Exploring the World of Philippine Coffee
In the late 19th century, Lipa City of Batangas was renowned as a major exporter of coffee. Back in 1880, the Philippines stood as the fourth largest global coffee bean exporter. When coffee rust plagued coffee-producing regions like Brazil, Africa, and Java, the Philippines emerged as the sole source of coffee beans worldwide. This led to a period of prosperity for Lipa City. However, the coffee industry faced a setback in 1889 when coffee rust reached the Philippines, taking several generations for the nation's coffee producers to recover. As a result, the local coffee culture took a backseat, with many turning to instant coffee for their daily caffeine fix.
Fast forward to the present day, and the Philippines is witnessing a resurgence in specialty coffee production, particularly in regions like Bukidnon, Cavite, Davao, and the original coffee hub, Batangas, located about 70 miles from Manila. Batangas, home to the impressive Taal Volcano, boasts fertile volcanic soil that perfectly suits various forms of agriculture, especially coffee farming.
As the Philippine specialty coffee sector experiences a renaissance, a similar transformation is unfolding in the country's café culture. Modern coffee shops, often referred to as third-wave coffee shops, are gaining popularity across the Southeast Asian nation.
A Strong Focus on Quality and Sustainability
Thanks to the efforts of the Philippine Coffee Board Inc., there is growing emphasis on tracing the origins of coffee. Philippine coffee is now packaged not only by variety but also includes information about the region, specific micro-lots, and even estates. Coffee cooperatives play a crucial role in maintaining quality production and adhering to proper handling methods.
Highlighting Quality and Excellence
In 2017, the Kape Pilipino green coffee quality grading competition took place at Cavite State University. This competition showcased outstanding Arabicas and Robustas that scored over 80 points, featuring coffee sourced from different regions across the Philippines. This event underscores the continued interest in and dedication to Philippine specialty coffee.
Discovering Unique Flavor Profiles
Arabica beans processed using the natural method can exhibit delightful floral and caramel notes, while Robustas offer a combination of floral and dark chocolate flavors. This diversity in taste profiles adds to the allure of Philippine coffee.
Exploring Coffee-Growing Regions
The Philippines, with a population of over a hundred million, lies within the coffee belt region. From 2008 to 2012, the annual coffee harvest averaged around 25,000 metric tons, primarily contributed by Robusta and followed by Arabica beans.
As of 2012 data from the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, coffee production in the country covers roughly 119,999 hectares of land with 83.5 million fruit-bearing trees. Notably, the SOCSARGEN region boasts the largest coffee farm area, followed by Davao Region, the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), CALABARZON, and Northern Mindanao.
Let's Take a Journey Through Coffee Regions
Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR): This mountainous region in northern Luzon, encompassing provinces like the Mountain Province, Benguet, Kalinga, Ifugao, and Abra, provides ideal conditions for growing Arabica beans. The altitude ranges from 1,000 to 1,800 meters above sea level (3,281-5,906 feet), and coffee varieties include Red Bourbon, Yellow Bourbon, Typica, Mondo Novo, and Caturra.
Northern Luzon: This central to northern Luzon region offers a diverse terrain that's perfect for cultivating Robusta and Catimor. From the narrow plains of Ilocos Sur to the Sierra Madre mountain range, coffee farms thrive in this area. Altitudes vary between 300 to 900 meters above sea level (984-2,952 feet).
Calabarzon: Named after its five component provinces, this region offers unique terrain and climate for growing Robusta, Excelsa, and Liberica. From Batangas to Cavite and Laguna, the area's distinct landscapes contribute to its coffee cultivation. Altitudes range from 300 to 500 meters above sea level (984-1,640 feet).
Mimaropa: Comprising Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, and Palawan, this southwestern region shows promise for Excelsa and Robusta coffee production. The topography varies from coastal plains to craggy foothills and valleys, with altitudes from 300 to 500 meters above sea level (984-1,640 feet).
Visayas: The islands of Visayas offer unique microclimates suitable for both Arabica and Robusta cultivation. From the rolling hills of Bohol to the volcanic soils of Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental, coffee thrives in these diverse landscapes. Altitudes range from 500 to 1000 meters above sea level (1,640-3,280 feet).
Mindanao: The southern Philippines stands as a prime source of quality coffee, especially in Mindanao. The region is home to Robusta, Excelsa, and Arabica coffee, benefiting from the ideal soil and climate conditions. From Basilan to Sultan Kudarat, coffee production is a significant contributor to the region's landscape. Altitudes vary from 700 to over 1,200 meters above sea level (2,296-3,937 feet).
As Philippine coffee experiences a renaissance, it reflects the nation's enduring love for its rich coffee heritage and its commitment to excellence in specialty coffee production. With a focus on quality, unique flavor profiles, and diverse growing regions, Philippine coffee continues to captivate both locals and the global coffee community.
Source: Philippine Coffee Board