International Women’s month may have been months ago, but a woman of purpose, dedication and a dream to uplift others should be celebrated every day.
If you’ve been to Cebu and a chocolate experience was part of your itinerary, then most likely you have already heard the story of the Chocolate Queen and have tried her decadent, blissful, pure sikwate and more!
Raquel Choa may be a queen and have always been a symbol of poise, grandeur, beauty and artisanal chocolates but everything she has now wasn’t handed to her on a silver platter. She didn’t always have an easy life growing up but she always knew that she is destined for bigger things.
Her life’s story and her chocolate journey are so generously shared to everyone who visits The Chocolate Chamber. It truly is a wonderful experience to learn and appreciate the history, the culture and the inspiration that her stories impart. And as what she always says, “my life journey and chocolate journey are inseparable.”
Raquel learned to choose the best cacao beans at an early age. Guided by her grandmother, every night, she separates the bad beans from the good beans using only a candle or a gas lamp as light since there was no electricity in their home. A skill she was able to carefully master over the years and has become her foundation in her chocolate journey.
Fast forward, Raquel has achieved more than what other artisans were able to accomplish. She has travelled far and wide and has been a constant guest at dignitaries’ events all over the world. Of course, always carrying with her the Cebuano pride, and the Philippine flag.
Not only is she an advocate of sustainable cacao farming but she has always been a proud frontrunner of cacao tourism, hence the tagline, from the land to the brand to life. She considers her chocolate as a brand tourism. In fact, she had the opportunity to share her chocolate journey to the ASEAN delegates and their spouses during the Asia Pacific Economic Conference (APEC).
The journey included the old way of sapping fresh cacao beans and the value of fermenting the beans to get the desired flavor of the chocolate.
Visitors to her Casa de Cacao are not only treated to a myriad of delicious chocolate products but also to an exquisite story-telling. Raquel would often tell the legend of Maria Cacao. A version of the story which was handed to her by her grandmother.
To her, the story of Maria Cacao was more than just a legend. It was her favorite bedtime story that has given her comfort each night as a young girl, while the rebels and the military where always clashing in their mountain barangay during martial law.
She brought that story with her wherever she goes and has been her inspiration and is very evident in creating her own palace, in every branch of The Chocolate Chamber.
Now, Raquel aims to see that all her efforts in showcasing our chocolate heritage will be acknowledged in our own country, since it is already being warmly received abroad. During her TV interview in 2013, she made it clear that her vision and mission for her chocolate journey was to let the whole world know that the Filipinos do exist in the chocolate world and that we have a unique and authentic Filipino chocolate-drinking tradition.
Lastly, she hopes that every Filipino would take pride in this heritage and we may never forget to sip, savor and share. (NMT)