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Originally from Manila Bulletin’s Agriculture, Specials; article written by Jerome Sagcal

Selling coffee branded Philippine-made has become a marketing trend for cafes. It has become a way to appeal to coffee drinkers who want to drink sustainable coffee while supporting the local industry. But selling coffee with Philippine origins comes with a lot of responsibilities, according to Ros Juan, the chief coffee extractor of Commune Café and Bar.

Juan spoke in an online session of KainCon organized by the Philippine Coffee Board to discuss the following considerations for running a café with Philippine coffee.

Get to know your coffee

Café owners should be able to tell where their coffee comes from. There are times when coffee traders might not be fully knowledgeable about their products and could wrongly market their coffee as locally made when it is actually not.

It is better to connect with coffee farmers or organizations like the Philippine Coffee Board which works directly with coffee farmers.

If a café owner is starting out and wants to buy Philippine coffee in small quantities, they can contact the Philippine Coffee Board as they have a database of coffee farmers who will cater to the specific needs of café owners. But if a café owner is seeking to acquire large quantities of coffee, they should go ahead and work directly with coffee farmers.

The same applies to cafe owners who want to acquire roasted coffee instead of processing coffee beans on their own. Cafe owners should work with coffee roasters who source their coffee directly from farmers.

It takes a lot of research and sampling to verify if coffee is really made locally. At times, labels like Kalinga coffee or Sagada coffee are used arbitrarily when the coffee was not even grown in the locations the label pertains to. Thus it is important for cafe owners to get involved in the local coffee community to familiarize themselves with all the local coffee sources.

Part of this is also learning the difference between each coffee species. There are four species of coffee, mainly arabica, robusta, liberica, and excelsa. It is important for cafe owners to study all four coffee species and be able to taste their difference so that they will have an idea if they are getting the right kind of coffee from their sources.

The price and quality of coffee

Coffee is available at varying levels of quality. But whether coffee is of the highest or lowest quality, each quality level of coffee has its own market and corresponding price.

Specialty coffee is sold for high prices because they require a lot of labor to produce. In contrast, there are commercial-grade coffees that farmers are able to sell in large quantities because the standards for production are less stringent.

On the bottom are rejects, which can still be sold but at low prices for certain markets. Café owners are discouraged from using low-quality coffee in their cafés.

When starting a café, it is tempting to offer specialty coffee, but café owners need to consider that it is going to cost them more, and thus they would have to charge more for it. This might not work for certain cafés depending on their location and market. It is therefore crucial to study the surrounding market and see which coffee products best suit the business.

Price also sets the expectations of customers. If coffee is sold cheap, customers will not expect them to be of high quality. But as price increases, cafe owners will need to do more to deliver value for the price they charge with. This means investing in ambiance and customer service.

More importantly, cafe owners must be truthful about the ingredients they are using and price their products accordingly. If customers feel that they are being cheated, they will feel resentful of the café and will probably not return.

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