Davao as a chocolate factory

Published September 9, 2020, 10:03 AM

by John Legaspi

Fighting to keep the region’s cacao pure 

By Wit Holgonza

For three generations now, food and farming have always come hand in hand to our family. My father started growing these beans of the gods in his backyard in the late 40s. He was awarded a little piece of land in Calinan in the mid ’50s as part of his compensation for serving in World War 2. 

Now, our humble farm Gran Verde in Davao City grows 10 different varieties of cacao on about 3.5 hectares of the property. As a natural farming practitioner, I hold cacao workshops on site, maintains a cacao nursery and grove, and grows assorted vegetables, herbs and fruit trees.  Aside from performing the usual maintenance in the grove, I also conduct Kakaw Lakaw, an immersive cacao tour experience. 

We cut our ties with consolidators when we found out that they mixed our grade A fermented beans with class B and C cacao from other farms. These would end up as convenience store candy bars. This is why we made our own cacao nib granola, the family’s very first offering for the public’s taste buds. Because its taste isn’t straight forward, our granola appeals to a more epicurean crowd. It’s also a truly Pinoy granola—though it’s healthier than most snacks, it sacrifices nothing on flavor. The nibs come exclusively from our farm, hence you could even call this a single-origin granola. 

Our most recent addition to our product lineup is our 100 percent Cacao Bars, a tableya that teases the palate and brings in nostalgia with its creamy finish of pure dark chocolate. Shared with a loved one, or as a treat for yourself, this iron, magnesium, and antioxidant packed super.

As a farm-based enterprise, we work with partner communities in Davao, and have seen the tremendous talent development of farmers, particularly women in the personal, social, and technical aspect. Starting with merely simple tasks such as soil bagging and land preparation, they have now grown to acquire a multitude of skills to include natural farming, tour guiding, and promoting products. 

As a farm-based enterprise, we work with partner communities in Davao, and have seen the tremendous talent development of farmers, particularly women in the personal, social, and technical aspect.

In Gran Verde Farm where the cacao for Wit’s Sweets & Savouries come from, we keep the soil health optimal and the farm’s biodiversity robust for generations to come by practicing farming techniques that in turn provides meaningful livelihood to the community that we support. We source most of our ingredients from local fellow farmers for sustainable production. To cite an example, our chili come from a farmers’ cooperative, formerly coconut growers who switched to siling labuyo after their crops were devastated by typhoon Pablo back in 2012. 

From tree to treat, our careful process ensures that in whichever form, our beans have a robust and consistent flavor for you to enjoy. Every recipe we’ve created is crafted carefully with members of our extended family, created in the very same kitchen where my Mama used to make hot chocolate for Papa. 

You could say we’re a family of cacao-holics—and like most Pinoys, we find that anything tastes better when it’s shared! 

This article was first published in the March 2020 issue of the Philippine Panorama.

 
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