A coffee farm tour in Cavite, Philippines

The best way to get an overview of the Philippine coffee industry is to join coffee farm tours, thanks to the Philippine Coffee board . Before I started this tour last February 2018, my limited knowledge on coffee beans rested on the difference between Arabica and Barako beans. All I know was I bought Philippine coffee either from the Cordillera region or Cavite.

I certainly learned a lot during the tour with additional inputs from “Philippine Coffee Industry Roadmap 2017-2022.”. Let me give you some of the highlights:

 

Philippine coffee farm tour

1. The Philippine Coffee’s current production volumes is only 37,000 metric tons (MT), with an area of 117,454 hectares (ha), and an average yield of 300 kilograms (kg) per hectare.

2. Philippine climate and land are suitable to growing four coffee varieties – Robusta, Arabica, Excelsa and Liberica. The most common variety grown in the country is Robusta, which accounted for 69 percent of total production in 2015. Robusta is mainly used for instant coffee. Next is Arabica, which contributes 24 percent (%). Arabica is mostly cultivated in high elevation areas (1000 meters above sea level) and sells at a premium price. It is primarily used for brewing or blending. Thevother varieties are Excelsa and Liberica (kapeng barako).

Philippine coffee farm tour

3. Brazil is the top coffee global producer in 2014 with a volume of 2,804,070 MT of Green Coffee Beans (GCB). It is followed by Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia and Ethiopia. However, the Philippines ranked 25th with a volume of
37,727 MT of GCB. Our country used to be the 4th global producers many years ago.

4. Coffee consumption is dominated by soluble coffee, which is a shift from local ‘nilaga’ brewed coffee. Recent resurgence of the roast, ground and brew sector of the market is changing the coffee market.

5. Majority of coffee farmers have an average farm size of one to two ha, with most farms owned by the farmers themselves. Most farms are intercropped with vegetables, coconut, fruit trees and forest trees (especially in the case of Arabica coffee). There are very few commercial scale plantations in the country.

Philippine coffee farm tour

6. The continuous drop in coffee production was caused by various factors such as: increase number of coffee growers shifting to other crops, old age of trees with limited or no rejuvenation; poor farm practices – limited knowledge on appropriate coffee technology of farmers, aged farmers; limited access to certified planting materials and limited access to credit.

Philippine coffee farm tour

6. Locally-made ground coffee brands available in the market include Aguinaldo blend, Altura coffee, Café Amadeo, Café de Lipa, Café Chico, Coffee Alamid (civet coffee), Davao coffee (variants Robusta, Arabica, Excelsa), Gourmet café, Kalinga blend, Kalinga Robusta premium coffee, Kalinga brew, Kalinga Musang coffee, Kape Isla, Magallaya brew premium coffee (Excelsa), Monk’s blend, Mt. Apo Civet coffee, Musang coffee roasted beans, Negros Rainforest, Rocky Mountain (variants Mountain Blend and Classic Blend) and Sagada coffee, among others. The products are manufactured by entrepreneurs, mostly operating on a small scale. Most derived their brand names from the place where they are being produced.

Philippine coffee farm tour

7. Coffee growers and farm-based roasters concerns include quality of production, lack of quality beans, poor post-harvest management, inadequate knowledge on modern technologies and minimal information on market access, trends and opportunities. To address these issues, National Government Agencies (NGAs) are collaborating to implement programs that develop the coffee industry

8. I also learned the differences among the green coffee beans. This is arabica. It has an s shape in the center.

Philippine coffee farm tour

Excelsa has pointy tip.

Philippine coffee farm tour

This is robusta . Straight in the center

Liberica beans are larger than the others, often asymmetrical, and is the only coffee bean in the world that has such an irregular shape.

Philippine coffee farm tour

There is more to learn about the Coffee industry but the lack of coffee production inspired our family to continue on and become a coffee producers ourselves and in the process help our farmers in the neighborhood.


Source: Philippine Coffee Industry Roadmap 2017-2022.

 

The journey from instant coffee to pour-over coffee

My love of coffee must have started when the aroma of Nescafe instant coffee filled the air , as soon as my parents mixed their coffee with hot water , sugar and milk.   “Can I have coffee, please?” Mom put down her coffee cup , and started to lecture me on the ill-effects of coffee.

“You will not grow tall if you drink coffee too early in life.”  It was a “no”. I was 10 years old and this was the sixties.

I can’t recall the first time I tasted instant coffee but I knew I drank a lot when I studied late at night in the seventies.  Yes, this was the “first wave” , the commercialization of coffee and when instant coffee tasted so good back then.

After college, my dad  bought me an automatic drip coffee maker which required a paper filter.  I felt so techie. I still remember the Hill Bros. Coffee can which was terribly expensive in the early 80s. Anything imported was expensive in those days when the exchange rate of the peso to dollar skyrocketed 200%.

Then Starbucks arrived in the Philippines in the nineties. The second wave or the emergence of coffee shops was something so new, a place to chill and meet friends. Everyone wanted to drink their expensive coffee.

I thought Starbucks coffee tasted great until I visited my daughter in Melbourne.  The city is home to a vibrant cafe scene and an impressive coffee culture.  This was my first introduction to good coffee and me, saying goodbye to Starbucks (if I could help it).   I chose to patronize coffee shops that include Philippine coffee such as Figaro, Bo’s Coffee , and Commune.

I thought I was such a great coffee lover until my two daughters commented “don’t add sugar or cream to your coffee. You are not appreciating the taste of good coffee.”

I just couldn’t stand the bitter taste . In my mind, coffee is meant to be mixed with sugar and cream. No wonder, I am diabetic.

My mindset on coffee brew totally changed on February 20, 2018.

I was in Cebu when my daughter sent me a message on WhatsApp. She said, “Visit Linear Coffee Roasters The highest rated roaster in Cebu according to google.”

The coffee lover that I am was excited to try it out.  I asked for Philippine coffee. They had none. I was disappointed (it was a few weeks later, I finally understood that supply of Philippine coffee beans are limited). The barista offered me a choice of Ethiopia and Kenya coffee beans.  I chose Ethiopia Yirgacheffe and watched in amazement  as hot water hit the  coffee grounds . The barista explained that one should let the gas  (carbon dioxide) escape for about 30 seconds or so.  How amazing it was to see grounds swell and expand, resulting in what coffee professionals call a “bloom.” This was the pour-over method.

pour-over coffee

 

Oh my god , an epiphany.  I am never going to drink coffee with sugar and milk . The combination of 12 grams coffee beans plus 180 ml water at 93 C was perfect.  I could not believe how incredible the taste of this coffee brew was. I could discern the flavor notes and I was totally amazed that coffee could taste like this.

So this is the “third wave” I have been hearing about , which refers to the higher culinary appreciation of coffee and all that this entails: a focus on subtleties of flavor, provenance and process. No wonder, my daughters were nagging me to taste the coffee without the sugar and milk. Though “third wave” is a US-centric term, the main ideas behind the concept , which describes a changing approach to coffee, can be applied to cultures around the world.

It definitely changed my view on coffee . I went on a crazy shopping spree at “Alessi” store for my coffee props because I wanted to brew my coffee using the pour-over method.  I bought a Hario V60 coffee dripper, Hario manual grinder, Hario’s V60 Buono Coffee Drip Kettle and Hario filter paper .  Alessi didn’t have the Kalita Wave that Linear Roasters used.

My home barista story  is  for another day.

pour-over coffee

This coffee journey is more exciting than ever, as I explore single origins from the Philippines and around the world. I am excited to discover coffee from the farm to the cup.

This is our coffee journey

I decided to have a separate blog for our Coffee journey here at BenguetArabica and BenguetArabica.Coffee . This will be a long journey. I know it will take three to five years to harvest the Arabica beans and meanwhile, our family will need to study more about coffee farming, from bean to brew and everything in between. Our learning curve is steep.

I wrote more on how this idea started Dreaming of cultivating shade-grown Benguet Arabica Coffee