“Gusto mo ng kape?”
This is the default question that most Filipinos ask their guests. If coffee is considered the second most popular drink in the world next to water, it’s actually the number one drink in the Philippines. It is so popular that our country is one of the few that produces all four kinds of coffee: Arabica, Robusta, Liberica (Barako), and Excelsa.
That said, a low-key yet influential group works hard to make the Philippines a source for quality coffee.
AT FIRST SIP
PCBI started as a part of a program in response to the “One Million Jobs”. It has now grown into one of the pillars of the coffee industry. As a resource advocating the local coffee culture, PCBI did not just create more jobs but paved the way for niche careers in coffee like coffee cuppers, Q graders, latte artists, and baristas.
PCBI founding chair Nicholas Matti describes the whole experience as fulfilling. He recalled, “When we started the Board, our production was very low at about 20,000 metric tons. Production is not up to 30,000 metric tons and the consciousness about coffee quality has improved.”
Indeed, the issues went far beyond increasing local coffee production to to promoting awareness about every cup enjoyed.
Grooming the next generation of coffee farmers was one of the biggest challenges PCBI faced. since the coffee farmers’ steady gain in production was parallel to the gain in age, the wisdom and skills of the industry needed to be passed on. “Challenges are aplenty. Farmers are aging. Now we have younger coffee farmers starting their farms,” Matti remarked.
CREATING THE RIGHT BLEND
PCBI’s major contribution to the coffee industry is the promotion of Philippine coffee, not only within the country but also all over the world. As Matti pointed out, “We started and continue to promote Philippine coffee, with awareness about the quality of coffee and the advocacy to go the farm level, to start the quality process from the farm.”
PCBI accomplished this by talking about quality at The Coffee Origins events and The Coffee Summit gatherings. “These became institutions of learning more about coffee in the absence of a coffee academy or school,” Matti recalled.
He cites as the perfect example the National Coffee Summit. The coffee-focused summit started in 2008 with a motley group of 60 people that grew into 650 people by 2016. Matti explained, “Even though we are a private organization with only donor and sponsor funding for the past 15 years, we were able to encourage more people to plant and also consume more Philippine coffee.”
Looking back, PCBI has compared the low production of coffee when they were just starting to the current production. Matti noted that the vision of Philippine coffee consciousness has definitely improved.
Courage and passion are two of the ideas that allowed PCBI to help the new generation realize their potential and the expert generation to pass on the legacy. “I think we helped production by letting new farmers and investors go into production,” Matti said.
So, what’s the group brewing up next?
“I think the next generation is ready to carry on. We have been at it for 15 years and the younger coffee advocates can now continue the promotions through new channels, be it online, social media, and events,” Matti mused.
The group’s partnership with the Philippine government has grown even stronger—with farmers being assisted by the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Trade and Industry.
PCBI has likewise worked passionately to partner with the Coffee Quality Institute through the grant from United States Department of Agriculture, as implemented by the Agricultural Cooperative Development International/Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance (ACDI/VOCA), which is a private, nonprofit organization that promotes broad-based economic growth in emerging democracies and developing countries. Matti emphasized, “The Mindanao Productivity in Agricultural Commerce and Trade (MinPACT) Project will also ensure that PCBI will be a sustainable program for generations to come.”