the Philippines came to us ten years ago. Back then we knew that we had a long tradition of making a coarsely ground cocoa drink called Tableya or Sikwate. But little did we know that we had cocoa beans good enough to be made into fine chocolate. At that time, there were no established craft chocolate manufacturers in the Philippines. You have to know that cocoa-producing countries had no opportunity to produce chocolate for a long time. Because the technology for making chocolate was developed in countries that do not produce cocoa themselves. However, with the increasing democratization of the industry over the last 20 years, there has been a wave of chocolate makers challenging the status quo of traditional cocoa sourcing and chocolate making.

Why do you think it is important to produce in the country of origin?

For us, producing fine chocolate in the Philippines means that more people in agriculture and processing can benefit, that we can create a greater awareness of what it means to source cocoa sustainably, and that we can share our unique tastes and traditions can share with the rest of the world.
The fact that we are in the same country as everyone involved in the process is also extremely important. This allows us to visit our farming communities more often and develop deeper relationships with them. Additionally, companies like ours that have chosen to use only homegrown cocoa beans are often forced to make the necessary improvements in cultivation, post-harvest and manufacturing processes. Because we have to work with what we have. In our experience, striving to produce in the country of origin, while tough, is incredibly fulfilling. We can create small and large changes in our communities that spread to the rest of the country. We want to put the Philippines on the world map of fine flavor cocoa and chocolate!

What is the relationship of the Philippines to chocolate?

The Philippines' relationship with cocoa began a long time ago. Because we were the first country in Asia to actively produce cocoa. Cocoa came to the Philippines as early as 1633 through the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade . And according to written records, the variety that was transported first was the Criollo. Since then, cocoa has played an important role in Filipino tradition. It was common for every family to have at least one cacao tree in their garden and produce tableya, the traditional cacao drink, at home. Tableya is made from ground cocoa beans and prepared in brass or silver pots with the help of a wooden whisk. There is also a traditional Filipino porridge made with cocoa known as champorado.

How did the chocolate scene develop in the Philippines?

In the past, the Philippines only made tableya from cocoa for their own consumption. With the introduction of more convenient forms of food production, this tradition began to fade. Since the mid-20th century, the confectionery market has been heavily dominated by foreign brands that mainly produce chocolate from ready-made mass. In the last five to ten years, however, a craft chocolate scene has emerged in the Philippines that produces its own single-origin chocolate and cocoa products. Today, most bean-to-bar chocolate makers, like us at Auro Chocolate, are small to medium sized companies.

What does your cooperation with the farmers look like?

The farmers we work with are mostly smallholders and cooperatives. We are currently cooperating with 80 individual farmers in Davao , representing more than 1,000 families and 2,000 hectares of farmland. We implement a unique pricing structure that offers farmers significant premiums of 20-50% over the world market price. This creates incentives to improve the quality and cultivation of local cocoa varieties. In addition, we offer our cocoa partners ongoing support by teaching them the basics of organic farming and business management.

Cocoa bean cultivation in the Philippines ©Auro Cocoa bean cultivation in the Philippines ©Auro

Does the taste of the Philippines differ from the taste of international chocolate lovers?

In our experience: yes! And that can be quite a challenge because we develop the same products for our national and international customers. Most Filipino consumers grew up eating cheap, ready-made chocolate. For this reason, many still prefer white or milk chocolate, but are quite open to slowly discovering darker chocolate as well. International customers, especially craft chocolate fans, usually like high cocoa content and special flavors. To cater to both markets, we have developed our Classic collection, made with Davao cocoa and featuring a distinct but more accessible flavor profile. Then we have our Reserve and Heritage collections, showcasing the unique flavors of cacao and other local ingredients in the Philippines like moringa and mango. In general, both national and international markets are now more interested in discovering unique flavors, local ingredients and sustainable production stories.

Your panels have a very special design. Where do you get your inspiration from?

Auro Chocolate's packaging is inspired by the rich and beautiful Filipino tapestries. In addition, the symbols that can be found on the packaging actually represent the steps involved in making a chocolate. The packaging of our chocolate bars also serves as a guide for the actual chocolate production!

Chocolate can actually be eaten in any situation. What's your favorite "chocolate situation"?

During the afternoon coffee break or at tea time! She always gives me new energy and makes me happy.

The team at bean-to-bar maker Auro ©Masterminds Asia The two founders of Auro (left): Kelly & Mark + Team ©Masterminds Asia

City, Country, Pleasure.

We have slightly modified the famous game "City, Country, River" ...

City: If your chocolate was a city, which city would it be?

Manila because it is a city that uses modern technologies while preserving its cultural heritage. It is an emerging cosmopolitan city with immense growth potential and tropical wonders to be discovered.

Country: Which country is your favorite growing area?

Definitely the Philippines. We currently source the cocoa for Auro Chocolate from various farms in Davao. Generally one of the most beautiful countries around, the Philippines is blessed with various forms of land and water. It all contributes to the unique flavors of Filipino cacao beans.

Enjoyment: What do you like to combine your 70% bar with?

With craft strong beer.

Which three chocolates would you take to a desert island?

Our Auro Chocolate 70% Saloy, the Pistatxo Karamelizado from Kaitxo and the O'Payo 50% from Friis-Holm Chokolade .

Auro's chocolate selection ©Auro Auro's chocolate selection ©Auro

Curious about how the fine bean-to-bar chocolates from Auro Chocolate taste? This way ! You can find out more about the countries of origin of the chocolates in our Theyo online shop on our blog .

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