Running on Coffee

According to a Turkish proverb, coffee should be black as hell, strong as death, and sweet as love.

Now we may have our own preferences as to how strong or sweet our coffee should be, but there is no denying that it is the hot poison of choice for most Filipinos.

According to a January 2017 Euromonitor International report, coffee consumption in the Philippines posted a strong growth last year on the back of higher disposable incomes of Filipino consumers. Versatile and easy to prepare coffee mixes have also become more appealing to consumers, who have increasingly hectic lifestyles.

South Korean barista Umpaul demonstrates his skills that earned him top spot in the 2016 World Latte Art Championship.

A 2014 Euromonitor study also showed that while the Philippines is ranked 25th among the top countries where most coffee drinkers are located, we are number one among our Asian neighbors at 0.608 cup a day, followed by Singapore (0.379) and South Korea (0.329).

These are perhaps among the reasons why organizers of the Philippine Restaurant, Café and Bar Expo (Philresca) are excited for the first-ever business-to-business gathering of coffee suppliers, distributors, and stakeholders from allied services from March 2-4 at the World Trade Center.

Apart from the exposition, Philresca will also host the Philippine National Barista Championship and the Philippine National Latte Art Championship, the winners of which will be sent to compete against their best counterparts from participating countries during the world championships this year.

The Philippines produces four commercially viable coffee varieties: Arabica, Liberica, Excelsa and Robusta.

“Beyond business, we envision Philresca as an educational venue to discover new talents and sharpen the craft of future service leaders to the next level, and in the process bolstering the position of Filipinos in the global coffee industry and serving as a launching pad for local coffee businesses to be introduced to a wider market,” said May Juan, president of Philippine Asia Conferences & Exhibitions Inc.

Juan said based on government forecast, the local restaurant, café, and bar industry is expected to gainfully employ 795,000 individuals this year.

“The local barista community is also very active. We expect to see a lot of our Filipino baristas engaging in leveled up professional competitions, both local and international, by 2017,” she added.

Amy Ball, creative director of World Coffee Events – which manages competitions such as the World Barista Championship, the World Cup Tasters Championship, and the World Latte Art Championship, among other prestigious events—said the Philippines is slowly but steadily rising as an important emerging market for the ever-growing coffee community.

“There’s a lot of growing excitement about the Philippine coffee market right now and how it is going to evolve and engage with the international coffee community at large. Barista is also a growing profession here as well and it’s very exciting,” she said.

“We aim to generate a feeling of community among Filipinos while still maintaining unique coffee culture and identity. Though the specialty coffee community here is fairly new, the energy is high and the momentum is already there. Through these events, we also hope to inspire collaboration among coffee communities from all over the world,” Ball added.

The Philippines is one of the few countries that produces the four varieties of commercially viable coffee: Arabica, Liberica (Barako), Excelsa and Robusta. Climatic and soil conditions in the Philippines—from the lowland to mountain regions – make the country suitable for all four varieties.

The local coffee industry has indeed come a long way since the first coffee tree was introduced in Lipa, Batangas in 1740 by a Spanish Franciscan monk. In 1880, the Philippines was the fourth largest exporter of coffee beans, and when the coffee rust hit Brazil, Africa, and Java, it became the only source of coffee beans worldwide. The glory days of the domestic coffee industry, however, lasted only until 1889 when an insect infestation destroyed virtually all coffee trees in Batangas.

Amy Ball (L), creative director of World Coffee Events, and May Juan (R), president of the Philippine Asia Conferences and Exhibitions Inc.

Today, the country produces 30,000 metric tons of coffee a year,barely covering half of the 65,000 MT annual coffee consumption. The Philippines hopes to regain its position as a top producer and exporter of coffee, reflecting the industry’s history—one that is as rich as its flavor.

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Topics: Coffee , 2017 Euromonitor
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