Kokomo Chocolate, Baguio-based chocolate crafter, launches its Cordillera Heritage Cacao on November 18, 2023, with a celebration of the finest Philippine cacao beans and the best of iconic Cordilleran art. While it showcases its limited-release cacao products made from high-quality cacao beans by chocolatier Angeleah Montilde, it also brings to the fore the works of award-winning Cordilleran artist Leonard Aguinaldo.
Eight variants of chocolate bars have been crafted, making use of traditionally harvested cacao beans from small farms in Benguet and Mt. Province. Each variant features a distinct flavour profile that carries fruity, molasses, winey and floral notes, characteristic of heirloom cacao that is grown in mountainous areas with favorable climates such as the Cordilleras.
During this year’s 6th IBAGIW Creative City Festival, with the theme “Create Change, Change Creates,” this unique and innovative presentation brings together a high value heritage crop product, teaming up with a world-class artist in a premier sensory experience of taste and artistry!
Pod-to-Bar Chocolate Crafting
Kokomo Chocolate was born during the pandemic. Co-Founder and now chocolatier
Angeleah Montilde, together with Chef Billy King of Le Chef, came up with the idea to make traditional cacao chips, which is the familiar tableau, but in a more dissolvable and easier to use form. Their first product, the cacao chips, was made of 100% dark chocolate.
Montilde’s passion for cacao and chocolates goes back to her childhood, growing up surrounded by cacao trees her family planted, nurtured, harvested, and processed into tableas. Today, this passion has taken her further – honing her craft and skill in crafting premium Philippine Chocolates. She studied and learned firsthand from French chocolatiers Mr. Nicholas Morin and Ms. Louise Bertrand, at the A La Reine Astrid Chocolate. She underwent training on the Bean to Bar approach at the chocolate factory in Paris, France, and worked closely with the excellent chocolatiers of the company. She recently received her accreditation as a Chocolate Taster from the International Institute of Chocolate and Cacao Tasting (IICCT), and she is also a Level 1 and 2 Cacao Profiler and Cacao Grader.
Bringing Heritage Cacao and World-Class Art Together
Kokomo is committed to bringing out the best of Philippine cacao through its Pod-to-bar approach. It meticulously sources high-quality cacao beans from small-scale farms in Luzon and Visayas, Mindanao, particularly Isabela, Mt. Province, Palawan, Bohol, South Cotabato, and Davao. It is also part of a growing movement that is supporting ethically sourced and sustainable cacao through environmental conservation while improving the livelihoods of local Cacao Growers, creating a local tree-to-bar supply chain.
The Search for Heritage Cacao
Kokomo Chocolate joins the fray of cacao producers in the Philippines who are looking for the elusive heritage cacao variety that is said to have come from the original Criollo variety introduced here by the Spanish in the 17th century.
The Manila-Acapulco Galleon trade brought the Criollo variety of cacao which is said to be the variety that the ancient Mayans and Aztecs used. It is considered to be the most valued variety, characterized by long pods with white beans that are less bitter, less acidic and has a more complex flavour profile.
Kokomo’s Montilde, through research and networking with cacao farmers, discovered that this heirloom variety is being cultivated in small farms in Mt. Province. The farms’ terroir or the combination of its climate, topography, soil, as well as traditional cultivation practices, results in high-quality cacao beans that every cacao artisan is looking for. Mr. Christophe Bertrand of A La Reine himself visited the farm and said that it definitely shows characteristics of the sought-after heirloom cacao variety.
Heritage Cacao meets World-Class Art
Baguio-based artist Leonard Aguinaldo lends his artistic hand to the launch of Kokomo’s limited release Cordillera Heritage Cacao products. With each variant’s packaging, Aguinaldo’s signature artwork takes center stage.
He is known for his works in print, rubber cut and wood cut that depict local culture. He has garnered international and local art awards and has been exhibited both here and abroad. Through his artwork, he continues to pay homage to the Cordilleras, and the Filipino people.
In an earlier profile article, he acknowledges that he always taps into “history, oral traditions and folklores as inspirations” in his artmaking, while providing some comment or critique through this artwork. He observes and features ordinary people in his works, as his recognition of their resilience, and their strong will to survive.