During the first couple of weeks that I spent in the Philippines at the beginning of 2017, I heard the term tablea, which may also be spelt tableya, a great deal. When I was in Bohol a couple of years ago, I treated myself to some honey tablea. When I went back to look into the culture of cacao in the Philippines, I found something that really piqued my interest: what exactly is tablea?
And where’s all the chocolate made in the Philippines?!
What Is Tablea, Or “Tableya?”
To put it more simply, tablea is a ball made of crushed up cacao beans. Tablea is often cooked and blended with water to produce sikwate, a traditional Filipino chocolate drink. Many people believe that the term “tablet,” which is derived from the Spanish language, is the origin of the word “tablea,” which relates to the form of the dish. However, it’s also possible that the term comes from the Spanish word tablear, which literally translates to “rolling and dividing.” This is a reference to the process by which the balls are created.
In the course of my research for this essay, I came to the realization that when a Filipino has a need for chocolate, it is often not for a piece of chocolate candy but rather for a hot cup of tablea in the morning. One of the local cacao farmers in Davao informed me that most Filipinos spell with their ears, which would explain the many spelling variances.
It doesn’t matter whatever term you choose with since it all comes down to personal choice, much like how you decide to set your table.
How Is Tablea Made?
The agricultural commodity known as cacao beans is what goes into the process of making chocolate.
In order to manufacture chocolate, the beans must first be gathered, then fermented, and then dried; after that, they must be roasted, peeled, and crushed into a smooth cacao mass. Cacao mass combined with sugar creates the finest form of chocolate. To prepare traditional tablea, however, you only need to ground the cacao beans to a finer consistency, and then roll the bulk into balls that you can store and use at a later time (instead of adding sugar and refining further).
Those of you who were brought up with best-by dates on everything, even mugs of hot chocolate, may be wondering whether or not tablea has a shelf life. The correct response is “no.” The larger proportion of fat in your tablea may cause some cocoa butter to rise to the top, giving the impression that it is moldy and grey in appearance; nevertheless, you need not worry about consuming it as it is perfectly safe to do so. Since tablea is not typically tempered (that is, the fat structure of the dish is not fixed), it will eventually come to appear like this at some time. In point of fact, most tablea will start to look like this at some point. Therefore, tablea that is very old should be quite safe to consume, provided that it still has a pleasant flavor.
Tablea is distinct from a mix for making hot chocolate since it has a higher proportion of natural fat. To produce the cocoa powder that serves as the foundation for the majority of hot chocolates, manufacturers begin with the cacao mass described above and then press off the majority of the fat, which is then put to use in the cosmetics and other sectors. The substance is then alkalized, sometimes known as “dutching,” so that it has a more consistent taste and is easier to dissolve in water. Tablea is essentially a foundation of full-fat hot chocolate, and it is up to the individual to decide how much sugar and/or milk should be added.
Unfortunately, the majority of Filipino farmers still do not ferment their cacao, as was the case historically with many of them. Because of this, the taste of their tablea is often unremarkable or, even worse, sour and earthy with very little flavor resembling that of chocolate at all. Because it is one of the two most significant phases for producing taste inside the cacao bean itself, the process of fermentation is essential to both the manufacture of chocolate and tablea. This is because fermentation is one of the two most critical steps. Make sure that the tablea you purchase specifies that it was made with fermented cacao, particularly if you want to combine it with milk and sugar.
History Of Tablea
Theobroma cacao is the species of tree that yields the fruit that is used to make chocolate. The tree was cultivated in both Central America and the northern parts of South America at the time of Spanish colonization, and its seeds were highly treasured by a great number of the indigenous peoples of both regions. The Spanish, in their turn, recognized its importance and brought seeds to each of their colonies, including the Philippines, in order to experiment with and eventually produce the plant.
The Aztecs and other indigenous peoples of Mexico drank beverages made from cacao during the time. Other native peoples of Mexico also drank beverages made from cacao. Because of this, when cacao was first successfully farmed in the Philippines by Spanish conquerors, the only way it was eaten was as a beverage. However, this was not a beverage that could be consumed by just anybody; the cacao fields in Spain were overseen by priests, and those same priests had a significant amount of influence in who was allowed to eat it.
When you visited one of these cacao estates, if you were judged good enough, you were offered a cup of tsokolate, which is the Filipino name for “chocolate.” If you were not deemed worthy enough, you were not provided any chocolate. Tsokolate Eh and Tsokolate Ah were the two different kinds of tsokolates that existed in the globe. Espresso chocolate, also known as Filipino Tsokolate Eh, was the most potent and concentrated type of the drink, and it was only presented to guests who were considered to be of the highest caliber. Tsokolate Ah, on the other hand, was chocolate that had been “aguado,” or “watered down.” Because it was a watered-down version of the drink, offering it indicated that you respected the person’s position, but not quite as much as you would have otherwise.
This traditional Filipino hot chocolate has been and still is the most popular method to consume cacao across the Philippines. This is particularly true considering that it has transitioned from a beverage consumed by colonizers to a drink consumed by the people of the country.
Domestic Consumption of Tablea
In the Philippines, breakfast often includes hot chocolate, which is quite similar to the chocolate caliente that is offered in Baracoa, Cuba and in many other parts of Latin America. If you don’t add much sugar or milk, it has a beverage that is similar to coffee in that it is fairly harsh and has a moderate taste. In today’s society, it is common practice for mothers and grandparents to be in charge of preparing and serving the morning sikwate. Despite the fact that it is drunk all throughout the nation and has even been responsible for a cacao shortage in the Philippines over the last several years, it is not exactly something that you would order in a coffee shop.
Tableya is and always has been a dish that is prepared and eaten in the house, with all of the associated chores and requirements that this involves. This covers different ways in which tableya is eaten, such as in the traditional meal known as champorado, which is from the Philippines.
Those individuals who continue to prepare tablea at home get cacao beans from a neighborhood market if they do not have a cacao tree growing in their backyard. The next step is for them to transport those beans back to their house, where they will roast them over an open fire, then remove the shells from each bean, and then ground everything together in a blender. Due to the fact that it is a very laborious procedure, the majority of people these days choose to purchase tablea from the supermarket; nonetheless, more and more artisanal tablea manufacturers are appearing presently (even as far away as Belgium).
Consumption of the aforementioned tsokolate drinks has also evolved through time, reflecting the fact that eating chocolate and drinking chocolate beverages are now considered to be separate foods despite their common ancestry. The current Filipino name for “chocolate” is tsokolate, and the beverage produced with tableya is called sikwate. Tsokolate is also the modern Filipino word for “chocolate,” while sikwate is the modern Filipino word for “Filipino hot chocolate drink.”
There are also foreign hot chocolate mixes available, such as Swiss Miss, at some stores in the Philippines. Many people in the Philippines don’t even connect tablea and sikwate with the world of ready-to-use hot cocoa mixes and sweet chocolate bars like I did when I was growing up in the United States. However, this does not imply that tablea has successfully sidestepped the question of tainted quality. The vast majority of tablea brands that I came across in the stores in Davao City featured additional ingredients than cacao. These other ingredients may have been corn starch, wheat germ, or something else.
This indicates that consumers who choose to purchase Philippine tablea from a supermarket may not be receiving the same quality as they could have had a few decades ago, despite the fact that its popularity in the Philippines is as high as it has ever been. In addition, throughout the years, it has been more common to make your sikwate with milk rather than water, and even to sweeten it even further with condensed milk. Both of these preparation methods have grown increasingly popular. The younger generations are the ones most likely to engage in this practice, but it is just becoming more ubiquitous.
Where To Buy Tsokolate Tablea
Going to the grocery store where you live in the Philippines and inquiring about the location of the tablea department is all that is required to make a purchase of tablea. Be cautious to study the product’s label before making a purchase, though, since “pure” and “natural” are only marketing terms. The most significant information may be found on the back of the container, in the list of components.
Tableya may be ordered online, and the best source is someone who makes it personally using cacao that has been properly fermented and dried. However, ordering tableya online is just as straightforward, if not easier. The majority of the country’s cacao is produced in the area around Davao City, which is located on the island of Mindanao. Even just in Davao, there are more than a dozen different kinds of tablea, and you can have a look at some of them here.
Unfortunately, only a small number of businesses have the resources or the desire to export their tablea. This is in part owing to the cacao shortage that has been discussed before and continues to exist in the Philippines. Cacao Culture Farms, which is situated in Davao, is a company that sells tableya online, and I would suggest that you check them out if you live outside of the Philippines but are interested in preparing tableya at home. They now ship globally; however, the prices for shipping during warm weather apply all year round, so keep that in mind. Askinosie Chocolate, which is based in Springfield, Missouri, United States, also produces a tableya brand, which could be accessible in other countries.
How To Prepare Tablea
The transformation of tableya into sikwate resembles the process of making hot chocolate from cocoa powder in many ways. You start by heating the liquid of your choice, then adding your tableya or cocoa powder and mixing until everything is incorporated. Check out the sikwate recipe that follows for more detailed information on how to make the dish.
Traditional Tablea Recipe (Sikwate)
Tableya and water are the only two ingredients that you will often find in a sikwate dish, since milk is a flavor profile that has just recently been introduced to the Philippine diet.
- 1 slice of tableya (about 1 ounce or 28 grams).
- 1 ounce (or cup) of water (for a sweeter, but less traditional version, use whole milk)
- a sweetened condensed milk topping is optional.
- Sugar, if you so want (traditionally muscovado or maybe coconut sugar)
- copper pot or batirol (also spelled baterol, chocolatera)
- metal fork
- stove top
- Batidor (also called a molinillo; alternatives include a whisk or an immersion blender, if you want to go really sophisticated) (also called a molinillo; alternatives are a whisk or an immersion blender, if you want to get really fancy)
- ceramic cup
In order to make sikwate, start by placing the water in the pot and bringing it up to a boil. Place the tableya in the bowl, then wait five seconds for it to become pliable before using the fork to mash it up. Remove the pot from the heat. The next step is to start twisting the batirol or whisk by rubbing it between your hands for one to two minutes. This will help distribute the tableya particles throughout the mixture in the most equal manner possible. If you wish to add milk or any form of sugar, now is the time to do it; otherwise, wait one minute before pouring your sikwate into your cup and tasting it. One serving may be made from this.
A bonus is that tableya is vegan since it is made entirely of cocoa, and you can decide for yourself what kind of sugar and creamer, if any, to mix in with it. For a twist on the classic recipe, some individuals prefer to use espresso, brandy, or even spices in their version.
Chocolate Tablea FAQ
Does tablea contain any kind of sugar? No. Tablea should only be composed of cacao beans, therefore it naturally has a low net carb count and is suitable for keto diets. However, tableya continues to have a relatively high calorie content; as a result, its consumption should be limited, particularly when it is cooked with milk and sugar. On the other hand, tableya that is cooked in the traditional manner with simply water or coconut milk is an excellent source of healthy fats and antioxidants, and you need only consume one cup of it daily to get the benefits of its use.
After the cacao has been gathered and processed, the beans should be roasted until part of the beans have popped but not until they have started to burn. After they have cooled, the husks of the cocoa beans should be peeled off and the beans themselves should be placed in a very powerful blender. It also works if you have a mortar and pestle at your disposal. As soon as the beans have turned into a liquid, transfer the liquid into a basin to let it to gently cool or immediately into molds. Voila! Tableya.
Technically speaking, the word tablea in English is simply tablea. We may alternatively refer to the material as a chocolate liquor made from coarsely powdered cacao, or even cacao paste. If, on the other hand, you are wondering what the meaning of tableya is in English, then the word itself is believed to have originated from the Spanish word for ‘tablet,’ as the balls of tableya resemble tablets. However, if you are asking what the meaning of tableya is in Spanish, then the answer is different.
Although both cocoa powder and chocolate are manufactured from cacao, cocoa powder is more like a tableya, which means that it cannot always be substituted for chocolate. In order to transform tablea into cocoa powder, you would first need to liquify the tablea in a blender that operates at a very high speed, and then place the liquefied tablea in a mesh bag so that the cocoa butter may drop out. After the mass that had the fat removed from it had cooled, it would need to be powdered very carefully and then stored in a cold area. If you don’t have a means to compensate for the additional fat that the cocoa butter adds, your best bet is to simply purchase cocoa powder.
Yes! If it has been ground to a fine enough consistency, you may substitute it for baking chocolate or pure chocolate in recipes for baked goods such as brownies, cakes, cookies, and other similar items.
There is an abundance of tablea recipes available, but not many of them instruct you what to do with the tablea once you have it in your possession. In addition to its usage in the traditional dish sikwate, tableya is one of my favorite ingredients in mole chicken sauce, champorado, and the chocolate icing that my grandmother makes. Try looking for recipes that call for baking chocolate if you are at a loss for how to use up your tablea supply.
Tableya has a shelf life that is measured in years, thus it is essential that the cacao tablets be kept in an airtight container so that they do not lose their smell and taste with time. It is possible to lengthen the shelf life of tablea by storing it in a cold, dark place where it will not grow bloom.