By Reggie Aspiras
Malagos Farms is where the Puentespinas reign supreme. It is where they grow flowers, plants, fruits and vegetables that were thought impossible to plant, less thrive, in the tropics.
Charita Puentespina and sons Rex and Bo take care of the place. Charita and Rex call themselves farmers while Bo is a veterinarian who has volunteered his services to help save the Philippine eagle.
At the farm they raise ostriches for meat and a herd of “Bo-ang” goats (a cross between the bower and Anglo-Nubian breeds). From goat’s milk, Dr. Bo’s wife Olive makes gourmet cheeses. They even make their own sweet wine made from Asian currant bignay, which pairs perfectly with the cheeses.
To their already very impressive list of homegrown specialty food products, they’ve now added chocolate.
Their interest in chocolate production began when Charita decided to lease a farm at the back of their house in 2003. The farm had existing cacao trees that she rehabilitated. When they bore fruits, she harvested the cacao pods and made tablea the traditional way—roasting the beans using firewood, grinding the roasted beans using a fabricated grinder, and molding them into round tablets.
In December 2007, a cocoa sustainability team from Mars, the maker of M&M’s, approached the Puentespinas to set up the Mars Cocoa Development Center. Part of the farm is now a laboratory for farmers to learn good agricultural practice on the production of cocoa.
What makes their chocolate special, according to Rex, is that the “beans are from the Trinitario hybrid (a cross between Criollo and Forastero), considered the finest cocoa beans in the world.” They are fermented to enhance its flavor, dried in specially made solar driers, and sorted following international standards.
Single-origin cacao beans
“Our cacao beans are of single origin, grown in one single area or region,” said Rex. “Cacao beans sourced from only one particular region carry with them a more distinctive and pronounced taste—similar to wine, where the distinct flavor and taste are related to the area where the grapes are grown. Artisan chocolate-makers worldwide know the value of single-origin chocolate.”
He added: “Our cocoa liquor is 100-percent pure.” Laboratory test results show a high fat content (55.7 percent), the reason why it easily melts. The quality is reportedly comparable to leading brands in the world.
The family also invested in equipment to improve the process and the quality of their product, now known as Malagos Chocolate.
In the process of perfecting it, Rex sent me sample after sample of their chocolates for me to test and try. As each batch came, the process just kept evolving, so that product has become better.
One rainy day, I decided to cook champorado using a can of Malagos tablea.
Champorado cooking has never been the same since. The quality and taste of the Malagos tablea gives the champorado a totally different character. Capped with all sorts of delicious toppings, it is an uber sinful porridge that’s sweet, salty, a tad bitter, creamy, silky, with a wine-y, earthy chocolate finish. Malagos tablea is deliciously world-class and proudly Philippine made!
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