Wonderful Askinosie Chocolate from the Philippines

Excerpt from Ari’s Top 5 enews

Shawn Askinosie’s awesome work with cacao from Asia

Earlier this month, my good friend, former attorney, author, and world-class chocolate maker, Shawn Askinosie made his 50th trip to a cacao origin. For those who aren’t immersed in the trade, this may seem unremarkable, but back when Askinosie Chocolate began its work in 2006, chocolate makers making their way halfway around the world to visit cacao growers was nearly unheard of. Producers in Europe and the U.S. would have, instead, been buying cacao beans indirectly, by placing orders through brokers. A chocolate maker getting on a plane, and then buses and pickup trucks, to make the trek to the remote villages where the cacao was grown, was just not done. Why? Well, for starters, it’s a super long trip—nearly three days for Shawn to get from his home in Springfield, Missouri to the farms!

This 50th trip was to the Davao region in the Philippines, an origin that Shawn has been visiting since 2008. (He also travels regularly to Tanzania and Ecuador.) The Philippines is an archipelago made up of over 7500 islands! Spaniards arrived during the rule of Philip II in the middle of the 16th century, and cacao was brought to the islands from the Spanish colonies in the Americas about a century later. It has been grown in the Philippines ever since, but only relatively recently has it taken on a significant role in the economy and the chocolate world. Essentially, it’s been something of a secret: Askinosie was the first chocolate maker to bring high-quality cacao out of the Davao region to make a single-origin bar for nearly half a century.

Back in 2008, we were the first to export beans from here since their land reform in the 1980s. 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 Peter Cruz, produce top-notch beans that, when roasted, elicit the warm, earthy flavors of brown sugar and vanilla with a clean, caramel finish. And it’s all because of our lead farmer partner Peter Cruz. He’s known nationally as an expert in organic and regenerative cocoa farming.

By teaching farmers about these methods, he hopes to equip them with techniques to improve their crop yields, maintain or enhance certain desirable plant traits, and ensure the sustainability and resilience of their farming practices, especially in the context of shade-grown organic farming. One MAJOR headline from Peter is this: farmer after farmer over the years report to him that they are giving up pesticides and chemicals because they have a better yield when farming organically without them.

The direct connection to growers and the communities—with all the care, conversation, and collaboration that comes from it—is something Shawn cherishes. In his email from Davao last week, he wrote, “Anne Lamott says there are 3 kinds of prayers: help, thanks, and wow. Today was a lot of all three.”

At the Deli we have three bars that Shawn and the Askinosie team craft from the Filipino cacao.

Dark Chocolate + Orange—my favorite of the bunch.

White Chocolate + Cocoa Nibs—smooth and creamy white chocolate with a delightfully crunchy bite.

62% Dark Milk Chocolate + Fleur de Sel—for those who like the mellow creaminess of a milk chocolate and the intensity of dark at the same time!

All are—as is true of everything the folks at Askinosie offer—excellent!! Deep appreciation to Shawn for going so many thousands of extra miles to make great chocolate and great relationships a reality. A reality that both the farmers working the cacao and folks like you and I who just eat the literal fruits of their labor, can benefit from in such beautiful ways!