Saturday July 21, 2018

Raising coffee quality

IT USED to be that coffee processors and retailers were hard-pressed to find quality Philippine coffee. Most of the coffee farmers only knew standards for selling to large volume instant or soluble coffee manufacturers. The specialty market was almost non-existent. But times have changed. For the better.

I was just talking with Princess Lala of Sulu that her harvests will double this year and she is looking for markets for better coffee quality. She will not compromise her standards to only pick the ripe red cherries. She never buys unripe coffee cherries or fruits from her town mates. That matters a lot in harvesting coffee. One wrong move of picking an unripe fruit starts the journey to nothingness, after waiting one year for coffee trees to bear fruit. In fact, one has to wait for three years before the first fruit is even seen or enjoyed, and once a year thereafter.

Wonderful news came from Nicky Matti, our Philippine Coffee Board Chairperson. There are quite a few roasters who now look for Gourmet Robusta coffee or Washed Robusta. They are willing to pay a good price sometimes with a 30 percent premium over commodity prices. That made Princess Lala smile.

The country produces 90 percent Robusta and 10 percent of the other varieties—Liberica, Arabica and Excelsa. So, why do not we look for quality? Because many coffee drinkers do not even know where their coffee comes from. And this is where education and information comes in. So, for the 14th year now we at the Philippine Coffee Board Inc. have been conducting the following activities:

Coffee Origins- a showcase of Philippine coffee, all for free. Yes, you can drink coffee to your heart’s content or tolerance. It will be at Abreeza Mall in Davao City. After all, Mindanao is the new coffee area with many farmers now planting more coffee and more processors washing the coffee for quality and select markets. October 21-25, 2015 at Abreeza and you can take everyone with you for FREE coffee!

Coffee Summit- to accommodate the huge crowd we will hold it this time in SMX Lanang, Davao City in cooperation with ACDIVOCA and DTI. We invited ASEAN speakers who can teach us more about quality coffee, Robusta and Excelsa included.
October 22 is the date and it’s a whole day affair.

Coffee Seminar- the first one will be held in Enderun’s new venue at The Podium mall in Mandaluyong City, a new venue called The Study. This will be on October 24.

Coffee Competitions- how best to grade coffee harvests than through a cupping competition. Manny Torrejon of UCC Clockwork who now buys local coffee will conduct the event with cuppers from all over ASEAN.

Coffee Cupping- we will have Filipina coffee cuppers and Q graders who will show us how to grade quality coffee. Elaine Barrios and Karen Lo Tsai of Kuppa will be helping us cup the coffee entries.

Now, how else are we raising the bar for quality coffee?

We are integrating and connecting buyers with farmers like Nicky connecting Princess to specialty markets. We are selling ONLY quality coffee in the stores who support Philippine coffee.

Oh, and did you know former President Fidel Ramos actually declared October as coffee month? It is a presidential proclamation from a coffee drinker of a President of course. October is also the start of harvest in Mindanao, then it moves upwards to Visayas and finally Cavite and Benguet which have harvests in December to March. Interesting, is it not? Our country straddles many latitudes near the equator and even with Climate change, coffee does ripen at different times from Mindanao going up to Benguet. And on each tree, coffee cherries also turn red at different times. This makes harvesting quality ripe coffee very difficult and this is why farmers need to get paid for this labor and passion.

But if you drink coffee, you may as well know more about the crop in your cup.
Join us this October as we raise the bar for quality coffee.

Email us or message us on Facebook: Philippine Coffee Board and leave a message.

Happy drinking!