Sunday, September 27, 2015

Invited to the Bloggys 2015 Gala Night

Bloggys 2015
Hi Pinoy Chocophile!
After careful deliberation, we're happy to inform you that has made it in the guest list of #bloggys2015, Philippine Blogging Awards Gala Night.
As a blogger and our guest of honor, you'll enjoy:
  • An awards show of the finest bloggers in the Philippines
  • Witnessing a key event in Philippine history
  • Networking with businesses who have freebies and perks for bloggers
  • Building relationship with niche influencers, trend setters and buzz ambasaddors
Please take note of the following:
1.) Please post a short invite in your blog. Use our poster located here:
2.) Invite everyone on Facebook/Twitter.
3.) Being a guest of honor, you don't have to pay for a ticket. You're also entitled to bring one (1) companion/friend for free. Just reply here if you have a +1.
4.) Have you nominated all your favorite blogs? If not yet, you can do so here:
We hope there won't be any cancellations from your end, as your slot is reserved and confirmed. Our judges would be happy to meet you.

Best Regards,
- Misty Casul

Guests Committee
Bloggys 2015, Philippine Blogging Awards

Monday, August 31, 2015

By invitation only: Chef Lawrence Cheong Jun Bo Chocolate Demo


Saw the post on my timeline from the Blogapalooza Bloggers FB group with the invite:

We will be sending invites to a select group of bloggers for an intimate chocolate tasting and demonstration of a World Champion Master Chef. Please send your email address via pm or post it here in this thread. Thank you!
An opportunity to revive this blog again. I hope I get invited to the event. 

The profile of the celebrated chocolatier Chef Lawrence Cheong Jun Bo was taken from the internet.

Lawrence Cheong Jun Bo

Positions/Job Title
 Assistant Pastry Chef
     Impiana hotel Kuala Lumpur

Working Experience
 One World Hotel 2007-2010 Commis
 Renaissance Kuala Lumpur 2010 Commis 1
 Hotel Maya kuala Lumpur 2010-2012 Chef De Partie

Awards / Achievements
 FHM 2009- Diploma Plated Dessert
 FHM 2010- Silver Medal Malaysia pastry Cup
 FHM 2010- Gold Medal Freestyle Confectionary
 FHA 2012- Gold Medal Chocolate Showpiece
 FHA 2012- Gold Medal Dress the Cake

Profile Story

Lawrence Cheong Jun Bo, 27 years old, currently working at Impiana hotel KLCC as an assistant pastry chef.

Lawrence decided to join pastry line as his major career after he graduated from secondary school, his mom has sent him to Taiwan to study – Food science and technology & Bakery – for 2 years by himself. Unfortunately food science is a course which need very strong knowledge in science, and Lawrence has totally zero knowledge, so he force to focus in bakery, from there he slowly became attracted in bakery and pastry. And now his target is to combine pastries and art into wonderful pieces to serve on the table.

For him, pastry is an art form in making food. Many unique design and taste could be created, it has an unlimited possibilities. And pastries always makes people feel warm, sweet and remember what they eat. No matter you yourself made it or made by others, it is truly an enjoying and satisfying experience.

Lawrence has started his first step at One World Hotel since April 2007 as a 3rd commis led by the First Chef Law Chii Ngien and 2nd Chef Joas Kam.  With a very good opportunity and freedom given by chef Joas, Lawrence got for himself  a very comfort space to have his experiment and tries with his best partner named Chong Ko Wai in the hotel. 

Then he got promoted as a 2nd commis just on his 3rd year. As an upcoming talent he was recommended by a demi Chef Tan Wei Loon to join the Renaissance Kuala Lumpur as a 1st commis led by chef Niklesh Sharma, for 8th months hew was well mentored by chef Niklesh and then got a new recommendation by demi chef Kevin to join Maya Hotel in December 2010 as a Chef De Partie and trained by Chef Teh Chee Fook.  After 20 months he has been offered by Chef Joseph from Impiana KLCC to be a Assistant Pastry up to this time.

With these 5 years experience, Lawrence was awarded Diploma in – Plated Desserts- in Food and Hotel Malaysia 2009, coming next would be Sliver Medal – Live Chocolate Showpieces and Dessert Challenge- and Gold Medal awarded in – Freestyle confectionery- in Food and Hotel Malaysia 2011, the  Gold medal – Chocolate Showpieces- and another Gold medal – Live Cake dressing in Food and Hotel Asia in Singapore 2012. From these competitions Lawrence has found out his strength is in making art work presentation especially in display showpieces.

The hardest part in pastry life definitely would be the competitions trial run period, from that moment it needs a very big focus in every single part of the trials before the real competition. No room to fail in working especially when facing heavy functions during preparations of competitions. The responsibilities of such career is tremendous.

There is a chef who influenced me the most in pastry line, and he is Chef Chong Ko Wai my best partner ever in this line, without his passionate sharing  of his knowledge and skills I won't be able to grow so fast. In my view, to be a successful chef besides having a good leader chef is to have a great guide, as well as the most important is to have a very good partner to grow together, and Iam lucky cause I have few of them.

If I could be someone else in the world, I will still choose to be a pastry chef, I believe people outside there wouldn’t know how much fun and how challenging it is to be a chef pastry, unless they have to try.

In my view, to become a successful pastry chef, one must be able to have deep passion in pastry and full passion to go through every single stage, “no pain, no gain “ is definitely the best word of advice.

In my future plan, I wish I could have my own very unique pastry shop that people haven’t seen before in Malaysia. A brand new concept designed pastry shop which is full of new modern pastries 
and art pieces in it. 


UPDATE 8 September 2015

I was not lucky to be invited to the event. Sharing a blog post from one of the lucky ones who got invited to the event -

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Call to Action to Save Heirloom Cacao

November 21, 2014

Fine Chocolate Industry Association Issues a Call to Action to Save Heirloom CacaoIs Frankenstein Chocolate Our Future?
CORRECTION:  Thanks to some of our dedicated and eagle-eyed friends and members for catching our mistake in the media release we sent out earlier today.  We referred to "genetically modified" cacao when we should have said "hybrid" cacao.  We've corrected our release and ask that you give it a second read so the main message of FCIA's Heirloom Cacao Preservation efforts comes through loud and clear.  Please know that we're dedicated to providing accurate information about our fine chocolate industry.

NEW YORK, Nov. 21, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Recently, Bloomberg issued a report sounding the alarm on the dangerous state of chocolate globally. Drought, disease, and deterioration of cacao growth around the world is indeed an issue worth paying attention to especially given the exponential rise of chocolate consumption particularly in emerging markets. The report cited the progress made in hybrid cacao which is one solution many of the larger manufacturers of chocolate are pursuing.  The piece made it seem as though the future of chocolate is one that is scientifically engineered with little to no focus on flavor, a nightmare to any chocolate lover who values the varied and rich flavors that varieties of chocolate from around the world produce. 

Hybrid cacao is not our only option in the fight against global degradation of cacao. Numerous specialty chocolate manufacturers and chocolatiers whose livelihood depends on fine-flavored cocoa have come together to work with local farmers on every continent to preserve heirloom cacao. Known as the Fine Chocolate Industry Association they are spearheading the Heirloom Cacao Preservation (HCP) Initiative which is a joint effort with the USDA/ARS. The HCP begins by identifying and testing the finest flavored cacao which becomes the most flavorful chocolate in the world. Once identified, they are mapped and targeted for natural reproduction. Cocoas designated fine-flavored means more money to the individual farmers to ideally dissuade them from planting hybridcacao trees. By recognizing and rewarding the growers who cultivate this precious dwindling resource we can preserve and propagate heirloom cacao for future generations.  


Fine Chocolate Industry Association go to
Contact: Karen Bryant, FCIA, 206.577.9983 or
SOURCE Fine Chocolate Industry Association


FCIA thanks Guittard for assistance in creating and disseminating this media release.

Friday, July 4, 2014

July 7 is Chocolate Day - Chocolate Infographics

Food Science - Link source -

Infographic: What science says about chocolate

To celebrate Chocolate Day July 7, here are six things that may surprise you about chocolate

Chocoholics have always argued that chocolate is good for the soul and psyche. Studies in Elsevier's scientific journals show that it can also be good for a lot of other things including our libido, blood pressure and coughs. It may even help prevent wrinkles.
In honor of Chocolate Day on Monday, July 7, Elsevier colleagues have prepared this infographic, followed by a list of "six things science says about chocolate."
Of course, many chocolate treats are laden with sugar and fats, so before you indulge, you may want to check out the actual studies here. (No science we could find justifies eating a steady diet of bonbons or downing a half liter tub of chocolate ice cream at one sitting.) 
But in moderation ... bon appetite!

Infographic: What science says about chocolate

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Fabros Farm: More than just a cacao farm, but a cacao forest

If  Fabros Farm accomplishes their goal  of planting more than 50 hectares of their forests with cacao, then it would become one if not the biggest cacao farm in Northern Luzon.

My introduction to the Fabros Farm is by way of a blog post - My own Bean-to-Bar chocolate making experience. Mr. Ansel Fabros, a medtech in Canada  got to read my blog and that started our exchange about cacao and chocolate.

He was also instrumental for the first cacao seminar  I attended that was offered for free by SOAP. There I met with his brothers Arnold and Ariel and some of their farm technicians. They brought and gave me several cacao pods (they call native variety) that I am now growing as seedlings.

He agreed on my request to visit their farm. So  past midnite, on a Holy Thursday (April 17, 2014) , with bus terminal jam packed with people, I joined the chaos of an  hour-long queue of commuters wanting to get a ride. Lucky enough to get a seat to Cabanatuan and then a van ride to Aurora, I arrived safe for the first time in the province.

I was received at the public market and was brought to the nursery of the Fabros Farm. I was told that there are around 50,000 seedlings ready to be transferred to the site. Most of the seedlings were grafted. And that they have a  70%  success rate of survival for their grafted seedlings. The grafted seedlings appear to be healthy, although some of the leaves shows sign of being eaten by insects. The farm uses insecticides to keep away insects from harming the seedlings.  In some parts, the nursery is a bit grassy, almost serving as shade to the seedlings.

Aside from the seedlings located on the designated nursery plots, some of the seedlings were also under mango tree serving as shade. Although not prevalent, one of the problems identified is the presence of some fungus that seems to attack the roots of seedlings, making them rot. Solution to the problem is still being identified by the farm technician.

Cacao is endemic in the locality of Maria Aurora. In the neighborhood of Brgy. Diaat alone, cacao trees are grown in backyards. I was even shown of one resilient and abundantly fruiting cacao that is precariously thriving on a rocky ground on one end of the bridge just on top of its abutment. The tree appears like dangling on a cliff  above the rushing water. In other locations close by the river are some tall cacao trees that are intercropped with coconut and other trees. The trees are more than five years old and showing some of the  common cacao diseases.

Fabros Farm manages two separate locations for their cacao farm. One of the locations is called Agtedtedted more than 20 hectares and the other area is called Mumunsi, bigger area and several locations of more than 30 hectares. Both are forest areas that used to be logging sites where  remnants of cut trunks of huge and giant trees are on a state of decay. And the road system for 6x6 trucks remain passable.

Agtedteded is the pioneer farm. The location is about two kilometers away from the residential areas. Going to the area one has to traverse the long and winding river system.   Given also the condition of the bumpy roads, the seedlings from the nursery are allowed to recover for a week after they get transported to their new location.  After more than six months, almost half of the cleared area are now  replanted with cacao seedlings and other intercrops.  The distance they implement is 3.5m x 3.5m  for coconut and cacao intercrop  and  3m x 3m for cacao to cacao. The location has a spring that serves as a source of potable water for drinking and farm use.

Several farmers are tending the farm doing different farm duties. Some are clearing the farm for planting. Others are making charcoals from the fallen trees.  Others do the spraying  of a cocktail of foliar, fungicide, and  insecticide.  Spraying is one of the most challenging tasks given the hills get steep. Additional workers are being considered so as to cover spraying the wide expanse of the area.

Corn is used as shade and intercropped with cacao. Other vegetables are grown as well to serve as source of food for farmers who prefer to stay in the farm for the whole duration of the weekdays. Fruit trees and other trees (madre de kakaw) are also planted to serve as wind breakers.

Meanwhile the Mumunsi is the second location for the cacao  which is more expanse.  In an adjacent area are some old coffee trees which will be rehabilitated and soon planted with new coffee trees. Plots of coffee seedlings are also maintained in that location. There's a small cottage being built on top of the farm. And just below it is a swimming pool size pond to raise fresh water fishes as future source of food for farmers. Water source is from a spring. An almost kilometer length of water pipe was laid out from the spring to the cottage.

There are lots of work that still needs to be done in the area. Much of the cutting of trees and clearing are still on-going, although in the cleared area close by the cottage it is already planted with cacao seedlings. Transport of the cacao seedlings are being scheduled since the river gets swollen during rainy days and the rainy months is soon to come. Since the location is surrounded by forests, it gets cool in the late afternoon and sometimes showers at night.

Mr. Ansel Fabros is well aware of the challenges and concerns that they are faced with. But since he has invested most of his savings and support from angel investors, there's no more turning back.  Fabros Farm continues to invest in training their farm technicians. They are scheduled this summer for a 2-week cacao farming immersion with Mr. Peter Cruz in Davao.

So what was the inspiration for setting up the farm?  Below is a quote from Mr. Fabros:

When I went home in 2012, I saw many folks are jobless and just hanging around in our barangay (village). Also, I felt like that some of the amount we give as  investment for the family business back home are going nowhere. Some of our properties remain idle so I  started reading about High Value Crops and cacao got my attention. I did research on the internet and communicated with some  cacao players. And was frustrated BIG TIME with government's lack of reply to my queries. 
When I consulted a friend about cacao growing and  believes in the profitability of the project,  that's when Fabros Farm started. I have high hopes about this project. It is a very ambitious and daring  and I credit my brothers effort.  They are all absorbing the stress and pressure from me.  I hope someday, it will not only my family that will benefit  but the rest of the folks in our barangay. When the cacaos are fruiting and we have added income, it is my  plan to do "contract growing, intercropped with coconut" with or without government assistance.
Fabros Farm's pioneering spirit and noble goal of providing livelihood to the people of their barangay is laudable. Despite the many challenges and their lack of experience, the family enterprise make up for it with their collective effort and enthusiasm to see to it that their venture succeed. With its humongous size Fabros Farm is not just a cacao farm but a cacao forest full of potentials.

 More fotos here -

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Guide to Chocolate by MyChocolate

Thank you Mr. Edwards, Maraming salamat po, for the offer to feature your infographics. Below is an excerpt of his letter to me:

Good Morning,

My name is James Edwards and I work with MyChocolate; a specialist provider of chocolate making workshops in London.

I’m excited to tell you about a fun infographic we’ve just created which acts as a ‘Guide to Chocolate’!  It’s packed with interesting facts and statistics all about the history of this delightful food, the varied characteristics of the cocoa bean and the lesser known health benefits it holds.

Given the nature of your site, I thought that your readership would really like to have a look at it as well, so I’m offering it to you to use totally free of charge.

Many thanks for your time.

Kind regards, 

A Guide to Chocolate InfographicProvided by MyChocolate

Monday, April 21, 2014

Cacao Sense: The story of Dingayan Cacao Farm

Little did I know that cacao is also grown in several farms up north of the Philippines. I found out of such farm that has already been existing the last six years in Lasam, Cagayan through the presentation made by Mr. Wiley Dingayan, the owner and farm manager of Dingayan Cacao Farm (DCF) at the Philippine Chocolate Festival held last 15 February 2014 at SM Masinag. I inquired if I could  visit the farm someday and Mr. Wiley was polite enough to accede to my request.

So when I went back to Ilocos for the graduation of my niece, I made arrangement to visit the farm. The story below was related to me both  by Engr. Fred and Mr. Willey of DCF during our exchange when I visited their farm in Lasam, Cagayan.

DCF Inspiration

It was a Pastor of United Methodist Church, Pastor Joey Nitura, who suggested that we plant cacao. He informed us that Mr. Arthur Cruz (a Methodist church member at Gattaran) had already planted 3,000 cacao trees that came from Davao, in his farm in Brgy. Minanga, Lasam Cagayan.  We got interested, so we paid him a visit and read some of his brochures and books about cacao. We invited Mang Arthur to visit the property we planned to plant cacao and he told us it was okay to grow cacao there.

What inspired us to persevere in the farm is the recognized demand and need of cacao supply both in the local and global market that is not being met with the current Philippine cacao production. Although, it is not an easy task, it is our aspiration and mission here in Lasam to increase cacao production. 

We started planting cacao in our lot in Nicolas Agatep, Lasam Cagayan. The cost then of the 50 seedlings we bought was PhP25.00/seedling. During that time, we had zero knowledge of actual cacao growing and encountered problems in its maintenance. Then, there was drought, not one of our cacao plants survived. 

So, before we tried planting again. We made several researches and then decided to do massive planting, we created a nursery, then, we purchased 1,000 seedlings from Mang Arthur. 

We were then using iron bar and spade for digging, but it was very slow.  So, we invented a new hole digger, which made digging faster and easier. That innovation has become one of the most useful tool we now have in our farm. Since the farm is now bigger we recruited people to help us maintain the farm. When the property adjacent to our farm was sold to us, it was a sign for us to go massive cacao planting. We were quite choosy with the people who work for us.  We only selected people who are dedicated, and true enough they still remained with us. 

Cacao sense is common sense 

Most of our practices are based on common sense, keen observations and experiences gained throughout the years of our operations. In the farm, we have existing shade trees, like madre de kakaw and the big grasses served also as shade. Since our seedlings were being transported from another place we made sure that the seedlings recovered first, before they get re-planted. We even dug deeper and wider holes using our invented hole digger for planting the trees. 

Our approach to pest is more of an integrated pest management. Most of the time we use organic inputs, but as a balance, we also use chemical pesticides, herbicides, and weedicides, especially, at that time when the cacao seedlings were still growing. Through time we have learned the life cycle of insects. We also learned when and where to spray, and where these insects hide during day time. 

We had a very bad experience on grafted cacao trees.  Of the 100 field grafted cacao seedlings, only one survived. So we stopped grafting and let the cacao seedlings grow naturally. Besides, the life span of un-grafted seedlings is longer than the grafted ones. 

We are also particular at record keeping. We have assigned one of our workers in monitoring and filling data of the farm journal we devised. It contains information as to their daily, weekly and monthly tasks. That way, we can keep track of their output and can also know the status of the cacao trees. At first, we even kept data of the weight of the harvested pods including its thickness; weight of beans, before and after mucilage is removed; the weight of beans before and after fermentation; and weight loss before and after drying the beans. 

Harvest Target

Our target harvest is at least 2800 pods/week from the 5000 trees that are now flowering. If we can attain that this year, we can already sustain our operations and fund our next expansion. Last year, we were already harvesting more or less 1200 pods weekly, but due to typhoon “vinta”, we are down to 80-100 pods a week. The trees have just recovered, and they are flowering and fruiting right now, by June or July we are optimistic that we will be back to 1200 pods/week harvest or more. We have instructed the farmers to prioritize the flowering trees and then focus on what intervention to do next with the non-flowering trees.

Looking back, during our first few harvests, we were able to harvest 50 pods, our biggest that time, and we were so happy that we invited some friends to come over our house and eat the cacao mucilage, and that’s when we formed the, what we called, "molmol club".  We did that for a few months, it was good way to introduce cacao to our town folks.

Post Harvest

Our process from harvesting to drying has improved through the years. As we learned the nuances of the operation, we try to adjust, modify and innovate according to our needs, but without sacrificing the quality of our beans. Our aim is to produce clean and high quality beans. So, we always keep that in mind every time we make changes.

The first step after harvest is to break the pods to get the cacao beans. The usual practice was to use a wooden pallet to break the pod or bolo. We found this very tedious and very slow, so we made a portable pod breaker to make the process faster and it is what we are using now. And since it is portable, it is easier to clean and we can bring the pod breaker anywhere in the farm.

The second step is fermentation. The beans are placed in a container and are fermented for 6-7days. Even our containers have changed. The one we are using now makes it very convenient to get the juice for wine, vinegar and fertilizer making. 

The third step is to wash and sort the beans. At first, we were only using a pail and a strainer, but as the volume of harvest increased, so is the time do the task. So we designed a device where we can easily wash the beans, and at the same time, sort out the small-sized beans, as well as the empty beans. And this saved us so much time. Another reason for this idea, is that when small beans and empty beans are NOT separated from the bigger beans, the beans takes longer to dry, and they are more prone to have molds. So, we opted to separate them before drying.

The fourth step is drying, we used to dry cacao beans in a bilao (native baskets). And we had to use old mosquito nets to shield the cacao beans from being infested by flies. We are very particular with cleanliness, so as much as possible; we don’t want insects and flies on our beans. So, in 2012, when our harvest increased, we decided to create a portable solar dryer, it’s another innovation for our farm. And, as the harvest grew we constructed more solar dryers for drying the beans. 

We are also planning to invest on a mechanical dryer useful especially during the rainy season. With a mechanical dryer we can control the drying of cacao beans as compared to the conventional drying we are using now. Also, we are considering a “pugon” (oven) type of drying like they do when drying Virginia tobacco. 

Even our cacao grinder for making tablea is also a product of innovation. We based it on existing equipments we have seen, like that of a peanut grinder that make peanut butter.

Government support for Cacao Entrepreneur

It is high time for the government to give support not only to cooperatives, but also to individual cacao entrepreneurs. And the support should come in the form of cash. This way it gives entrepreneurs the freedom to choose a suitable equipment for his/her farm.

Another thing that we would like for the government to do is to establish a ceiling price for cacao, just like rice and corn, so that more farmers will be encouraged to plant cacao.

Tsokolate drink tradition with cacao farmers

Every morning before the workers go to the farm they come to our house for a chocolate drink.  I personally make and serve them their energy drink. It is one of our farm’s regular activity that we have institutionalized. During our chocolate drinking session we exchange, update and discuss what’s to be done for the day. It is good for the workers to have a taste of the fruit of their labor. 

Our workers take care of our farm, so we also care for their welfare and well being. That is why, aside from their daily wage, we also give them daily meal and transportation allowance. And we also provide scholarships to the children of our workers. We planned to give them more benefits once we generate enough income to sustain our operations and have funds for those additional benefits. 

Dingayan Cacao Farm (DCF)
Owner: Willette “Wiley” Medrano-Dingayan
Add: #127 Centro 01, Lasam, Cagayan 3524

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