Farming Cocoa & Finding Community in the Philippines
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’ve also worked to support their community beyond bolstering their local economy by collaborating with local schools on a lunch program for their students. From 2011 until the program’s culmination in 2020, we partnered with two elementary schools, Malagos & Baguio. With the help of the school administrators and PTA, we developed a Sustainable Lunch Program to ensure that the local children--many of whom are the sons and daughters of our farmer partners--would eat more than one meal per day. In this program, which we call A Product of Change, Askinosie Chocolate purchased Tableya, (a traditional Filipino hot cocoa) created by the PTA at the schools, sold the Tableya online, in our storefront and to select specialty food retailers across the country, then returned 100% of the profits to the PTA for them to source local food and build gardens to provide lunches for all of the 800-1000 students. We closely monitored the success of the program by analyzing key benchmarks including height, weight, arm circumference, school attendance, test scores and more. During the duration of the program until it reached full sustainability in 2020, nearly 1.4 million school lunches were provided and malnourishment decreased dramatically. Additionally, attendance was consistently up and achievement test scores rose more than 25%. The program was designed for the schools to reach full self-sufficiency, and also to help a new school implement the program. We’re proud to report that our two original schools, as well as a third school who was supported by Baguio, are providing lunches to each of their students and we offer support, advice and guidance as needed.