Whats Up in the Cup – Our First Coffee Cupping in the Philippines

The Kalsada team has been on the ground for a few months now. Carmel arrived in the Philippines in October, I arrived in January, and the newest addition to our team, Roderick arrived just after me. Since then we have been busy meeting with shareholders, gathering samples, visiting farmers, and planning out our next steps for Kalsada. But before we cover all of the business model mumbo jumbo, I thought I’d post my most recent thoughts on our trips and cup tastings.

After Carmel’s first trip, she brought back samples from all over the Philippines, but mostly from Mindanao and Luzon (the primary coffee growing regions). After that cupping, it was the samples from Benguet and Mt. Province that stood out on the table for their clarity, body, and complexity in the cup. The Mindanao coffees were also interesting and have lots of potential. Plans are in the works to revisit them again soon, but we decided to focus our second exploratory trip on the Luzon high-altitude regions.

We visited several farms, listening to the farmer’s stories and laughter, needs and wants. (More of their stories to come!) The main things we learned were that:

The producers need more support and resources to increase consistency in processing methods.

Many farmers are depulping the coffee by hand, which is very labor intensive.

They are usually drying on sheets of steel, which dries the coffee too quickly and then allows moisture to be reabsorbed later, resulting in inconsistent humidity levels.

Most of the farmers are open to working with outsiders, but skeptical of shallow promises. Trust is earned over time and will not come right away.

All are worried about the next generation, as most of their children are not interested in becoming coffee farmers. Some communities have overcome this challenge and have a few younger coffee farmers dedicated to high quality. (We are so excited to promote their coffee!)

When we got back to Manila, we roasted and tasted the coffees right away. The higher altitude coffees were surprisingly acidic in the cup. For some this might be a negative attribute, but for me it shows that there is clear potential for these coffees to rise to the specialty level. However, almost all had very low body with few clear flavors coming through. Lots of potential, but not there yet.

One of the favorites on the table was the sample given to us by Aunty Shirley from Tuba, Benguet. She gathered the sample from one tree which was a San Ramon varietal. Therefore despite coming from the lowest altitude, because she separated the coffee by varietal, it had a much more distinct and enjoyable flavor profile.

Lots more in store for our third trip which is scheduled for next week