Understanding Specialty Coffee in the Philippines

coffee beans

Understanding Specialty Coffee in the Philippines

The Philippines is known as a coffee-producing country. The nation’s topography and climates are conducive for growing different types of coffee beans namely, Robusta, Arabica, Liberica, and Excelsa. But despite this, the nation doesn’t produce enough coffee to supply the demands of its people. To solve this problem, we imported coffee products from our neighboring countries like Vietnam and Thailand just to fill in the gap.

Change is the only constant thing in this world, and it is necessary. Currently, the coffee industry in the Philippines is revitalizing and specialty coffee is becoming more prominent. Responsible individuals are now executing various ways to increase our collaboration so as improve the infrastructure as well.

The Philippines used to be the top coffee producing country in the world when coffee rust hit Brazil, some parts of Africa, and even in Java in the 1880s. But the coffee rust, later on, reached our country and the production totally declined in numbers. Nowadays, there are various coffee beans supplier in the Philippines such as Caffeine Brothers. They made coffee products within the reach of the consumers. They are only committed to delivering quality products and excellent service in every way possible.

Even if the country’s climate and topography make it suitable for the varieties of coffee to grow, we still rely on imported coffee. This is because the islands are repeatedly hit by strong typhoons which include those traditional coffee areas of the Cordillera Administrative Region and even in CALABARZON. This is one of the hindrances of producing coffee in the country.

Since specialty coffee is becoming prominent in the coffee scene, it is dependent on the imported beans. For the last three years, coffees from Latin America were being used at the Philippine National Barista Championship (PNBC) at the World Barista Championships. There are barriers and obstacles for cultivating and processing specialty coffee in the Philippines but this doesn’t stop here. The industry is still developing and finding ways to make things possible.

The low cost of coffee being imported from Vietnam and Indonesia is one of the greatest hindrances to the overall growth of the coffee industry in our country. According to Silvester Dan Samonte, Director of Coffee at El Union Coffee and is also a two-time champion at the Philippines National Barista competitions, the price of the local coffee is very expensive as being compared to those being imported from the global coffee growing regions.  Quality is also being considered here. Silvester says that numerous coffees here in our country is defective and has low traceability. In comparison to our local coffee, he also said that imported coffee is much reliable and tastier. For the Philippine coffee, it really takes commitment but small coffee roasters don’t have enough resources or even the business model to do so.

There may be some producers who are equipped with good farming infrastructure and access to information, but in general, due to the lack of access to resources, the quality of the locally produced coffee is greatly affected.

The owner of Caffeine Brothers located in Manila, Philippines cited that our country is lacking in terms of coffee processing, warehouse, and even those trading infrastructures needed. Farmers are just left on their own.

As per Robin Salvador, one of the owners of Caffeine Brothers in Manila City said that the majority of the Filipino coffee roasters chose to work with the beans coming from Ethiopia, Columbia, and Panama instead of the local coffee beans.

In March 2017, under the recent administration, the Philippine Coffee Industry Roadmap 2017-2022 was introduced. Its main goal is boosting the country’s domestic coffee output. They are much focused on solving quality issues with regards to locally produced coffee and this become possible in collaboration with the NGOs, government agencies and even the local micro-roasters. There’s a current venture being launched in partnership with government agencies and private organizations, entitled “Kape’t Buhay Project“. This provides guidance and mentorship to farmers and even push them to become entrepreneurs. Almost the same to the Philippine Coffee Board (PCB), which also provides technical assistance and credit for coffee farmers. Its ways of promoting coffee are thru seminars, trade shows, farm tours, and an annual Coffee Origins festival.

There’s really room for improvement in the case of the locally produced coffee. It just needs collaboration and communication. They suggested that local roasters should have the goal of producing quality roasted coffee that has a competitive edge, justifying the effort and hard work of the local farmers. The local roasters and the farmers must collaborate so as to share new information and trends to improve the quality of the harvesting and processing sector.

On the other hand, Silvester listed some information which he thinks needs to be executed for the success of the specialty coffee in our country. Collaboration is a must across the industry in order to pay the genuine value of the coffee that farmers grow. He also cited that there’s a need to create processing centers for farmers to use and to sell as well in order to discover the best varieties that match the different microclimates across the archipelago. And also, passionate and dedicated stewards of progress who’ll keep boosting the industry towards success that’s beyond the commercial coffee and easy coffee game.

Despite the hindrances that were cited above, specialty coffee is still being produced in the Philippines. Thomas said that he knows some impressive local specialty beans. The country’s population is increasingly open to trying specialty coffee and the economics can also work for local roasters. Investing to the right infrastructure allows some to make the most of their unique environment and produce specialty grade coffee that they can sell at a premium like the Caffeine Brothers, a Manila-based roastery that champions Philippine specialty coffee. They are an advocate of the local coffee producers and even help them bring their coffee to the market.

The specialty coffee industry here in our country is young and still far from its potential. In order for the Filipino professionals to make use of the locally grown and roasted beans, various changes need to be addressed and executed. Though there are clear signs that this industry will continue to flourish with the support from the different organizations and the efforts of specialty entrepreneurs.




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