The past few weeks we’ve enjoyed hundreds of wonderful visitors coming through the chocolate factory for both public and private tours. This Thursday was a particularly special visit, a group of our Chocolate University students who attend Pipkin Middle School. A special thanks to Julia Armstrong who leads the Chocolate University program at Pipkin.

As soon as they arrived, we had the students circle around for introductions. One by one they shared their name, what they enjoy learning most in their classes, and their favorite pastimes out of school.

Just as we suspected, this was an active bunch–scholastic interests spanning from math and science to art and humanities. They’re dancers, readers, musicians, care takers to younger siblings, and so much more.

We guided the students through the factory where they saw first hand how we make chocolate from scratch, also having the opportunity to taste chocolate produced from different cocoa origins.

The day before we had received our shipment of over 12 tons of cocoa beans from Davoa, Philippines, along with 500 cases of Tableya! (And, to make for a delightfully busy bean week, we also received 8 tons of beans from Tanzania the day before.) The Davao shipment was particularly exciting to the Pipkin students though because through his travels to origin, Shawn Askinosie connected Pipkin Middle School with a school in Davao, Philippines called Malagos Elementary School.

Pipkin students were responsible for raising the funds to get internet connectivity for Malagos as well as a computer (and it’s the first computer in a school in Davao, Philippines and first connection to the internet.) Using flip cameras that Shawn sent to Malagos, the students in the Philippines are able to communicate with students from Pipkin in Springfield and learn about each other’s cultures. Last year’s group of Chocolate University students from Pipkin researched Filipino culture throughout the school year and held a Cocoa Fair at our chocolate factory ,  open to the public, to share about the Philippines, Chocolate University, and of course offer tastes of the chocolate we make with cocoa beans from Davao, Philippines.

After visiting our factory this past Thursday, this year’s Chocolate University students from Pipkin are brainstorming what they would like their particular learning project to look like. Something tells us it might have to do with a very s

pecial new product of ours called Tableya. Made from roasted cocoa beans, milled into a tablet, Tableya is a traditional Filipino drink. You drop the tablet into hot water, add sugar and milk to your liking to have a unique hot chocolate drink!

Well, why Tableya? Many students at Malagos Elementary School are extremely malnourished. Rather than meet their sc

holastic and technological needs, we wanted to work with the school to make sure that first each student is getting a hot nutritious meal each day. The PTA of the school at Malagos made Tableya for us in Davao (and it’s GOOD! The villages in Davao have Tableya make-offs to see whose is the best!), then the PTA packaged them using labels we sent to them and shipped the Tableya with our shipment of cocoa beans.

They sold each package to us for $1, we are selling them in our store and on our website for $10. ALL $9 profit go to Malagos. By selling only 500 packages of Tableya, we will feed the ENTIRE school at Malagos this upcoming school year. Each package of Tableya provides 232 meals!

In discussing Tableya, Shawn shared with Pipkin what makes this feeding program unique from other donation-based programs: it’s 100% sustainable. There is no donation required, and it’s because of the investment of the PTA of Malagos that this program works. These parents and community members are able to make and sell a product that will feed their children.

Not only did the Pipkin students have a chance to see and learn about Tableya, but Shawn whipped up a batch for them to taste. A few of their responses…

The tableya was one of the most amazing drinks I have ever tasted.  It was more bitter than hot chocolate and it was grainier.  It tasted really good!  -Kate S.

I felt like I was in Davao when I was drinking it!  It was amazing.  –Aubrey B.

The tableya was twenty times better than regular hot chocolate.  It’s much more flavorful and the taste lasts in your mouth!  -Halle F.

I thought it was awesome.  It was delicious, with a chocolate and grainy taste.  It also had a great after taste.  –Nathalie L.