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I first met Selima Depolio two years ago, when PCBI brought some jute sacks for Atok Arabica Coffee Growers Marketing Cooperative (ACOGMAC), the cooperative where she belonged.

We asked then ACOGMAC chair Dick Evasco to round up the women so we can teach them the proper way to process their coffee. Why women? Because we know that women had more patience and time to attend to detailed work such as sorting beans and detailed processing techniques.

Selima was listening intently as she and the other women assisted PCBI Chair Nicky Matti who was doing a demo on proper flotation and fermentation of fresh coffee cherries. The women brought baskets (Kaings), banana leaves and freshly-picked coffee cherries while the men set up the pulper, the containers and the water hose.

ACOGMAC chair Selima Depolio balances family life with her duties as chair. Despite her grandma duties, she is still able to follow the guidelines she learned from PCBI’s training, which was then sponsored by Peace and Equity Foundation and Land Bank of the Philippines.

Two years after we again visit Atok and learn that Selima has now become the chairwoman of ACOGMAC. This time around, we brought a visitor, Lisa Conway, Operations Director of the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) so she can see for herself who among them was serious about quality coffee. The manager of the coop, Oliver Oliem, took us to the Depolio’s compound and met her brother and another sister.

CQI Operations Director Lisa Conway couldn’t believe the taste of the Atok coffee she tasted at the Depolio kitchen. These are their “run of the mill” coffee beans, the way their family brews and serves it. Lisa was taken by surprise when she tasted the brew, which was naturally sweet without any sugar added.

We obsessively asked Oliver to ask each woman to label the coffee with their name on each sack. After dehulling those still in parchment, the person in charge already could tell the difference of each woman’s harvest compared to sadly, those submitted by the menfolk.

Why did we ask them to label each bag? So we can congratulate those who took time and effort to process the coffee with love and care. It would also be easy for us to trace those who still needed help and guidance.

What resulted from the training are coffees which now score above 80. At a glance, the coffee beans already look better than their harvest of previous years.

Even Nicky shakes his head as I write down each woman’s name and the amount of coffee they submitted. “Indeed, only the women take the time,” he said.


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