By Dave Albarado
Bohol is famous for its Chocolate Hills but now it is becoming famous for its cacao liquor too thanks to Chocolate Princess.
Dalareich Polot, Bohol’s Chocolate Princess, has set up the first and only chocolate house in the province. Her motivation is not just for profit, but to promote the cacao growing industry and help farmers uplift their economic standing through cocoa farming.
This month, Dalareich, together with her parents, Elsa and Ricardo, are flying to London to receive the award from the Academy of Chocolate.
Dalareich Chocolate House’s 100 percent Unsweetened Chocolate or known locally as the tableya received the gold award under the drinking chocolate category.
Another Filipino product produced by Manila-based Auro Chocolate won the same award from the same chocolate award-giving body.
Polot said she never expected to win the award considering how tight the competition was. More than 1,500 entries from 46 countries were considered by the Academy.
Adding to the accolades, Polot and her parents, were awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the City Government of Tagbilaran during the City’s Charter Day celebrations last July 1 for the achievements of the family in pushing the level of chocolate making to greater heights.
In the beginning
The 31-year-old Polot, who is known as Dal to her close relatives and friends, found her way into the chocolate making industry by way of her mother’s influence.
A computer engineering by training, Polot grew up in a family producing the tableya. Her grandmother has influenced Dalareich’s mother, Elsa, to enter the tableya-making business.
Elsa would juggle tasks of making the tableya and her work as a street sweeper. Elsa, with the help of her husband, Ricardo, who used to be a tricycle driver, continued with the tableya making business when Dal’s grandmother died in 2000.
The additional income from the sales of the tableya was enough to send Dal and her siblings to school.
Dal went on to help her parents in the tableya-making business. She marketed the chocolate products to Bohol merchants and even tried to offer the chocolates to the Cebu market. Noticing some of the buyers are not too keen on the tableya, she felt the product is not getting the respect it deserves.
So, in 2013, Dal embarked on a mission to revolutionize chocolate making and to make Bohol a powerhouse in chocolate production.
Dal got her first big break when she topped 30 other young entrepreneurs in a Young Entrepreneurs Boot Camp backed by the US Embassy. Part of her prize was a scholarship in Belgium where she studied chocolate processing. She learned from the world’s top chocolatiers and revolutionized her perspective in chocolate making.
The lass from Barangay Bool in Tagbilaran City said she had to adjust the chocolate process that she learned abroad and adapt it to the local climate.
“It was a hit or miss,” she admitted of her efforts.
She said that a country like Belgium with no cocoa plantations can produce the best chocolates in the world for the simple reason that Belgians have the technology.
Technology in hand and the bountiful harvest of cacao in the country, the Philippine sits in an agricultural goldmine bannered by chocolates.
Dal intimated that Bohol only produces five percent of the cacao supply in the country. There is much room for improvement as far as producing the cacao supply, she said.
Bohol’s chocolate princess started her own chocolate brand — Ginto — which is being sold in some local markets and exported to some foreign countries to jumpstart her goal to give the local chocolate products the respect they deserve.
Today, Dal’s immediate mission is not just to help the local cacao farmers, but to educate the Filipino market on luxury chocolates and the right appreciation of cocoa liquor.
Sadly, the taste buds of many Filipinos have been accustomed with the confectionery chocolate brands and virtually oblivious about cocoa liquor and dark chocolates.
She said that foreign tourists who visit Bohol appreciate the products her chocolate house produces. Foreigners virtually make a beeline to buy the products while Filipinos are drawn to those that hardly contain any chocolate. Some even drink chocolate drink made of malt because the Filipinos are not properly educated on the nature of chocolates.
Dal said that in other countries, the more bitter the chocolate product tastes the more expensive it is. Pure chocolates are golden, and the purer a chocolate product is, the more expensive it is, she added.
Dal wants to help local farmers produce more cacao. She is optimistic that the new Bohol administration will help her in the quest to uplift the economic standing of the cacao farmers.
She said the new administration of Gov. Arthur Yap has made indications to help her in the mission to improve the cacao production in the province.
She wanted to help the cacao farmers to gain more income because it is the farmers’ hard work that made the cacao product possible.
Her ultimate goal is to put Bohol in the international chocolate map. The good news is that she is succeeding in her mission.