Hundreds of years before Nestlé’s and Hershey’s, money did really grow on trees. The Mayans and Aztecs, the first chocoholics, used cocoa beans as currency. The Theobroma cacao was regarded as supremely sacred.
Chocolate is old-school Viagra. It was Casanova’s “Elixir of Love”. Phenylethylamine, a naturally occurring chemical in the brain, and found in chocolate, promotes feelings of rapture, associated with being in love. A natural anti-depressant, chocolate also contains theobromine which triggers the release of endorphins that can temporarily relieve pain and stress.
Contrary to popular myths, chocolate is, in fact, healthy, like red wine, because of its phenol content which is a natural artery de-clogger, antioxidant and immunobooster.
I remember the times when all we could have were native tablea, Choc Nuts and Nips, “the Filipino M&Ms” (or MMs, to us, way back in grade school), or Whitman’s Sampler from a favorite aunt or uncle in Hawaii. The bonbons inside had unattractive sugar bloom that we thought were rotten from the 2 months shipping time. Times are a-changin’. Nowadays, there are so many brands to choose from, both local and foreign. Gourmet and designer chocolate shops are all the rage abroad. When I was in San Francisco 2 years ago, I waited in line for 2 hours to get into the main store of Ghirardelli’s for a chocolate-dipped fresh strawberry. Even senior citizens patiently waited for their sweet indulgences. The popularity of chocolates has helped marginalized producers and workers in getting a fair price in the international trade through Fair Trade, an organized social movement that advocates equity, social and environmental standards, and promotes sustainability. And with modern technology and innovation, the evolution of the chocolate continues.
In Ilocos Norte, we have an independent artisan chocolatier in the person of Miss Naomi Therese F. Corpuz, anac ti Batac and daughter of lawyers Nestor T. Corpuz and Consuelo F. Corpuz. It must be in her genes, she is a currently taking up Law at the University of the Philippines. I learned of her new Naomi’s Kitchen when we went trekking to Cabacan Falls in Adams, only recently, for her sister Nina’s feature news story for ABS-CBN’s TV Patrol World.
Last night, I was in Saramsam and I bought a Chocolate Chick on Egg lollipop by her. It was molded nicely with enticing bright colors, and any child would have scrambled for one. I thought it would be the perfect giveaway for any occasion. It gave me ideas for my next birthday party. For around 15 pesos a piece, it would be still affordable to give away a set of my favorite smiley, flower power and heart couch designs I saw on her Multiply site.
My tête-à-tête with Naomi
How did you get into the chocolate business?
My eldest sister Nina interviewed a chef who demonstrated chocolate molding in TV Patrol during the Christmas season. During that time, I was so stressed out in school that my sister suggested that I try out chocolate molding to distress me, so she taught me how to do it. I enjoyed it so much. I made it into a hobby and started giving some of the chocolates I made to friends. More people asked for it, so I thought of selling some. I am still a student and I just finished writing a paper on E-Commerce for my subject in Sales then. I thought it would be a good idea to experiment on what I have researched on internet commerce and put in practical application. I put up an online-business called Naomi’s Kitchen at www.naomiskitchen.multiply.com. The hobby then turned to a lucrative business, and the rest is history.
Where do you get your design inspiration?
To tell you the truth, I don’t get inspiration from anyone or from anything (ha, ha!). The ideas just come from me, and the creativity I have I probably got from my dad who is an artist in many ways. Before I engaged in this hobby, I was also into theater, painting, sketching and photography. Unconsciously, perhaps, I am able to apply the images I’ve captured, and the emotions/imaginations I get from these other avocations in my chocolates. My family who are my best critics are also instrumental though. Sometimes, when I run out of ideas, I consult and brainstorm with my sister and my mom. My dad and brother, at times, provide their constructive criticisms – which all help improve the quality of my work.
What is your favorite creation?
Our Edible Roses are my favorite which is for any occasion. These, being 3-dimensional, people mistake them for real. They really look real roses, and you won’t know they are chocolates until you touch them, or unless I tell you they are chocolates. I can also change the colors from the usual red. It makes me happy when people who order them always have a big smile on their faces when they see them.
What are your bestsellers?
Personalized Chocolates are my bestsellers (where the name of the celebrant using chocolate is written on the chocolate design of his/her choice, i.e. round shapes – for birthdays, heart shapes – for weddings, anniversaries and valentine). The Edible Rose Chocolates also sell like hotcakes all year round because, unlike other designs, it is not exclusively for one occasion; they serve as souvenirs for weddings, giveaways for corporate events, and many others. For christening, on the other hand – the Sleeping Baby in a box and personalized Baby Bottles are my bestsellers.
How much are your chocolates?
When I entered the business, I wanted to make sure that my prices are affordable, and could cater to the masses, considering these hard times. My lollipops are only priced P20, P15, and P10 a piece. Other products like Chocolate Bouquet and Edible Flowers in different packaging are P45 – P175 a piece.
Do you make gourmet chocolates like truffles or liqueur-filled?
Yes, we do. In fact, we have other products made of chocolates. I make crunchy chocolate clusters, chocolate truffles (coffee flavored, or with liqueur taught to me by Nina – I am still experimenting on other flavors), choco mallows (marshmallows dipped in chocolate), and — pulvoron dipped in chocolate that my mom personally makes. My Chocolates can also be toppers for cakes such as the rum cake in this picture. The Rum Cake is by Mary Ann Rodriguez (mobile no. 0920-2431321).
The rum cake looks sooo good and moist. I have to taste that one too. Where do you sell your chocolates in Ilocos?
N. Corpuz branches in Batac and Laoag, La Preciosa and Saramsam in Laoag, Palazzo de Laoag, Playa Tropical Resort, ICA Batac and Caterpillar Schools, Nangalisan Shell gas station, Insiang’s Parlor in Batac. Our pick-up site is any of our N. Corpuz stores in Ilocos and in BF Homes and in Quezon City. We also deliver within Metro Manila for a delivery service charge. You can order through these numbers: mobile 0915-4910386; landline 02-9319148 for orders within Manila; and 077-7703258 for orders within Ilocos, or contact me at www.naomiskitchen.multiply.com. We are open to resellers like schools, canteens and establishments; we give them 20 percent commission.
Diet Tip: A balanced diet is a chocolate in each hand!
P.S. While writing this, an idea dawned on me. The next time I see Naomi, I will have to ask her if we could do something to help the smallholder farmers in Adams. Organic forest-grown cacao, native coffee berries and cherries… mmmnn… if the French have chocolate-dipped griotte cherries, then, perhaps, she could develop exotic Ilocos choco-dipped homegrown tarty cherries with triple antioxidants, WHY NOT?