Cacao beans were brought to the Philippines by the Spanish Friars for their private consumption and as a drink to be served to their esteemed and important guests during the 1500s. The Philippines was the first country to receive cacao outside of the New World when the Spanish brought it there from the Soconusco region of Mexico. The cacao cultivated in the Philippines during the first two centuries after its introduction belonged entirely to the Mesoamerican Criollo group. Today, the cultivar can still be found growing wild in some areas. As the seedlings spread, Filipino farmers eventually planted the cacao seeds around the perimeter of their homes as prized possessions, for accessibility and for consumption only of the family. This being said, cacao harvesting and processing became a family tradition and activity Today, Criollo cacao is used in the Philippines to make chocolate bars called tablea and in a traditional hot chocolate drink (tsokolate). It can also be processed into cocoa nibs or powder. Criollo cacao is the preferred variety in making the Filipino sticky rice rolls called budbud or suman, made with red rice mixed with chocolate and coconut milk and served with puffed rice and sugar. Tsamporado is a chocolate rice porridge eaten for breakfast with dried salted fish or as an afternoon snack. The Criollo variety is a pure cacao variety, unlike the higher yielding Trinitario cacao that has been planted in much of the area. Criollo beans are smaller, and have historically been grown more for personal use than commercial use. Promotion of hybrids from Brazil and Malaysia like Forastero and Trinitario mean that fewer farmers have continued planting Criollo cacao. Today it is generally only processed separately on order, in relatively small quantities. Lack of information and promotion of Criollo’s unique flavor and quality as a special cultivar mean that this variety may be lost to hybridization of the trees and blending of the cacao with other varieties in processed products in the Phillipines.
The traditional products, local breeds, and know-how collected by the Ark of Taste belong to the communities that have preserved them over time. They have been shared and described here thanks to the efforts of the network that that Slow Food has developed around the world, with the objective of preserving them and raising awareness. The text from these descriptions may be used, without modifications and citing the source, for non-commercial purposes in line with the Slow Food philosophy.