The tourists in Davao, Philippines, often visit for the region’s summery climate and cultured history. Although much of Davao’s story entails Spanish conquistadors and Japanese immigrants, the arrival of the cocoa bean on Filipino soil is often left for the epilogue. When Spanish explorers first planted cocoa in the Davao region nearly 400 years ago, it was an attempt to guard what they called “food for the gods.” Little did they know that what they once hoarded would allow the Davao region to become one of the world’s premier sources for cocoa beans.
Shawn Askinosie first visited the origin in 2008 to find a new bean source during a worldwide chocolate shortage. Just when Shawn thought he would leave empty handed, he was introduced to one of the region’s premier cocoa bean farmers, Peter Cruz. Shawn found Cruz and the farmers with whom he collaborated had a dedication to excellence that produced consistent, premium quality cocoa beans in this exotic region. We started a direct trade relationship that would make Askinosie the first chocolate maker to create and export a single origin chocolate bar with beans from Davao since the mid-1980s. Today our relationship with Cruz and our other farmer partners continues to yield international award-winning chocolate from this exclusive region.
Davao farmers harvest a subvariety of the Trinitario bean, which is considered a fine bean used in high-quality dark chocolate. Less than 10% of the world’s cocoa bean supply is from Trinitario beans. The small cooperative of farmers with whom we work, led by Cruz, produce top-notch beans that, when roasted, elicit the warm, earthy flavors of brown sugar and vanilla with a clean, caramel finish. We craft these beans into our popular 77% Davao, Philippines Dark Chocolate and our two-time Good Food Award winning 62% Dark Milk Chocolate + Fleur de Sel Bar, among other products.
These savvy farmers stand out for their unparalleled consistency and quality, as well as their dedication and expertise in organic farming. Not only are they are leaders in organic disease and pest-resistance methods, but they also have learned how to increase their yield by utilizing these practices, which benefits them economically.
In addition to our direct trade practices with the farmers in Davao, we also work to support their community beyond bolstering their local economy, by collaborating with a local school, Malagos Elementary. With the help of the school administrators and PTA, we developed a Sustainable Lunch Program to ensure that the local schoolchildren eat more than one meal per day. In this program, which we call A Product of Change, Askinosie Chocolate purchases Tableya, (a traditional Filipino hot cocoa) created by the PTA at Malagos, sells the Tableya online, in our storefront and to select specialty food retailers across the country, then returns 100% of the profits to the PTA for them to source local food to provide lunches for each of the 800 students. We closely monitor the success of the program by analyzing key benchmarks. Since the program’s inception in 2011, more than 240,000 school lunches have been provided and malnourishment has significantly decreased. Additionally, attendance is consistently up and achievement test scores have risen 25%.
Learn more about our second Sustainable Lunch Program in Tanzania and A Product of Change.