Turning chocolate into gold
“Five years from now, I’ll be making Bohol literally the island of Chocolates,” says chocolatier Dalareich Polot, manager of Dalareich Food Products and founder of Ginto Fine Chocolates.
A bean to bar chocolate handmade from cacao beans, Dalareich Food Products sourced its tablea, the local name for roasted, ground and molded nibs of fermented cacao beans, from small farmers in Sierra Bullones and Carmen towns of Bohol province, renowned for its Chocolate Hills.
Dalareich and the Chocolate Factory
Dalareich, the namesake of the family-run business, has always dreamed of a chocolate factory where tourists can learn chocolate making, and showcase proudly their products.
In September 2017, this dream came true with the opening of the ‘Dalareich Chocolate House’ all thanks to Peace and Equity Foundation and BPI Foundation’s Sinag, a business challenge that provides mentorship and financial support for social enterprises.
“Life was hard back then,” says Dalareich as she shared the bittersweet journey of realizing her dream.
Dalareich’s father Ricardo drove a tricycle plying the streets of Tagbilaran to provide for their family. To make ends meet, her mother, on the other hand, makes tablea and sold these to small stores in their neighborhood while juggling work as a street sweeper.
Still in fourth grade then, Dalareich already had a fascination with chocolates. Most of her childhood was spent helping her parents run the small business – preparing a table and bringing these to stores and supermarkets in the city.
Elsa Polot recalls they had to borrow money from loan sharks to continue with their small tablea production. Over the years, Dalareich Tableya slowly grew through deals secured from hotels and supermarkets nearby.
Today, the chocolate factory’s nearly 20 production workers, mostly mothers, and students, process seven tons of cacao beans every month… a manyfold increase from initially producing only five kilos of tableya from a small hut in Barangay Booy, Tagbilaran City back in 1994. Their products are now being supplied to five-star hotels like the Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort, SM Kultura branches in Cebu and Manila, Mactan Cebu International Airport and to supermarkets in Bohol and nearby Cebu.
GINTO FINE CHOCOLATES
In 2014, the never-ending zest to learn more about chocolates led Dalareich to study cacao and chocolate processing at the Ghent University in Belgium where she learned from the best chocolatiers in the world. Upon her return, Ginto Fine Chocolates was born. Ginto Chocolates are artisan, dark chocolates that come with coconut, chili and mint flavors and fine chocolate pralines.
“People helped me to become what I am now,” says Dalareich as she shared their enterprise’s humble beginnings and who always felt that she has a mission to fulfill since she was a child.
Immersed in trainings and learning exposures, she was able to build relationships and create essential linkages. Most importantly, these events exposed her to international markets. For Dalareich, chocolate isn’t just a commodity, but both an art and passion combined that she hopes to share with others.
Dalareich offers the opportunity to experience the magic of a Ginto Fine Chocolate and not just eat it. She shares with tourists an in-depth understanding of how the beans are grown, harvested, dried and fermented, and made into chocolates. The chocolate house is a one big learning area. Events like chocolate tasting, chocolate appreciation, and an educational factory tour became part of Bohol’s tourism circuit.
With demand growing, Dalareich and mother Elsa saw the need to invest in machines to step up the process, improve productivity, and continuously innovate.
In an effort to source more cacao beans from the locals, she works with small farmers, building their capacities, and encouraging them to plant more cacao trees. She also hopes to rehabilitate the province’s old Criollo cacao trees. “We have to engage farmers and address what’s really at the core of the cacao industry’s problems. Trainings should be done in farms, not in hotels,” says Dalareich.
The dream to instill the same entrepreneurial spirit in cacao farmers keeps her focused. She enables them to grow, harvest, process their own cacao beans and build their businesses. For her, there is still so much to improve.
“Social entrepreneurship is a mission, it’s not just about making money,” says Dalareich.
Hoping to seize a favorable opportunity for the country’s cacao farmers and chocolate makers, Dalareich represented Bohol’s cacao-growing communities in Salon du Chocolat, one of the world’s largest chocolate shows in Paris, France. The event took place on October 28-November 1, 2017 at the Porte de Versailles Exhibition Center, Paris.
Armed with enriched experience, Dalareich continues to turn her dreams into gold, hoping more cacao farmers will do the same.