By Maggie F. Francisco
Images by Pilar Bonnin
When you open a box of CMV Txokolat, the aroma immediately fills the nose. Equally captivating is Christian Valdes, the 30-year-old general manager of the artisanal chocolate brand. He is to chocolate what a sommelier is to wine.
“I love chocolate. It has a major role in my life—kind of like air or water or sustenance,” Valdes admits. “The effort it takes to make them, to understand them, it’s mind-boggling and that’s something that piqued my interest (as a child).”
Valdes grew up in San Francisco, California, and vividly remembers the smell emanating from the See’s Candies factory, which was situated behind his high school. But it was really his mother and grandmother who started it all, who introduced the would-be chocolatier to the world of chocolate.
He recollects that after his mom had fallen asleep, he would sneakily open the fridge and consume the sweets she brought home from all over the world.
In 2012, Valdes finally turned this passion into a business. His curiosity ever-growing, he met a friend who taught him the basics of chocolates. He was a junior in college, studying hospitality management at Enderun Colleges.
Banana Q Caramel
Even then, Valdes’ vision was or is for CMV Txokolat to be all-artisanal handcrafted chocolates featuring unique and truly Filipino flavors.
About entering the market while still starting out, he says, “It was pretty fast because we were one of the few companies who do what we do—even now. Aside from being a one-stop shop, we’re also a luxury product. People just got it, especially when they tried the chocolates themselves.”
Valdes’ fixation introduced him to the different kinds of cacao here and abroad. He sources from Ilocos and Dumaguete, as well as from Central and South America. Sharing his inspiration behind coming up with unique flavors, he reveals, “It’s as easy as having conversations. I travel around the Philippines, go to trade fairs, talk to people, see what flavors they have—just listening to the stories they share.”
He recalls a time when he rode a cab and the taxi driver was reliving his glory days in college, buying Kwatro Kantos and Tang Pomelo juice packs so he could make gin pomelo. “It was hearing these stories that made me think, ‘What if you could eat it?’”
With his team of chocolatiers, he gets to play around with flavors, drawing inspiration from family recipes, local nostalgia, interesting ingredients, and even random childhood memories. “Growing up, we used to get these gumamela flowers, pound them down, and make bubbles out of them. Learning that they’re edible and that it’s good for you, I thought, why not do a play on that memory and turn it into a flavor? I tried it and surprisingly, it turned out really well.”
Salt and Pepper Caramel
Since then, he has come up with a distinctly Filipino selection of pralines: a deconstructed santol membrillo in a dark chocolate shell, a mellow and tart kaffir lime and coconut encased in a creamy white chocolate, dark chocolate cup filled with milk chocolate ginger Cerveza Negra ganache topped with roasted walnuts, red tea with a blend of cinnamon and cloves filled into milk chocolate shell, and Valdes’ favorite, chamomile dark chocolate ganache with juniper berries in a dark chocolate shell.
Other signature flavors available are Minted Calamansi, Salt and Pepper Caramel, Star Anise and Orange, Barako Coffee, and Sencha Green Tea.
CMV Txokolat has garnered a cult following of chocolate lovers, including some notable names such as TV personality Maggie Wilson, entrepreneur Jolo Ejercito, and host and model Joey Mead King.
Just like fine wine, he believes that artisanal chocolates are made to be appreciated in order to be better en- joyed. Through social media, artisanal chocolates—combined with unconventional flavors—are drawing attention and setting themselves apart from the mass market favorites.
“Chocolates make moments extra special. It’s not just about the giving of the gift, it’s also the fact that you’re giving it to someone who makes you feel special. Someone you want to feel special,” he says.
Valdes adds, “I wake up every morning knowing that I make people happy and make them feel good about themselves.” And while a lot of people will stillchoose commercial chocolates as their
go-to option, Valdes is definitely on the road to break those chocolate-y barriers.
For more info and order requests, call +639152791903, email [email protected], like CMV Txokolat on Facebook, follow @thecmvtxokolat on Instagram