After tasting the beans from Auntie Domisa’s farm, we made a trip to Caliking, Benguet just to meet the woman behind this syrupy sweet cup. When we arrived, we explained how lucky we were to have found a sample of her coffee, and that we came specifically to hear her story. She laughed and said we were a weird bunch, but that she would be happy to answer our questions.
Auntie Domisa owns a three-hectare land which she divided among her ten children and now only has less than a hectare of coffee plantation herself. The farm has been the family’s source of income for 20 years and everyone has been actively involved, providing help where necessary. “At my age I can’t pick the cherry myself so for this year’s harvest my son Abel and his wife picked for me,” shared Auntie Domisa who just turned 61 this year. With the steep slope of the farm, it would be impractical, if not dangerous for Auntie Domisa to harvest the cherry. She instead devotes her time to stripping the beans from the cherry using a locally fabricated depulping machine before soaking them in water overnight, drying them under the sun, and of course, babysitting her grandchildren.
Atok doesn’t have a washing station so the beans are processed by farmers in their own farms. When the beans are dry enough, one of Auntie Domisa’s sons walks 3 kilometers carrying 50 kilograms of beans to the cooperative to sell. At the end of the day, they split the profit. Last year, Auntie Domisa made 20,000 pesos (~$500) for 500 trees which is barely enough to cover daily expenses.
The dirt road from their land to the cooperative is extremely rough and steep making driving difficult, dangerous and almost impossible for a regular car. Transporting produce from this part of town is backbreaking. One can only imagine how the situation gets more challenging during rainy season. Trucks would be ideal to pick up the beans from each farm and would create jobs for community drivers and collection point managers, but the cooperative does not have any means to purchase one for now.
Auntie Domisa also shared with us that although some of her cousins also produce coffee, they come to her to buy her beans for their personal consumption. They tell her that there is a certain sweetness to her coffee that is not present in theirs or any of the others they have tasted in the community. It is indeed this sweetness that makes this coffee not only pleasing to this farmer and her relatives, but also to us.