Oopma Loompas? An eccentric chocolatier? Nut-testing squirrels? Just like you, we have been wondering what makes Coco Dolce one of the most sought-after chocolate brands here in the Philippines.
In this video, we'll give you a peek inside The Freefood Co. chocolate factory. No need for a golden ticket!
Ate Perlie and Ate Michelle gave us a quick introduction of the The Freefood Co., whose main mission is to support the development of rural farming communities by tapping into the rich agricultural resources in the area.
Just last year, the Davao region was declared the cacao and chocolate capital of the Philippines as it supplies roughly 80% of the country's total cacao production and is home to world-class chocolate brands like Coco Dolce.
Onto the Sweet Stuff
Inside the factory, we were greeted by a warm waft of sweet chocolate aroma, accompanied by an equally warm welcome from the workers.
We learned that their coconut sap is melted through the use of uling (briquettes or compressed charcoal) instead of the typical gas flame. Ate Perlie explains that this method preserves the organic nature of their products and that it also infuses a unique smoky taste.
Meanwhile, Ate Mercelyn gave us the 411 on coco sugar which comes from tuba (coconut toddy) versus brown sugar which is made from tubo (sugarcane). This gives coco sugar a lower glycemic index, which is a relative ranking of carbohydrate in food based on how they affect blood glucose levels.
Food with glycemic index of 55 and below are digested, absorbed, and metabolized at a slower rate, which means that it also results in a lower rise in blood glucose and insulin levels. Coco sugar has a glycemic index of only 35 while table sugar is at 68.
Because of that, coco sugar is considered a healthier substitute without sacrificing taste or sweetness. As Ate Mercelyn attests, it even tastes better than regular sugar. And after our taste test, we couldn't agree more!
As though our sweet cravings weren't satisfied enough, we were then led to the chocolate molding area where we learned that the bars go through three phases of cooling down through three separate machines.
After cooling, the chocolate bars are wrapped neatly in gold foil. Of course we couldn't resist getting a taste of the freshly-made milk chocolate, too!
Each bite has a subtle but distinct smoky flavor and some coconut-y undertones that left us wanting a few more. We even bought some bars for our friends to try.
Faith, Fate, and Chocolate
Assistant Chocolatier Jayson narrates that he came across The Freefood Co. thanks to his missionary teacher when he was a student.
He shares that they actually formulated the chocolate recipe in Bicol using white sugar (gasp!) before they crossed paths with another missionary teacher who was already manufacturing local coconut sugar. And thus, the idea for these guilt-free healthy chocolates was born.
Since then, they packed their bags and brought their families all the way to Davao where all the resources can be directly sourced from farmers. Ate Perlie also admits that joining the venture was a leap of faith, especially when it came to meeting the farmers for the first time.
Back then, it was quite a gamble for them since weren't sure who exactly they'd be meeting with or if they'd make it safely beyond the ARMM conflict areas they had to pass through, not to mention a 10-hour journey that involved leaving in the middle of the night.
But throughout our tour, the smiles and laughter of Perlie, Michelle, Mercelyn, and Jayson in talking about their experiences of joining and working in The Freefood Co. are more than enough to give away how happy they are to have been part of this venture from its beginnings.
More than having a source of income, Ate Perlie adds that there is a sense of family in the company, which was why they chose to stay.
The Freefood Co. was founded in 2013 by yoga practitioners and brothers in belief: Francis, Petteri, and Alan. Guided by the principles of karma yoga and a strong desire to help others, they combined local cacao, organic coco sugar, and coconut oil to create a business that is centered on being free to love the earth, be naturally delicious, and to celebrate the community.
Coco Dolce chocolates come in five variants: Milk Chocolate, Milk Chocolate with Rice Crisps, Milk Chocolate with Pili, 65% Dark Chocolate, and Dark Chocolate with Chili. These social good finds are on sale right here.