A First for the Philippines: Auro Chocolate’s Jose Saguban makes history with award-winning cacao

Cacao farmer Jose Saguban | Photo courtesy of Auro Chocolates

Multi-awarded Philippine chocolate makers Auro Chocolate recently bagged a history-making win from the International Cocoa Awards (ICA) in Paris, France.

The cacao beans produced by Jose Saguban, one of Auro Chocolate’s original farming partners, was hailed as one of the World’s Best Cacao Beans by Cocoa of Excellence — a first for the Philippines!

On October 31, 2019, Mang Jose and the Auro Chocolate team flew to France to receive the prestigious award. From the hundreds of samples from 55 cocoa-producing countries for 2019, Mang Jose’s cacao beans won the first ever Top 20 Best Cacao Beans Award for the Philippines at the International Cocoa Awards held in Salon du Chocolat Paris by the Cocoa of Excellence Programme (CoEx).

Fondly called Mang Jose by the Auro Chocolate team, the now-award-winning farmer is a local of Paquibato, Davao. He has been growing cacao since the 1970’s and believes in planting cacao that he personally enjoys consuming and not just blindly following the advice of others. As a result, he has a lot of older varieties of cacao in his farm.

The founders of Auro Chocolate, Jackie and Kelly Go and Mark Ocampo, first met Mang Jose in October 2015 and were impressed by his passion for cacao and leadership in the community. While Auro’s founders saw the fine flavor potential of Mang Jose’s cacao, they also recognized that he needed a lot of training and guidance as he had limited technical expertise and post-harvest facilities. Since late 2015, Auro’s Cacao Expert Louie de Cena has been working with Mang Jose and the Paquibato Tree Developer’s Cooperative (PTDC) on quality and post-harvest protocols that have been developed to maximize flavor. Louie de Cena mentored and helped in preparing the data and samples that Auro Chocolate sponsored for entry into the competition. It was a joint effort with other members of the PTDC using Auro’s post-harvest protocols as a result of our partnership.

“We both screamed when Mang Jose’s Top 20 award was announced in front of global cacao
industry leaders. It was the culmination of the long journey we have been on with Jose Saguban of Paquibato Tree Developers Cooperative and all the other farmers who have placed their trust on the Auro Chocolate team since 2015. We are incredibly proud that we got to share the stage with Mang Jose that night, and feel inspired to continue taking the path less traveled to strive towards excellence so we can continue to help more farmers,” shared Kelly Go and Mark Ocampo, Co-Founders of Auro Chocolate.

With Mang Jose’s win, Auro Chocolate hopes that it will inspire a new generation of farmers to continue their legacy. It is Auro Chocolate’s mission to empower farmers like Mang Jose to bring better recognition to more marginalized areas and people in the Philippines and to
showcase the fine quality of our cacao on the international stage.

ICA is a global competition organized by CoEx to recognize the work of cocoa farmers around the world and to celebrate the diversity of cocoa flavors. Salon du Chocolat 2019 (SDC) is the most anticipated and prestigious global event dedicated to celebrating chocolate and cacao.