Thursday, January 19, 2006

A Choc-full Holiday Season

Royce Nama Chocolates, Mild Cacao

Chocolates are versatile gifts year-round. They are constant balikbayan pasalubong (gifts from those returning abroad), even though most international commercial chocolates are now available in the Philippines, the American-produced ones, at least, and those made in and around South-East Asia.

Everybody loves chocolates, that may be a fact, be it a hot cup of the thick liquid, or a bar, or made into pastries and cakes, or even contained in biscuits and cookies.

I experienced a flood of chocolates received as sweet gifts last holiday season, starting with Ghirardelli bars from my US BBM partners and from New Zealand via Paris, boxes of brownies from the bosses at work, then a lip-smacking slice of ganache-covered chocolate cake from a couple, various local and imported choco bites for the kids (with the admonishment from the givers for me not to appropriate and let the kids enjoy as much as they want, it was Christmas, after all), from a colleague a very fine and extra-smooth Swiss milk chocolate which caressed the tongue in velvety silkiness, a bar of Gianduia chocolate I bought for myself from Amici, and very lately a big bar of Dutch chocolate from a very generous benefactor.

Not to demean all the others in quality - they were all stars in their own right, shining in their own, uniquely bright identities - but the supernova of my holiday chocolate collection was, easily, the two boxes of Royce Nama chocolates, from a longtime friend who's with Cathay Pacific, and who made a surprise appearance two days before Christmas.

The sudden turn-up was a good enough Christmas gift for us her friends from college who were still here in the Philippines (she was with our other friends now living in the West Coast just a week ago), but she made the meet sweeter with a bag containing Nama chocolates in champagne and mild cacao flavors, hand-carried from HongKong. She professed she could finish an entire box of the chocolates in one day, and was happy to share the passion with her friends.

The chocolates came in layers of wraps. Inside a plastic bag is a kind of reflective insulation polyethylene foam encasing boxes in gift-wrappers, with a couple of cold gel packs to keep them cool. Tearing away the wrapper we came upon thin boxes decorated in the same design as the wrappers'.

Inside the box is a brochure from the Nama chocolate company with a breath-taking photo (which I've tried to recapture in the topmost photo, in vain) of the various Royce flavors, helping build up anticipation for the chocolates, which are ensconced in a sealed plastic tray. There is a dessicant, and a plastic pick with which to eat the chocolates.

The chocolates are melt-in-your-mouth buttery-velvet rectangles covered in fine cocoa powder. I can understand how one box can be easily consumed in a day, in one sitting even. They are addictive. A taste of cloud 9. Like the suiboku-ga, the Japanese monochromatic renderings of nature, inviting contemplation and meditation, Royce's refined pureness almost brings one to a highly-achieved meditative state, verging on spiritual enlightenment. It deserves to be the sweet partaken of after imbibing the bitter and thick green tea during chano-yu, the highly ritualistic Japanese tea ceremony. I felt like I was trespassing, not worthy of experiencing something beautiful. Transluscent. Ethereal. Eternal.

The chocolates are very fragile and so delicate, and would readily crumble in your hand. They need to be in a constant, low temperature, the reason for the two packets of cold gel included in the pack. They originated in the upper latitudes of Japan, after all. The effect of the Philippines' tropical climate can be seen in the already sweating pieces of chocolate in the first photo.

Japanese culture is embodied in the Royce chocolates - delicate and fine, nothing left to chance. Wrapped by layers, but when naked, reveals pureness of utmost simplicity.


Now available at these Makati malls
Rockwell Power Plant
Greenbelt 5

Related Post
The Filipino Tsokolate

5 comments:

ces said...

very passionately written, kai! i could just imagine the richness and..yeah, right! i am reading your post while having a late saturday breakfast of champorado! i feel like throwing it away! lol!

Yo said...

I'm a chocolate lover! Chocolates never cease to amaze me how the lowly cacao beans could be transformed into such heavenly treats.

As a young boy, I helped my lolo and lola pick cacao fruits (or pods) from a number of trees they have in their backyard. The fruit is ovoid but pointed at both ends. It is 15-30 cm long and 8-10 cm wide, ripening yellow to orange or red. The pod contains the seeds or beans, thinly covered in a white pulp that's refreshingly sweet with just a hint of sourness.

The beans were dried under the sun, toasted, and ground to form tablea which eventually finds its way into champorado or a hot mug of chocolate.

Its just a pity that while we can grow cacao trees in the country, we haven't produced chocolates of good quality and taste. I'm sure Japan, Switzerland or Belgium import their cacao beans. Oh well, at least we can still depend on good old ChocNut!

Kai said...

Yo, I'm happy with the tsokolate for hot chocolate drinks that we produce - tablea, sikwate, and the like. Artisanal, "un-commercialized" and mainly family undertakings. As I've explained to the people across the globe I've sent them to, they're chocolate in its purest form. Untouched by preservatives and mass-producing equipment, but made by loving hands.

Nama chocolates is the closest I've experienced to our own tsokolate.

But just the same, the Swiss fine chocolate bar was a discovery - the velvet silken one I described in the post. Thank you very much for that!

Anonymous said...

Have seen your site, I have tasted this chocolate and been looking for this ever since, where in Hong Kong can I find this delectable sweet. I went there this summer but did not find it in stores.



Irene

Kai said...

Hi, Irene, when in HongKong try looking at CitySuper - they have branches in Harbour City, Tsim Sha Tsui; Festival Walk, Kowloon Tong; Times Square, Causeway Bay. Be prepared - Royce come in many variants, and you will be in danger of being overwhelmed.

They are also sold in Singapore, and of course, in Japan.