The Filipinos love their coffee, and Philippine coffee is rich in taste, variety, culture, and history. Down south of the country, in the Sulu archipelago, the Tausug people enjoy their home-grown signature coffee, the Kahawa Sug.
The Tausug coffee culture was known to have started as early as the mid-1800s, when robusta coffee beans were brought to Sulu by a Prussian seafarer named Herman Leopold Schuck. He became a blood brother of Sultan Jamalul Alam, then the ruler of the Sulu Sultanate. Deciding to stay in the Philippines, Schuck built a robusta coffee plantation with 20,000 plants. Soon after, many other locals cultivated the beans until the coffee was given the name “Kahawa Sug,” Tausug for “coffee of Sulu.”
Many ethnic groups in Southeast Asia consume coffee as a custom or even as part of a religious ritual. As for the Tausugs of Sulu, they traditionally partner their coffee with bangbang (snacks) or latal (a platter of native dishes). Hot coffee is usually served with an extra empty cup, allowing the person to pour the coffee back and forth from cup to cup. Although this is done to cool down the coffee, is also brings out the flavor.
Dennis Coffee Garden in Zamboanga City, known for its Kahawa Sug, also serves a wide variety of local snacks for the locals and the gastronomically curious travelers. Their famous bangbang are the wadjit (purple glutinous rice), daral (crepe with coconut filling), pastil (hand pipes with spicy sauce), and jualan saing (fried bananas with haleya dip. Meanwhile, the dishes in their latal servings are the tiulah itum (beef in roasted coconut broth), utak-utak (fried fish cakes), beef kulma (beef in curry paste), and chicken pianggang (chicken marinated in coconut milk and spices).
Due to concerns of efficient operations and fast service, though, the traditional practice of pouring coffee back and forth from cup to cup is now being practiced at the cafe only upon request and during special occasions. But the practice is here to stay as it is proudly Tausug.
written by Ellen Denise Tutoy / The Ultimate Coffee Guide Vol. XII Iss. 2