5 Life Lessons Learned from Coffee

Rattling jeepneys and twisting roads.
A mountainside trek with an endless sky.
Sunlit leaves overhead.
Pale mist hovering in valleys.
A taste of adventure with a side of coffee.

a taste of adventure with a side of coffee

I travelled to Auntie Ashtrine’s farm by way of a yellow-painted jeepney. It crawled up the asphalt ribbon that wrapped itself around the mountains of Baguio. Through the slit of a window across from me, an ocean of blue skies and green leaves spilled in every direction, an antithesis to the grit and bustle of Metro Manila. We were on our way to check up on the blueprint of the washing station, the focus of Kalsada’s Kickstarter campaign. It was my first time visiting the communities and farmers behind the coffee, and I couldn’t have been more exhilarated.

I’m a small-town girl from suburban Pennsylvania. Although Filipino by heritage, the rural provinces of the Philippines are worlds away from my home, about 8,000 miles in fact. Besides ethnicity, the one thing that connected me to this small village in northern Benguet was coffee. Kalsada, true to its namesake, has been the road on which I’ve travelled to get here, literally and figuratively. As the communications intern in the Philippines this summer, I spent the majority of my days investigating the ins and outs of Manila’s underground café scene, exploring the natural habitat of the Kalsada coffee cup.

It wasn’t until I made this weekend trip to the farms that I finally crossed over to the other side of Kalsada. I switched from the urban jungle of coffee creatives to the earthy mountains of coffee producers. The lessons I’ve learned from this experience, both intangible and tangible, continue to influence me half a continent away. And so, I thought I’d share the top 5 things that I’ve taken away from my Kalsada adventure.

1. Coffee is not just coffee. It’s the central link between people and places of all different contexts. In the Kalsada case, coffee connects the rural with the urban and the Filipino with the global. There’s an entire ecosystem full of inspiring stories and people that make up the coffee experience behind the just java itself.

In the Kalsada case, coffee connects the rural with the urban and the Filipino with the global.

2. Human connection trumps physical distance. The impact that Kalsada channels via good coffee transcends thousands of miles, and it’s an impact that spans both personal and economic ends. For one, every generous supporter who’s helped us out with our Kickstarter has directly influenced a small farming community half the globe over. Whether or not you believe it, I’ve seen it for myself. If that’s not enough proof, the T.L.C. put into both ends of the Kalsada journey, from producers and consumers alike, are undoubtedly translated into the flavors, aromas, and notes you find in our beans.

3. Shared value is a win-win. I firmly believe that everyone along the value chain and across the socio-economic expanse has something to give and something to take. With “inclusive growth” buzzing around everywhere these days, I think it boils down to that idea of shared value between all invested parties. Kalsada excels at maximizing the benefits of this two-way learning curve for all the people involved in our work. Rather than a company, I’ve realized how Kalsada is more of a community centered on inclusive collaboration.

4. Travel is good for the soul. It’s a cliché founded for good measure. I can’t express enough the amazing wonders that an expanded, enhanced perspective does to a person. My world literally and figurative grew before my incredulous and slightly apprehensive eyes over the summer. It’s an experience I demand everyone reading this to try and go after, however way you can. And in my opinion, travel isn’t always about the physical movement, but more importantly, the mental shifts that result from it. So if it’s not the most convenient option to pack up and go, there’s a variety of other modes to jet-set that are worth exploring (pen pals, reading, exploring new subjects, paradigm shifts, drinking Philippine coffee!!).

5. Kalsada is doing amazing, impactful things. Like I’ve said, I’ve seen first hand and in the flesh the tangible influence Kalsada has made on individual communities. It’s difficult to put in words just how rewarding it was to meet the people and encounter the stories behind our social mission. Seeing our progress first-hand left a lasting impression on me, and I know I’ll always seek opportunities to find ways to contribute to this wonderful movement of good coffee and good people.