AFTER providing products as tokens to the delegates of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) 2015 meetings held in Cebu, Bacolod and Bataan, Raquel Choa’s chocolate tablets will take center stage again.
This time, her tableas will be made into hot chocolate drinks at The Manila Hotel, reportedly one of the official residences of VIPs attending the APEC Leaders Summit this week.
Choa, the tablea maker, is the woman behind the homegrown Ralfe Gourmet Inc., The Chocolate Chamber (TCC), Casa de Cacao, and The Chocolate Chamber Boutique.
In an interview, Choa said she is happy that her tableas, which she describes as Cebu’s “hidden treasure,” continue to be highlighted during APEC.
“The Manila Hotel has doubled its order of tablea for their hot chocolate, which they will serve to APEC VIPs and delegates,” said Choa. The entrepreneur also supplies tableas and other chocolate products to other hotels in Manila.
During the regional APEC meetings, Choa said they were able to use up to 200 kilos of tableas, which were created into different products such as hand-rolled truffles, dark chocolate and chocolate chip cookies, especially for the spouses of the delegates.
They also visited Choa’s shops and were walked through her story of building the tablea business.
“Business production during APEC increased, but what made us happy is that we were able to highlight the country’s culture and the tablea tradition. We are happy to tell the world that Filipinos can excel in chocolate making.”
A simple tour with the spouses of the delegates turned into an emotional sharing of humble beginnings.
“I firmly believe that this is our hidden treasure,” she said.
The country’s APEC hosting opened more opportunities for Choa. She announced that she was invited to speak before the TedTalk crowd in Thailand on Jan. 28, 2016. She said this is another opportunity to tell her story, her origins and her chocolate journey.
Choa is a cacao farmer herself. She considers tablea making as her passion, having been exposed to its since childhood. She made her first tablea when she was seven years old with her grandmother as her mentor.
Fast forward to today, Choa said Ralfe Gourmet Inc., has been operating for three years.
“Every day is a new discovery. I was once asked what differentiates me from others. I told them I am a tablea maker and I have a story to tell,” she said.
After opening her latest venture, TCC Boutique at the ground floor of Sarrosa International Hotel, an outlet where people can buy her artisan chocolate creations, Choa is set to introduce another concept called TCC Closet, a smaller version of the boutique concept. She plans to install these in hotels, initially with Shangri-La properties and starting off with Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort and Spa.
Choa also announced that she will be bringing the TCC Boutique to Guam early next year.
“We are currently working on the licensing,” she said, adding that Guam will be her formal entry into the international market.