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Mindanao, coffee country

From by Pacita U. Juan


MANILA, Philippines – Not many people realize that Mindanao produces about 70 percent of coffee in the country. Many still think it is Batangas, or maybe Cavite, which now comes as a close second to our Southern mountain areas.

We were in Davao some weeks ago to prepare for our coffee month celebration this October. Dubbed “Coffee Origins,” this week-long celebration is the only time in the country where coffee can be had for FREE all week long.

During the past 17 years, Ayala Malls has supported the coffee industry by providing a venue for the coffee sampling activities. This year, the Philippine Coffee Board Inc. (PCBI) is taking everyone to Davao! It will be held in Abreeza Mall (also an Ayala property) starting tomorrow until Oct. 17.

Even our 7th National Coffee Summit will also be held in Davao, at the new SEDA Hotel.

While in Davao, we explored a few coffee places and of course did not miss the most exotic of them all, Mt. Apo Coffee. Mt. Apo is located inside the Crocodile Park run by the same group of Philip “Sonny” Dizon. For our morning treat, Sonny brewed civet coffee and Peaberry Civet (how special!) in a stove-top espresso maker.

While meeting some  friends, we savored the smooth cup of brewed coffee, without any sugar or cream. Do you know how to tell if a coffee is really good? Try letting it cool down to about 90 degrees Celsius and it will still be smooth-tasting. Good coffee will always be good hot – and even when it cools down. A bad cup will taste bad when hot and worse when cold. Just some tips for enjoying a cup of coffee.

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Mindanao has coffee from Mt. Apo in Davao, Mt. Matutum in Cotabato, Mt. Kitanglad in Bukidnon, many more lower mountains in Basilan, Sulu, CARAGA area, Sultan Kudarat and generally just about everywhere that is over 300 meters elevation. The Arabicas are, of course, found over 1,500 meters above sea level, just like our award-winning Kapatagan coffee, which Sonny serves at the Mt. Apo Roasting Factory and coffee shop. If you want to spoil yourself, try the Kapatagan Civet. Spoiled rotten? Try the Peaberry Civet.

Going up the specialty coffee ladder is not difficult when you are at Mt. Apo. They get the red cherries fresh and ripe from the mountains, process them in Davao City, ferment and dry them until they are ready for roasting. So, you can see green beans which are bluish in color like the famous Sumatran Blue Lintong. Nicky Matti and I were smelling away at the freshly dried coffee beans, and admiring the clean smell of raw coffee. Now, can you imagine its flavor when it’s roasted? Yum.

At our coming coffee event, many farmers who never even tried roasted coffee will have the chance to see how it transforms from green to golden brown when we take the side trip to Sonny’s roasting facility. This is roasting  the slow food way, he reminds me. The roasters are fired by charcoal, Sumiyaki-style, just like how the Japanese do it.

By the way, Japan is the second largest consumer of coffee in the world and they have been roasting this way ever since. Charcoal. Slow roast. Delicious coffee.

We hope that we can meet all the coffee farmers and stakeholders in Mindanao so we can produce more beans, and fulfill our local demand, which still is more than our supply. I would not mind drinking Kapatagan coffee every day. Matutum also has a different flavor note to it, too. So with Bukidnon. So better sharpen your geography and check out the Mindanao origins.

Remember these names when you want a good, true cup of coffee – Apo, Matutum, Kitanglad. Sultan Kudarat, Kalamansig, Sulu.

What a trip! I am so energized after that smooth cup of Kapatagan Peaberry. Davao will always hold many coffee memories for me. And I will add to my stash of good stories in October when I return.

Meanwhile, let me check which restaurant I will try tonight. I have been to three good ones already. No MSG. Just good freshly-made food. Davao has so many treasures besides its coffee. And I can stay here and discover more places to visit.

Hey Davao, I already feel like a local.

For more information on Coffee Origins and the 7th National Coffee Summit, email admin.pcbi@gmail.comor call 0908-8831218.

The author is a founder and owner of ECHOStore sustainable lifestyle and president of the Women’s Business Council of the Philippines and the Philippine Coffee Board Inc.

Posted in Press Room.