Unlike hot chocolate in the West, our local tsokolate isn’t exclusive to the holidays. It’s a year-round treat seen in casual everyday breakfast spreads. People drink it in the morning instead of coffee, sometimes even dunking local bread and cookies into it for a bit more sweetness. There’s really very little that you need to know to make the Filipino hot chocolate drink. You simply just dissolve tablea into hot water or milk, and that’s it. But this guide will help you understand a few basic concepts so that you get your creamy and decadent each time.
Making Your Tsokolate
Before anything else, we need to talk about tablea. Tablea refers to roasted, ground cacao beans molded into round tablets. There are often no other ingredients or additives added, but some tableas are sweetened with muscovado sugar. Tablea doesn’t go through the same refining processes as most cocoa powders, so it retains a deep, earthy chocolate flavor. And this is the essence of Filipino tsokolate.
Tsokolate Made using Water
The most basic tsokolate recipes only need water and tablea. The rule of thumb is to use two to three tablets per cup of water, depending on how thick you want your drink. Place the tablea in boiling water, then crush it so it dissolves more easily.
If you have it, you can use a batirol, a traditional wooden tool used to break down the tablea and stir the tsokolate. This is an old-school approach to making the drink. Otherwise, you can use a wooden spoon.
Tsokolate Made using Milk
Milk can also be used in place of water when making tsokolate (use the same ratio—two to three tablets to a cup of liquid). This gives the drink a creamier mouthfeel, especially if you’re using whole milk. That said, any type of milk generally works: evaporated milk, low-fat milk, even alternative milk like oat milk. Using milk can alter the overall taste of your drink, so adjust the amount of tablea you use depending on how dark you want the flavor.
It’s best to use unsweetened tablea when making your tsokolate, then just adjusting the sweetness level later on. There are several sweeteners you can use: white sugar, brown sugar, coconut sugar, and honey are just a few examples. Just adjust it to taste depending on the bitterness of your tablea.