Monday, June 1, 2015

TCC : The Chocolate Chambers of Cebu Philippines

Cebu is best known for lechon (roasted pig), dried mangoes and now making its name for chocolates both locally and internationally. Thanks to Ms. Raquel Choa, the owner and founder of Ralfe Gourmet Inc. - an artisan chocolate boutique based in Cebu that focuses on creating quality chocolate from locally-sourced cacao.

TCC Cafe from outside.

TCC table setting inside.

It was around 8 o'clock in the evening when we arrived at TCC (The Chocolate Chamber) cafe, a 72-square meter chocolate boutique that has a seating capacity of 20 persons, with beautiful and refreshing interiors which designed by Ms. Raquel herself. We were greeted by one of his son, who is so welcoming, polite and attentive to my boss who keep on asking so many questions about TCC. As I looked around I was amazed the by the paintings using chocolate as paint hang on the walls. Everything in the room is elegantly laid out from porcelain tableware and shelves of various neatly ordered chocolate confections; and a very temping display of chocolate cakes and pastries. 

Cacao seeds. 

Chocolate paint wall hanging.

Chocolate paint wall hanging.

Chocolate paint wall hanging.

Chocolate paint wall hanging.

A few minutes later Ms. Raquel arrived and greeted us. I considered myself very lucky having this kind of opportunity of meeting her in person and having the privileged to be seated in front of her. She is very warm and pleasant. I like the positive aura she posses while she talked to us and shared to us her life story, her dreams, her imagination, TCC and her recent success at Asia's Ethnic Food and Ingredients Show IFEX Philippines last May 21-24, 2015 at SMX Convention Center Mall of Asia in Pasay City. 

with Ms. Hope and Ms. Nelia Navarro of DTI Cebu, Ms. Raquel Choa, my boss Carissa and me.

But everything didn't start out as sweet. Her humble beginnings resembled the bitter taste of chocolate before they turn into the sweet confectionery that everyone loves now. Ms. Raquel grew up from a poor family, living in her grandmother's house in the mountain of Brgy. Balamban Cebu City, away from the bustling metropolis and lived a simple life in the mountain side. Living in the mountain expose her to the reality of life where she learned the dirty works of farming and selling crops, charcoal, brooms and coconut husks. She also told us that they only eat rice once a year during summer and most of the time they ate corn and crops.

Ralfe Gourmet packaging.

She even had to cross seven rivers to be able to reach to school everyday and that her grandmother would often served and prepare tablea (traditional Filipino chocolate drink) every morning. At the age of 12, she worked as kasambahay (house help) in Laguna, she also experience selling candles and sampaguita in the city to help her parents. Hard as may it seems but to her, she never took this things hard and hindrance but serves her as inspiration for better tomorrow. And realize that life in the mountain is way better than being lived in the city. 

Ms. Raquel preparing us a tablea drink.

Ms. Raquel is cacao farmer herself, making tablea is her passion since she has been exposed to it since childhood. With her grandmother as trainer, its no surprise that as early as 7 years old she already knew how to prepare tablea.

Tablea drink.

After an hour of chatting she invited us to her chocolate factory, a few blocks away from her TCC cafe. Her chocolate factory is actually their house, where she and her husband and 8 children live. It is commonly known in the area as Chocolate House. When we reached to her factory she introduced us to her staff who were having meetings at the time and Mr. Edu Pantino, her business partner. Whom later at night, I found out that we could be related to each other. Especially that we both came from the same province in Leyte. His from Caridad while I'm from Maybog a neighboring barangay's in the province of Baybay Leyte. Unfortunately we haven't had the chance to talk much because we were about to leave.

Ms. Nelia Navarro, my boss Carissa, Ms. Raquel Choa, Me, and Ms. Hope. Picture credit to Sir Edu.

Today Ralfe Gourmet is now supplying chocolate to various high-end local hotels, resorts and airports throughout the country and its now starting to be known in the international market. Sooner of later there will be TCC cafe in the heart of France.

Solo picture with Ms. Raquel. Picture credit to Sir Edu.

One of the remarkable thing I admire about Ms. Raquel Choa is her heart and advocacy on helping other people. Educating them that life in the mountain is way better in the city, and she is trying to do her best to bring back the people in the mountain who now resides in the city streets and piers living homeless. Today she and her husband bought a 33 hectares of cacao plantation in Cebu and developing the land for a bigger chocolate factory, wherein she employed locals and also provide a home facility in the area which she called chocolate village. As I was looking at the blueprint landscape design in the table for the bigger chocolate factory, I can't help but praise the 7-old girl who dream, believes on her imagination and now living the dream. Just like what her favorite song "Pangarap Na Bituin"; her younger life seems to be no light in the future, but though hard work, dedication, and faith with the God, she is now shining brightly as she continue to reach for her dreams.

Indeed her life story is a living testament that all dreams are valid, with hard work, dedication and faith they do come true.

I would like to thanked Ms. Nelia Navarro and Ms. Hope of DTI-Cebu for fixing this itinerary for us.

To know more about Rafle Gourmet you can check out their websites at While The Chocolate Chamber cafe is located at President Quirino Street Corner Magsaysay Street Barangay Kasambagan Cebu City, Cebu Philippines 6000. With operating hours from Mondays-Saturdays 9:00am to 9:00pm, Sundays 10:00am to 7:00pm.

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