Wednesday, September 10, 2014


Over the years, chocolates have changed in form and taste --- from creamy and sweet little nuggets to carefully calibrated mix of different beans and artisanal creations from both imported and locally grown cacao.
Food and beverage is still a booming industry and along with it is the growing community of epicurious palates. Gourmet chocolates raised the bar in the chocolate industry, giving the well loved candy a sophistication that got everyone hooked at first bite.
While gourmet chocolates may seem synonymous to expensive and imported, Dabawenyos need not run off to the imported goods aisle anymore to get their chocolate fix. Homegrown brand Kai Artisan Chocolates offers decadent chocolates of different types and flavors, boasting of rich ingredients and quality standards.
Independent chocolatier Kai Caguiat, also a mother, spills the beans on her world of chocolates. This Dabawenya and proud mom of two is fast becoming a household name in the local scene because of her own variety of gourmet Belgian chocolates, confectionary masterpieces slathered in layers over the most delightful fillings. A former mall marketing manager and key accounts specialist for branded consumer goods, Kai found her true calling in growing a business of her own that's inspired by her love of family and chocolates. 
"I come from a family who loves chocolates and desserts," shares Kai. "My grandmother used to indulge us with sweets like Popsicles and colas. My mom is also a baker. As a child, I'd scoop out and lick the batter while watching her work. I inherited the skill and started baking while I was in college. Pretty soon, my taste buds and obsession for anything with chocolate triggered by curiosity in learning how to make them on my own. I used to crave for gourmet chocolates, which were unavailable in Davao at the time. I learned how to make them by reading books and various print materials. I even searched online for video tutorials and easy to do recipes. I’d also do my research whenever and wherever we traveled. I was so eager to know more and tried on new tastes and tips from bonafide chocolate makers. Hands on experience and experimentation were also my best teachers. I went through series of trials and errors and used kilos and kilos of Belgian and French chocolates until I got my techniques right."
Her first product, Pia Mallows, became a hit right away. With the advent of new technology and available resources, Kai was able to develop her own line of pralines and truffles under a brand of her namesake --- Kai Artisan Chocolates.
"Surprisingly, there are a lot of people who love our liquor infused chocolates. Those are among our best sellers next to the Cacao Nibs Truffles. I used to have this notion that Filipinos, in general, prefer milk over dark chocolate. So, it really came as a surprise for me that our number one bestseller is the Cacao Nibs. We also have Durian Filled Chocolate on the menu, plus Hazelnut Truffle and Salted Caramel and Ube flavored pralines. Some flavors are customized according to what the client prefers, particularly for bulk orders for big events." 
At home, Kai makes extra effort to balance family life with business. "I am a breastfeeding mom, which is why I find working from home so convenient. Then again, family has always been my core and I even gave up an opportunity to work in Manila just so I can stay with my family in Davao. I took on the responsibility of helping out with the administrative side of my husband's print business. Now that I have my own chocolate brand, family remains top priority. My day starts and ends with family time. I have a 6 hour window in between which I spend on anything work related." 
Aside from skill and technique, Kai says her new career helped build her character and kept her aligned with her goals in life. "This chocolate business taught me patience and humility. Chocolates entail a lot of manual labor and creativity. You really just have to love the process and enjoy every minute of it. There are no shortcuts. Same principles go in raising a family --- you just have to take it by the day."
Follow Pia Mallows Chocolate Company on Facebook and @kaiartisanchocolates on Instagram. You may send in your orders through Viber at 09178860167. Discounts are offered to those who will place orders for Christmas goodies by October. Delivery is scheduled every Wednesday. Buyers may also pick up their orders at Kai's shop and office along Cabuguio, Davao City.
Story published on my newspaper column, Metro Mom.


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