Cacao harvested, aged and currently crafted by our chocolate-maker: January 2018 Harvest. Single-region from rainforests of Agusan del Sur.

About Co Chocolat

 

O U R   B E G I N N I N G

We are two sisters based in Dubai who couldn’t find truly healthy chocolates despite our many travels. Delicious there were many, but healthy? Not really. So together, with our then-sixty-eight-year-old diabetic mother, we traveled to the beautiful island of Mindanao, Philippines to study the main ingredient of chocolate: cacao. We learned how to plant, prune, and harvest from cacao trees and ferment its beans. On this trip, we became friends with farmers, agriculturists and government workers who opened our eyes to the realities of cacao farming.

 

 

We became cacao doctors in 2016, sowing the seeds of what we didn’t expect would blossom into a full-blown agricultural social enterprise just months later—an enterprise that supports and educates cacao farmers in the Philippines. We called it OFW para sa Magsasaka, or OPM (Overseas Filipinos Supporting Filipino Farmers). Together with other angel investors, we rolled out supporting twenty hectares in mid-2016.

It is an understatement when we say our lives have never been the same since! Luchie was in digital telecoms, Iman was ex-physical therapist who went into the fitness industry and turned businesswoman, and Mama Irene a retired cook. Our little world became so much bigger!

Today, we have 42 impact investors from the UAE, Philippines, Singapore, Qatar, Kuwait, Great Britain, Brazil, and USA all rooting for our farmers and our healthy chocolates. With them, we have cocreated the agricultural blueprint of our chocolatey dreams for the next ten years. Together with these kindred spirits, we created a community and we are committed. We are for cocoa farmers. We are for fine cocoa. We are Co Chocolat.

 

 Our logo bears our code:

We are committed to health.
We are committed to the fine art of chocolate making and cocoa gastronomy.
We are committed to the community. 

 

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

We come from a family with a long history of cardiovascular diseases + diabetes. Mama has had two coronary bypasses that became occluded eventually. She’s had several angioplasties, which is when doctors pulverize hardened fat in the artery, then balloon the artery and finally insert tiny tubes so blood can flow in the heart. She had a mild stroke in her early fifties and developed diabetes in her late fifties. Devoid of history of diabetes in that side of the family, we almost did not expect Mama would develop it. Almost. Mama had such an appetite for sugared drinks in her younger days, finishing one to two liters of ice-cold Coke every day in the warm kitchen of our catering business. It seemed normal at that time. By year 2000, it also became normal for the family to always have on hand Isordil (emergency drug to prevent heart attack) just in case of a heart attack. Unsurprisingly, with diabetes, the family also had to deal with kidney issues. 

Today, we count ourselves very, very blessed that Mama is still alive – thinner, and finally, a healthier eater. Alhamdulillah. It was quite late when she changed her lifestyle and her eating habits, but it’s not yet too late for us.

Knowing first-hand the financial and emotional costs of such diseases made us realize “we MUST not make the same mistakes of Mama.” Since Mama developed diabetes due to her lifestyle and food choices (none in the family had diabetes), God-willing we hope that she will be the last.

Health food and drinks are not “luxuries”

We all know that exercise and proper diet is the foundation to a healthy body. We also all know the evil of consuming refined sugar and foods that contain much of it, and that includes the (so-called) chocolates in the grocery counters that give us so much comfort. Chocolates are VERY hard to resist. WE. KNOW.

Something so tempting, so delicious.. a.k.a. the food of the gods, needs to be attacked with strategy, we thought. Co Chocolat is the offspring of this strategy. We decided as a family we would not just be professional chocolate-makers. We could take a path to health and wellness that is not so torturous.

So aside from using our hero ingredient cacao, or cocoa, which comes from our own social agricultural enterprise, you will see from our product line and recipes that we use many superfood ingredients in our recipes. We prefer to use fruit, coconut sugar, and dates as natural sweeteners, but when we cannot avoid use of sweet poison, also known as refined sugar, we use it very minimally. We are committed to ensuring that each bite may either relieve stress, enhance mood, serve as anti-oxidant, boost energy, improve the immune system, be anti-inflammatory, mildly relieve pain, enhance vitality, improve gut flora, or promote heart health. We are hard-core fans of antioxidants, fibers, grains, dates, Moringga, Oleic acid (hello, olive oil), and other ancient healing ingredients, and this is reflected in our recipes. They were created primarily from a health viewpoint, which sets us far apart from other confectioners and chocolate makers. Every chocolate is made with the intention to score low in both GI index and GL index. These medical indices help diabetics decide which foods to eat less or to avoid. Specific information per flavor can be found in www.cochocolat.com. Our chocolate and chocolate products are all-natural, with no preservatives. This explains the short shelf-life and limited production quantity. We strive much to achieve the principle of #fewerbetter – fewer but better ingredients. After all, healthy food is basically simple - including chocolates.

 

Our maître chocolatier, Luchie, is not only the head of our chocolate products but as a true cacao doctor, she also heads post-harvest processing to create community-wide protocols for cacao fermentation, drying and roasting. Though a graduate of hotel and restaurant management, Luchie worked in a telecommunications advisory and private equity firm for over a decade in Dubai before she finally followed her true passion – chocolat (as her favorite movie is Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche’s Chocolat).

She gained the title of Maître  Chocolate Maker from Ecole Chocolat (Professional School of Chocolate Arts) after successfully completing chocolate-making from bean to bar in the USA and her chocolate bonbons program at Ecole du Grand Chocolat Valrhona in Tain-l'Hermitage, France.

Luchie is also the one who gains weight the fastest in the family, though she is the triathlete; able to swim a couple of kilometers in open water, bike thirty kilometers and run half-marathons. Every day for her is a fight not to eat too much. For her, Co Chocolat is the offspring of this constant battle against her sweet tooth.

Today, Luchie creates beautiful bon-bons and chocolate recipes, whipping up healthy chocolatey recipes for herself, her family and now the community.

 

Co Chocolat chocolates are created in micro batches, so each piece is quite special. We say “micro” not only because the quantity we produce are small and handcrafted, but also because our beans come from small-holding farmers who take pride in their produce and are part of our social enterprise. This is why we mention harvest time and exact area and region where cocoa beans were grown. This traceability not only tells you the exact farming community and families you supported when you bought Co Chocolat chocolates, but this also ensures that the cocoa beans from which your chocolates were made are of premium quality.

 Our parent company is an agricultural social enterprise called OFW para sa Magsasaka (OPM) whose community scorecards keep track of the following:

1.     Have we increased crop prices to farmers?

2.     Have we increased farmer productivity?

3.     Have we increased stability of farmer income?

4.     Have we invested or linked farmers with public goods (e.g., health, education, water, transportation)?

5.     Have we created incentives and delivered the training required to sustain farmers’ ecosystems?

OPM is registered with the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission as OFW para sa Agrikultura, Inc., and our farms, post-harvest facility and chocolate microfactory are located in Agusan del Sur, northeast of beautiful Mindanao, the second largest island of the Philippines. Our commercial arm is based in Dubai, UAE.

The more healthy chocolates we create, the better the lives of our cocoa farmers. When shall we see you in our farms?

Find out more about our social enterprise. Click here.