THE best part of waking up is to smell the warm flavor of ground coffee. It lingers long in your room until you get up and move on to the dining table where it finds you in a mug, to sip and to drink.

I like my brewed coffee either pure or blended. If pure, I want it Arabica, all the other varieties must come in blends.

Blends contain beans from at least two regions or countries, if not growing conditions and varieties too. Blended, the coffee mixtures must be compatible and agreeable to the taste.

I have not tested and tasted coffee blends from different countries or even different parts of the Philippines to find out which one is the best. I assume they are all great tasting. But I do try to test and taste them as they come or wherever I find them in my travels.

In Tabuk City, Kalinga, the Golden Berries Hotel, and Restaurant has been a favorite haunt for me, when I am there, simply because it is also the home of Kalinga Blend – a coffee bean mixture of different roast of Arabica and Robusta. The beautiful attendants in the restaurant can serve coffee in different styles, tastes, and flavorings. I want it plain black although lately, I became adventurous with mixtures of different roasts, different varieties, or different flavor profiles – blends.

Here in Baguio City, it is good to note that Goldfish Brew and Brew opened its coffee shop below City Hall. These kinds of leisure haunts can educate us all on the pleasures of coffee and its consumption.

I am quite inspired thinking about coffee blends last week after noting that most of the winners in the Philippine Coffee Quality Contest (PCQC) for both Arabica and Robusta categories come from Northern Luzon. The contest started last February 15 to March 5, with the sensory analysis done from March 6-20. The winners were announced last March 21, during the conduct of the 3rd Philippine Conference at Baguio Hotel Supreme.

For the Arabica category, six of the 12 top winners came from Benguet Province, with one coming from Mountain Province.

The rankings of the winners are as follows: 1) Oliver Oliem, Caliking, Benguet. 87.06; 2) Marivic Dubria, Balutakay, Davao del Sur. 86.03; 3) Restie Levi Tacio, Caliking, Atok, Benguet. 85.96; 4) Zaida Besto, Miarayon, Talakag, Bukidnon. 85.88; 5) Belen Macanes, Kibungan, Benguet. 85.81;

6) Maria Luz Dubria, Balutakay, Davao del Sur. 85.41; 7) Kelly Suits, Atok, Benguet. 85.19; 8) Donald Mapangdol, Otucan Sur, Mountain Province. 84.78; 9) Arthur Shontogan, Km 4, Pico, La Trinidad, Benguet. 84.75; 10) Simon Basil, Tuba, Benguet. 84.28; Rogelio Giangan, Cabilao, North Cotabato. 84.28; 11) Eric Yap, Silipon, Bukidnon. 84.21; and, 12) Kalugmaan Agri Devt Corp, Bukidnon. 83.47

The rankings of the winners under the Robusta coffee category are as follows: 1) Rodolfo Aciong, Quirino, Ilocos Sur. 85.96; 2) Lorna Libante, Bagong Silang, Bukidnon. 85.63; 3) Luis Gannad, Del Pilar, Ilocos Sur. 85.54; 4) BMMPC Farmers, San Roque, Bukidnon. 85.39; 5) Delio Cesar, Bagong Silang, Compostela Valley. 85.38;

6) Ramon Polipol, Bangar, Ilocos Sur. 85.32; 7) Florentino Hermoso, Lantapan, Bukidnon. 85.17; 8) Imelda Paulican Mendoza, Bagong Silang. Bukidnon. 84.46; 9) Lake Sebu Coconut Farmers Assn. South Cotabato, 84.25; 10) Ulysses Valdez, Rizal Bartok Vis, Iloilo. 83.42; 11) Rebecca Gacayan. Poblacion Sultan Kudarat. 83.04; and, 12) Estela Selay, Salcedo, Ilocos Sur. 81.64

The PCQC results are happy news that augurs well for the production, processing, and consumption of coffee in North Luzon. They tell us that the best coffee (Robusta and Arabica) and their producers are in our backyard. We should be grateful that the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has taken the initiative to undertake this national contest and evaluation of the best coffee that brought us such valuable knowledge.

While there are talks about Arabica, Robusta, Liberica and Excelsa coffee varieties being grown in the country today, there are just two kinds of coffee beans that exist and dominate in the country actually. These are Arabica and Robusta with their own distinct characteristics.

Arabica coffees are grown at high altitudes. It is generally believed that Arabica beans are of the highest quality even if they span a range of taste profiles and growing areas. The Arabica coffee and its subtypes share a smooth caramel aftertaste and a rich aroma.

By comparison, Robusta are grown at lower altitudes and usually has a much stronger flavor. This bean is generally used in making lower grade commercial brews and instant coffee.

Most coffee blends make use of both Arabica and Robusta beans, either as a way of adding some complexity to a standard Robusta brew or making an Arabica-derived drink go farther and last longer.

While altitude has a great deal to do in the production of high-quality Arabica beans, congratulations are yet in order for our coffee growers who took advantage of this God-given resource in doing a great job, on finishing strong and proving that they are the best! Quality coffee, I am informed, are also affected by handling, processing, and even packaging.

Congratulations too to our high-value crops development program (HVCDP) team in the Cordillera for supporting our farmers on coffee production.

Besides the HVCDP, the implementation of the multi-million Philippine Rural Development Project has been rationalized to support the growth of the region’s coffee industry that takes advantage of its competitive edge to produce and brew the best Philippine coffee.

Let us keep planting coffee where they grow best while we pray the DTI will keep on doing what it does best too, to support the marketing and brewing of top quality coffee blends from the North, from our outstanding farmers.