What’s in a name?

kals´ada – road, street, way, path [syn. da´an, k´alye]

One of the first questions that people usually ask us is: “Why the name Kalsada?”

It is at this moment that my mind rummages through my memory.  The first place it stops is January 2013, at a photo of me in Seattle, eating a bowl of “souped-up” mama ramen: A conspiracy of packaged noodles, soft-boiled egg, meatballs, thai basil, and a squeeze of lime.  Pen and paper in hand, I’ve just been tasked to come up with a name for this project; apparently I couldn’t keep Life Is Espresso.  I had to come up with a name that was unique; perhaps a Filipino word that could easily be pronounced by non-speakers. And, the name also had to evoke our mission.  I scribbled down ideas … usahay … harana … buhay and then: Kalsada.  When I wrote it down, it gave me goosebumps, and I thought: Bingo! I just knew that this was it. This project was going to be named Kalsada.  The would-be names, of course, went through rounds of brainstorming and through the surveying of friends, family, and strangers. We asked everyone.  Eventually, to my excitement, Kalsada won out.

From there, the design team took it away and conceptualized the brand and the website, while the business development and communications team strategized on how we should move forward.

Kalsada Mood Board

Kalsada Mood Board

Next, my mind takes a pit-stop in Portland, February 2013. It was early in the morning and I was fumbling around my friend’s home office trying to figure out how to work her headphones and tri-monitor setup for a blind-(skype)-date with a friend-of-a-friend’s-roaster-friend (Did you follow the connection? Two degrees of separation!) who was living in Paris at the time. Her name? Lacy Wood.  Another memory comes rushing forward to hugging and squeezing Lacy’s arm after finally meeting her in person, after a year of virtual meetings that spanned 3 different time zones.  Then: Flashes of our journey together in Manila, meeting passionate individuals in the coffee industry, where we were not only getting an opportunity to experience the emerging specialty coffee scene first-hand, but also becoming a part of that growing community.

With the collaborators at the soft-launch of EDSA Beverage Design Studio (photo by @esdabdg)

With the collaborators at the soft-launch of EDSA Beverage Design Studio (photo by @esdabdg)

Then my mind rewinds to our attempts, over the summer of 2013, at making a crowdfunding campaign video, where we quickly realized we couldn’t crowdfund for something we didn’t fully understand. We needed to be on the ground. We needed to be in the Philippines.

We use google hangout and skype a lot.

We use google hangout and skype a lot.

I then vividly recall interviewing farmers in Candoni and learning about their desire and need for a farm-to-market road, drinking tapoy (rice wine) in the terraces during a Christmas holiday party in Asipulo and learning about the history of coffee in the Ifugao region, devouring the made-to-order pancakes and coffee at the Bontoc Market, eating Manang Melde’s tsokolate and puto (sweet sticky rice) at the stalls in Dumaguete, watching and waiting by the muddy roadside in Tadian for our jeepney to be pulled so that we could continue on to the community of Masla to meet with coffee producers.  Then back to Manila after two weeks on the road, opening my backpack filled with coffee samples from all over the Philippines.

Reyes Cafe (Candoni, Negros)

Reyes Cafe (Candoni, Negros)

I smile and recall again that bowl of ramen–from its simple package to its “souped-up” glory of sweet and spicy and salty–with the many bowls since, and the many more to come.   “Well, it’s sort of a long story,” I say, “and, Kalsada, as you know, translates to road or street.”

And after 8 months of living here in Manila, Kalsada has come to mean so much more.  It now also represents the farmers, friends, colleagues, family, and everyone outside of our team that have supported and helped us get to this point.  It represents the connection between the Domisa Family and Auntie Rosita, to the coffee drinkers in the city. The power, the accessibility, the fragility of that road.  And to the farmer, it represents opportunity and livelihood.

Our name at its inception represented the journey of coffee from seed to cup. It now represents not only our journey from Seattle, Paris, and everywhere in between, but also the long road ahead in building capacity for quality coffee at the farm level.