Hiraya is a word that refers to the “fruit of one’s hopes, dreams, and aspirations”—and for Arvin Peralta, the dream began with him simply looking for something to do on the side while working an unrelated day job. Fascinated by chocolate, he enrolled at Ecole Chocolat, a Canada-based online chocolate school where he would learn the basics of the craft. It wasn’t until he attended a social business camp, however, that he would be inspired from the stories of other social entrepreneurs to make his own mark by helping local farmers. With the rising interest in cacao and craft chocolate, the time was only right to finally establish his own business, and with that Hiraya Chocolates was born.
Hiraya Chocolates make use of cacao sourced from Malabog, Davao, where Peralta works directly with the local community to help uplift their livelihood. “[Malabog] is very ideal for growing cacao,” shares Peralta, thanks to its high level of biodiversity (“the surrounding areas are forest lands and farms,” he remarks) and tropical mountain climate. Within the cacao farm are trees of mixed Trinitario varieties, intercropped with produce such as pomelo, banana, tomatoes, lettuce, and green beans. Cacao beans are then roasted, cracked, winnowed, refined, and tempered as part of the chocolate-making process, for which Peralta emphasizes his adherence to following traditional techniques (e.g., by using stone grinders and granite refiners) for how it best brings out and expresses the cacao’s flavors.
The resulting chocolate takes on a warm, cinammon-y, fruity profile that happily showcase the qualities of the cacao’s place of origin. Notably, today’s versions also take on a smoother, more harmonious melt compared to their earlier iterations we had noted in our bean-to-bar chocolate taste test a few months back, thanks to the improved techniques (e.g., pre-grinding cacao nibs) they have been incorporating along the way. Aside from their basic 72% dark chocolate bar, Hiraya now comes in four other variants that pair it with other decidedly Filipino ingredients: Coconut, Coffee (with nibs from fellow social enterprise Kalsada Coffee), Queso de Bola, and even Chicharon.
We want to be known as a creative and world-class Filipino chocolate brand, and to uplift the lives of our cacao farmers by directly trading with them and paying a premium for quality beans. We can ensure that they earn more for their labor and helping secure for them a better quality of life. We also stand for and embrace the roots and origin of our brand as a Filipino product, and we wanted these ideas to be reflected in the kind of chocolates that we produce.”
More than making products that indulge the senses, Hiraya Chocolates is the veritable representation of the “hiraya” of Peralta himself (and of the farmers that they work with): his hope for the country’s prosperity, desire to bring light to Filipino cacao and chocolate, and dream of improving the lives of local cacao farmers. “As a social enterprise, I believe that we have to have a ‘heart’ at its core . . . we not only care about our profit-making activities as entrepreneurs, but also [about bringing out] the good in people and in society. It means being mindful of our choices and actively making decisions that has a positive impact to bring out and inspire the change that we want to happen in the society that we live in.”
A local bean-to-bar chocolate company that sources cacao from, and works with local farmers in, Malabog, Davao.
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