Saturday, December 18, 2010

Starbucks, Coffee, Java, Kapeng Barako atbp...

I just got my third Starbucks planner for this year (I already gave away one). This third one I got by undergoing the usual way of filling up the Christmas card with 17 drink stickers. I am not much of a coffee drinker, so every chance I get to exchange coffee-based drinks with any of the other non-coffee ones, I do, just to get those little silver stickers on my little red card. The other day I downed 3 tea based drinks and this afternoon, a caramel frappuccino, just to illustrate more I am not much of a coffee fan. More than the coffee, it is the ambience in Starbucks that I like (walang pakialaman). By the way this is not a paid advertisement for Starbucks, I will be getting to a point why I started with my little interest in coffee, hehehe.

Because of sitting around in the coffee place, even though I am not much of a coffee drinker, I realized that coffee is now a very popular drink in the Philippines. Maybe more reason why the cards do get filled with the stickers. Filipinos had really gone a long way from just drinking the routinary morning cup. They have now acquired the taste of globalization - designer flavored coffee. Due to this, Pinoys have also grown accustomed to calling coffee by a lot of names: Joe, java, kape, bean juice, brew, caffeine fix, mud water, etc. There are a lot more at http://www.1-800-espresso.com/coffee-nicknames.html.

I took interest in the name java as it is also the name of the second largest Indonesian island where coffee is also very popular. Last August I got the chance to visit the islands of Java and Bali, and they grew their coffee beans in plantations, in higher mountainous elevations similar to Tagaytay. In fact in Bali, coffee is grown in Kintamani which is indeed very much similar to the Tagaytay rim. It also has a breath-taking view of a volcano and a lake, reminiscent of Taal. Tagaytay and the surrounding towns are known to grow excellent local coffee. Makes you wonder if coffee requires such cold mountain air to grow in optimum condition.

A week ago I also had the chance to visit the inner dirt roads of Silang in Cavite and found the local coffee trees in fruit. I am assuming that this is the famed kapeng barako of Cavite and Batangas fame. I learned from botanists that kapeng barako is Coffea liberica. It is a plant belonging to the family Rubiaceae, which members include the landscape popular santans. Along with another coffee species, Coffea arabica, the name suggests that coffee, however it is very much loved in every Philippine island, is not a Philippine native. It, as the botanical name suggests, comes from the Middle East and Africa. So even if it has been popularly called 'Java', the plant is not even a native of Java. It probably was so named because of the varieties that have been grown and developed in the Indonesian island (which eventually became famous). Even though it is not native to their islands, the Indonesians however take pride on their own coffee brews, saying a cup of java or kopi in Java does not compare to any other cup from the rest of the world. This is certainly the same for the Batangas coffee or kapeng barako. Some die-hards would even drive up to Tagaytay just to get their strong fix. Which will bring us back again to Starbucks...

I heard of this Starbucks story some months ago but have not confirmed it. The first Pinoy attempt to bring the Starbucks franchise to the Philippines ended in vain because the Filipino proponents suggested to mix the special Starbucks concoctions with locally grown kapeng barako, to lower down the production cost. Eventually the attempt did not push through as the international franchisor did not approve of the kapeng barako idea (not sure if the local bean failed in quality or otherwise). Now the present Starbucks franchisee (Rustan's food) was approved to push through using Davao-grown beans. So somehow when you down you next cup of caramel machiato, you know that you are drinking a little part of the Philippines down your throat. Hehehe, a little less guilt in drinking a multinational brand. But then again coffee in itself is not a Philippine native. But could you imagine the present Pinoy-life without coffee? Would the present I-pod generation go on with their daily routine without their tall, grande or venti cups of designer coffee? Probably more than half of the Filipino population would weep if they would have to give up coffee from their diets. Even the most nationalistic of botanists I know do crave for coffee. I, on the other hand, could certainly go on with my life without coffee. I would miss sitting away the hours in the coffee place though. I would probably miss the planners too.

3 comments:

dr magsasaka said...

Patrick, I hope I am right on this, but C. arabica is grown in the highlands, like Benguet and perhaps portions of Davao and Bukidnon.
The lower elevations like Tagaytay and Amadeo can only grow robusta and liberica.
My impression is that arabica is the most sought-after variety.

metscaper said...

I am not sure. I am not a coffee expert hehehe. Most of Davao City at least is almost sea level. I am not sure where they grow their coffee. Have to research on that one if ever I get back to Davao.

city said...

thanks for share......