Local Brew: Proudly Philippine Coffee

The brands championing Philippine specialty coffee in the global marketplace

The Philippines has always been known for coffee. The country has been producing coffee since the 18th century and supplying it to the United States since the 19th century. Back then, coffee from Batangas was considered a luxury product, being four times more expensive than the ones from other countries. In those days, our country was the top fourth coffee exporter in the world.

Between then and now, the local coffee production took a backseat. While Philippine coffee products remained competitive, especially in terms of flavor, more and more countries diluted the market. In 2020, the Philippines was the 24th coffee producer in the world, lagging behind Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia, and Ethiopia, which took the top spots.

Despite that, Philippine coffee has continued to be recognized overseas, nabbing awards left and right. The rest of the world just can’t seem to get enough of that rich, heady, bold flavor that’s characteristic of our local beans. Here are some coffee brands that are waving the Philippine flag high when it comes to this beloved beverage.

Proudly Philippine Coffee

Kalsada Coffee

  • Fil-Am Carmel Laurino was working on her undergrad thesis at the University of Washington when she found a postcard from 1909 showing Philippine coffee beans at a market in Seattle.
  • Her curiosity pushed her and a friend to take a crash course on Philippine coffee culture by flying to the country, doing tastings, and interviewing farmers.
  • Laurino’s pursuit eventually led to Kalsada Coffee whose goal was to reorient the world with the promises of Pinoy coffee.
  • Kalsada directly works with coffee producers from Benguet and Bukidnon and exports their products to various American states, including Washington.
  • Kalsada allows coffee farmers to charge a premium for their work, helps them improve their processes with new technology, and pays above Fair Trade rates.

SGD Coffee

  • One of SGD Coffee’s first and concrete aspirations for local coffee is to expand the reach of Bana’s Coffee from Sagada, Mountain Province, to the rest of the world.
  • A huge leap towards that goal was taken in 2017 when Bana’s bested 120 member countries at the Agency for the Valorization of Agricultural Products (AVPA) International Contest of Coffees Roasted in Their Countries of Origin, which was held in Paris, France.
  • SGD received the Medaille Gourmet (Gourmet Medal) after two taste tests via French press and espresso.
  • Two years later, SGD bagged the Bronze Award in the round equilibre category at the AVPA. 
  • Apart from showcasing the potential of Philippine coffee, SGD, owned by Butch Acop and Rich Watanabe, also takes initiatives towards coffee education.
  • It has a coffee school subsidiary Coffee Science Center, which spreads awareness on planting, farming, roasting, distributing, and even drinking coffee.
  • The Coffee Science Center is the only coffee school in Asia that has its own farm.

Mirabueno Coffee

  • Owner Raymund Mirabueno is well-known in the field for highlighting robusta beans, a variety that’s often been shunned for its bitterness and designated as an extender to more high-end types like arabica, and promoting it to world-class levels.
  • While still characteristically strong, Mirabueno Coffee is creamy, with a chocolatey finish and a hint of tang.
  • Mirabueno’s robusta success story is similar to his own. In 2009, the once idealistic farmer planted 700 trees in his Bukidnon farm. Within four years, all his efforts were crushed by drought, strong rain, pests.
  • Disappointed and a bit jaded, he left his farm alone. Sometime later, he met SGD’s Watanabe and Acop who helped him refine his farming processes and build his brand. The pair also brewed Mirabueno his first cup of coffee made from beans from his farm.
  • It was then fortuitous that Mirabueno Coffee won the Gourmet Prize for the puissant doux (bold sweet) category in 2019, alongside SGD which won Bronze in a different segment.

Coffee for Peace

  • This award-winning coffee is more than a cup of pick-me-up in your hand. It’s a community.
  • Coffee for Peace was launched in 2008 in Davao after its founders mediated between Migrant and Bangsamoro farming communities who were fighting over ownership of several rice fields. Leaders from both sides were invited to make peace over coffee.
  • Coffee for Peace was initiated to fund peace-building efforts and training.
  • It peddles primarily Arabica beans from Davao. Production is led by Byron Pantoja, who holds a Q-Grade certification, which employs Specialty Coffee Association of America standards to assess arabica and robusta coffee.
  • Coffee for Peace was recognized with the 2018 and 2019 Sustainable Business Award in the Philippines, the 2019 DOLE-NWPC Productivity Award in the Philippines, and the 2929 Oslo Business for Peace Award in Norway.

Source: Sasha Lim Uy

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