May 2016, Baguio City
This summer has been so hot in Manila that no one can blame me if I got on a Victory Liner bus on a whim and headed north to Baguio where temperature goes down to 17 degrees at night. Naturally when deciding on spontaneous travels like these, chances are, seats are sold out for the schedule you want to travel and you end up taking the regular air-conditioned bus that takes seven hours to Baguio instead of the five hours. So you take a chance after midnight and patiently line up in a very long queue hoping to be accommodated before sunrise the next day, while learning to sleep sitting down and lining up in the “chance lane”. The sacrifice of traveling for seven hours soon becomes worth it when you arrive in sunny but cool Baguio mid-morning with a 23 degrees temperature.
I have heard from friends and travel magazines about Choco-late de Batirol located at Camp John Hay, but it is only now that I am taking the time to go check out its famed traditional hot chocolate drink.
They open at 7:30am on Sundays so I left my hotel at 5:30am for a brisk walk around Camp John Hay to enjoy a really crisp, cool 21 degrees morning. It didn’t take long before I was huffing and puffing along the hilly roads with other early birds on foot, and some on wheels. I was in Choco-Late de Batirol before 7:30am and was studying their menu by the time they officially opened.
I purposely came here early because last night it was bursting with people and the choice seats were gone. But this morning, I have the pleasure of choosing wherever I want to sit and to enjoy my Traditional Hot Chocolate and Suman for my mini breakfast in peace.
Made of melted local cacao chocolate tablets called tablea, the traditional hot chocolate was delicious. Not too thick, not too thin – but just right and full of flavour. The tablea is melted with water in a metal pot and is stirred by a batirol – a wooden rod used to help crush and melt the tablea to create a smooth consistency. Sometimes not all the tablea bits are crushed so its normal to find some bitter chocolate bits when you’re drinking. Personally, I don’t mind this because it gives a slight bitterness to my chocolate drink but there are others who do. With the cool Baguio morning breeze around me, my traditional chocolate drink was perfect for my morning drink.
Coming from a province that makes really delicious, soft sticky rice Suman, the Suman at Choco-late de Batirol paled in comparison. Their Suman was firm giving me the impression that it was not sticky rice that was used but just regular rice. I put their Suman upright and it stood at attention. In my hometown, our version of Suman called “Budbud” cannot stand upright because pure sticky rice is used and pure coconut milk mixed into it making for a malleable suman. So their Suman didn’t make the cut for me but I still ate it, enjoying it with my hot chocolate drink. I already look forward to coming back on another weekend and tasting the other delicious looking food in the menu of Choco-Late de Batirol.
With that said, I am now inspired to write an article about Villaba’s “Budbud” and other leaf- wrapped desserts and delicacies in other parts of the country.
Choco-late de Batirol
Gate 2, Igorot Park,
Camp John Hay,