Ralfe Gourmet Chocolate Boutique


Ralfe Gourmet's flavoured tablea

Valentine's Day is just around the corner, and if you're looking for topnotch quality chocolates that are proudly Filipino-made, allow me to share with you what I had just recently discovered -- a cacao paradise called Ralfe Gourmet Chocolate Boutique.

During a trip to Cebu with fellow food and travel bloggers (thanks to Movenpick Hotel Mactan Island Cebu for making this possible), part of our itinerary was to check out a chocolate boutique. I must admit my eyes went owl-like when I saw this from my email. A CHOCOLATE BOUTIQUE??? IN CEBU??? I got more excited with the thought of having a chocolate boutique that uses locally-grown cacao in my own country. I immediately had images of Fauchon and Laduree in my mind.

When we finally parked our van infront of a house in Casals Village, Mabolo, Cebu City, I knew we are in for a unique gastronomic experience. The place might be far from a Fauchon or Laduree outlet in Europe, but the captivating aroma of cacao gave me the assurance that we were about to enter chocolate wonderland. In fact, a chocolate fountain (a literal one at that) welcomed us as we entered the gates of Raquel Choa's residence. Choa is the founder and president of Ralfe Gourmet.

A chocolate fountain
As soon as we settled inside the chocolate boutique, Edu Pantino, Choa's industrial partner, invited us into the garden for a quick briefing on cacao. Ralfe Gourmet's advocacy is to promote the use of locally-grown cacao by creating world-class quality byproducts. As they put it in words, they want to "elevate chocolate." In fact, they have their own cacao farm in Cebu, and have been continuously training locals on nurturing these precious tropical trees.

Cacao plants for sale
After we listened to the "primer," we went inside the boutique again for our much-awaited part of the tour: a chocolate high tea. Backdropped by a magnificent chocolate painting and the cosy interiors of the home, the chocolates were nicely laid in dainty ceramics that must have been passed on through the generations. At this point, we were already so excited to try out the different chocolate variations.

The innovative Quickmelt Tablea

The BEST Choco-Mango stick EVER!
For me, the best part of the chocolate high tea was Ralfe Gourmet's own version of the celebrated choco-mango. It is way, way better than the one in Island Souvenirs. We are talking about sticks of homemade black chocolate with generous chunks of dried mangoes and a dash of sea salt. It's to die for, believe me.

Chocolates in elegant boxes

Roche

The dainty afternoon tea setup
We started with some truffles with a variety of fillings -- from the usual caramel to chestnuts to homemade peanut butter. There were truffles with cacao nibs, too! If you are going to have this kind of high tea at Ralfe Gourmet Chocolate Boutique, make sure to leave room for more (as in MORE) varieties later on!

Ralfe Gourmet Truffles rolled in pistachio nuts
Next, we tried Ralfe Gourmet's best-selling Alfajores - vanilla cookies dipped in tablea chocolate. This is perhaps the artisanal version of your childhood favorite, the choco mallows sans the marshmallows. The difference is in the quality of the chocolate wrapped around the crumbly homemade vanilla cookies. This is love. I brought some Alfajores home and Akisha was so hooked on to it. There's another variant with more layers of cookies inside and it was just as lovely.

Alfajores and chocolate with cacao nibs
After having the delightful cookie variants, we tried the chocolate pralines with whole cacao nibs. This is rather dark and less sweet, stronger in flavor. The truffles rolled in cocoa powder is perhaps the strongest among the selection.
Truffles rolled in cocoa powder

And just like in a typical afternoon tea, there were homemade scones, too. The scones go well with their own version of ready to drink hot chocolate that comes in powder form. While I still like the old tablea for my hot chocolate, the taste of the powder version is so close that you wouldn't think it's from a sachet! I tried the caramel flavor.
Homemade scones

Ready to drink hot chocolate powder in caramel flavor

(L-R): Me, Laurie, Melo, Jane, Eugene, Spanky, Richard, Justinne, and Richie

The Chocolate Painting
After the chocolate high tea, we were invited inside another room for the tablea-making demo. Edu showed us some fresh cacao and discussed how the beans are processed.

Philippine Cacao

What's inside the Philippine Cacao?

Dried Cacao Beans

Cacao beans upclose
Raquel took over and relayed her story on how she learned the art of tablea-making, a tradition that has been passed on through the generation in their family. "My grandmother did not only give me a tablea drink; she taught me how to prepare one," says Raquel. From planting the beans in their small parcel of land to selecting and roasting the best ones, Raquel learned it all from her grandmother. Now, she's passing the legacy on to her eight children. In their home, drinking hot chocolate is a daily family affair.

After the talk on tablea-making, Raquel made a demo on how to make rich hot chocolate using the old, traditional batirol. She also made some concoctions infused with cinnamon, anato, and chili. I honestly love the one with chili as it has a different "kick" in the end. Raquel also showed some "pulling" of the hot chocolate to make it even more frothier.

Flavor infusions
We sampled each and every variant she prepared and by this time we were already starting to be on a chocolate coma. =)

She also let us try their own version of cookie butter and the decadent and fudgy chocolate cake.

Ralfe Gourmet's version of cookie butter

Chocolate Cake
After all the truffles, pralines, scones, and shots of flavored hot chocolate, there's no other way to end it but with a warm cup of chocolate tea. Yes, their own version of chocolate tea. Think TWG -- a better version.

Pouring some tea

Chocolate tea upclose
Aside from the bars, tablets, truffles, and pralines, Ralfe Gourmet Chocolate Boutique also has pure cocoa butter for your skin --- oh, and for cooking, too! Since these are 100% pure cocoa butter, these are actually edible and you can infuse it in your dishes. Raquel even mentioned that she is fond of making salmon with cocoa butter, as well as some pasta with this as the secret ingredient. We've got to try the cocoa butter on our skin and it made our hands so soft and supple. It smells delicious, too!

100% Cocoa Butter
So, if you are in Cebu and you want to have a deeper appreciation of chocolates and our very own locally-grown cacao, set an appointment with Raquel Choa. As Laurie said, she's like a lady Willy Wonka. =)

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Ralfe Gourmet Chocolate Boutique
3349 Topaz St., Casals' Village, 
Mabolo, Cebu City

www.ralfegourmet.com
+63917.628.7661
ralfegourmet@yahoo.com

Comments

  1. There seems to be a real passion for chocolate there that there's no doubt they will succeed in, as you say, "elevating chocolate" in The Philippines. I'm glad I read this post. Thanks for sharing!
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