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Philippine Mountain Coffee

Updated on July 29, 2014
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Mona writes a column for Enrich Magazine which is distributed in five countries. She is interested in learning as she writes.

Note: When I first wrote this article, I was using the byline, “Mona Gonzalez”. With the computer age I realized there were many people with the same name. To set myself apart, I now include my middle name, Mona Sabalones Gonzalez.

First page of article shows Tony Sevilla with his product, Philippine Mountain Coffee
First page of article shows Tony Sevilla with his product, Philippine Mountain Coffee | Source

Twenty or so years ago, when our country faced its first huge economic crisis (after the death of Ninoy Aquino), businessman Tony Sevilla had an idea. “I tend to come up with new ideas when our economy is down, he explains, laughing. “Maybe because it’s only then when I have found the time.”

We are seated in the garden of his plush and cozy home in upscale Valle Verde. The wind wafts comfortably as I drink the most delicious cappuccino blend I’ve had in years. It is smooth, soothing to the throat, and its taste lingers with every sip – down to the last drop on the bottom of my cup.

Magazine where article was published.
Magazine where article was published. | Source

From Roasted Chicken Honey to Philippine Mountain Coffee

The idea Tony came up with two decades back was roasted chicken honey. He sits back and sighs good-naturedly, saying, “I never got to see it through, though I still have the roaster and the method. And look where it is now.” Several companies began to serve roasted chicken honey (earlier than he did) and it was a big hit.

This time around, he’s not about to let his next economic crunch-inspired idea slip by. After dealing in oil exploration and several other investments, Tony decided: What about a world class Philippine coffee, locally produced, and equal (if not superior), to Jamaica’s very expensive Blue Mountain blend?

“It’s my new baby, but I feel more like I’m its Lolo,” he says, laughing. “You know, the Lolos are usually more excited over the baby than the parents are.” On his own, Tony has always loved to cook, and he admits that he feels special pleasure when friends indicate that they like his food. It is the same with a cup of coffee – his blend, naturally.

He hastens to add that earnings from this coffee project will go to Gabay at Buhay Foundation Inc. (which his family and friends set up) which deals in scholarships for poor but deserving students, medical assistance for families, drug rehabilitation and livelihood products. Recently, Gabay helped to set up living quarters for orphans in Ozamis in collaboration with a Columban Father from the area

Page 2 of article featured in Cook Magazine
Page 2 of article featured in Cook Magazine | Source

An Igorot Named Camising

“Like anyone else, I love having a cup of coffee in the morning, after lunch and even after dinner. But I was more intrigued when I got to know about the history of Filipino coffee,” Sevilla said.

Take, for example their Kalinga Gold Coffee which prospered in the Cordilleras, under an Igorot (A group of Austronesian tribes, some based in the Cordilleras), chieftain named Camising during the Spanish colonial period. Camising was a wealthy, powerful and brave tribal leader who defended his people from the Busoles (a headhunting tribe) of the North.

The Spanish first introduced coffee to the Cordilleras, a mountain range with the right altitude for coffee growing, in 1873. Many tribes opposed it. Some pulled the plants out and destroyed them by pouring boiling water on them. But Camising observed, researched and studied the product. He decided that coffee would be very valuable to them and introduced it to his community, named Kabayan.

Camising took charge of planting, harvesting and selling the crop. For years the coffee was shipped to Spain where it was sold at fabulous prices. None of it reached Manila. The prosperity of Kabayan encouraged other Igorots to reconsider the coffee bean.

The local coffee industry faltered however in 1916 when a blight all but wiped out the industry. The constant attacks by insects, persistent pests and rust destroyed the coffee trees.

Igorot woman
Igorot woman | Source

A World Class Philippine Coffee Line

What a surprise, Tony thought, that we had world class coffee that was little appreciated on domestic shores. He decided to come up with a coffee line featuring the best of brews grown from various mountains throughout the Philippines.

Thus was born the Philippine Mountain Coffee Collection, an initial set of three coffee blends that included Kalinga Gold, Malaybalay blend (which were grown by the Lumads, meaning “people of the earth”) of Bukidnon, and Tagaytay Barako, a brew that improved on the coffee, making Batangas one of the world’s coffee capitals in the early 20th century.

All three coffee products are high grown where the cool, rich air, volcanic earth and an organic, natural planting method guaranteed a favorable harvest. The Philippine Mountain Coffee Collection line became a joint project of Tony’s Gabay at Buhay Foundation and Deck Coffee Inc., the coffee shop cum restaurant Tony, his brother Ed and wife Malen incorporated with a few friends.

Deck Coffee gained recognition with its famous durian coffee latte along with its specialty espresso coffee line derived from Benguet and Mindanao’s locally grown Arabica beans. Deck Coffee gained, through years of experience, expertise in the development of small batch blending and roasting of its own in their outlets in Magallanes Commercial Center, SM City, North EDSA and SM Supercenter in Sucat, Paranaque.

(Update: Today, Sevilla has a Deck Coffee Shop in the Telemart Bldg., Magallanes Shopping Center, Ayala Ave. The coffee is also sold in Hacienda restaurant at Transcom Bldg. across Tiendesitas, and in the Delicacies Village of Tiendesitas’ food court.)

Philippine Mountaiin Coffee outlet iin Tiendesitas
Philippine Mountaiin Coffee outlet iin Tiendesitas | Source

As for Kalinga Gold, Tony says the Germans and Europeans love the brew. And then, there is Tagaytay Barako made in Tagaytay, the coffee capital of the country. There is the belief that the volcano’s pent up violence may have seeped into the soul for the coffee bean. Barako means “all male.”

Tony will be the first to tell you that in many ways, a bean is a bean is a bean. The difference is in the roast. He won’t tell you how he does it – that’s his trade secret. But today he will say they use the charcoal roasted method in making his coffee, which is essentially a dark roast with a shiny surface, similar to the French Roast.

(Update: Coffee blends include the Kalinga Gold (from Luzon), Tagaytay Baraco, Kanlaon Blend (Visayas) and the Malaybalay Blend (from Mindanao and Bukidnon). The taste is earthy and lingers with subtle power. Brews are mild, medium and strong. The drip method is offered for those who seek special coffee.)

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    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      Hi ologsinquito. Yes, the coffee is really wonderful, smooth, goes down the throat smooth and well, and leaves a great aftertaste. It's fantastic. Thanks for stopping by:)

    • ologsinquito profile image

      ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

      I bet this coffee is great. My husband and daughter, the picky coffee drinkers in my house, would probably love it.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      Thanks Imtii, glad you like it:)

    • imtii profile image

      Imtiaz Ahmed 2 years ago from Dhaka, Bangladesh

      A very nice article deserves a very nice voting :) Thumbs UP for you!

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      Poetryman6969, Lol. Ironically, as I write this, it actually is breakfast time in the Philippines right now:).

    • poetryman6969 profile image

      poetryman6969 2 years ago

      Interesting hub. Now it's breakfast time!

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you, Eddy. It goes both ways. I look forward to reading more of your articles as the days pass.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

      Very interesting and now looking forward to so many more by you.

      Eddy.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you Writer Fox, for your kind words. My husband and I dream of going to Israel. I must try the wine over there which I will add to my list of things we will do in Israel. Also, I have your new article marked and will be reading it in awhile.

    • Writer Fox profile image

      Writer Fox 3 years ago from the wadi near the little river

      I don't know much about what is grown in the Philippines, but in Israel the volcanic soils are the best for growing grapes for wine. In Hawaii, the volcanic soil produces great bananas and sugar cane. So, growing coffee sounds like a great idea, too. I really enjoyed your article!

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you stuff4kids, I appreciate your giving Filipino coffee a chance. Bear in mind, however, that the more common strain is barako which is poor man's coffee. I personally like it, but the coffee in this article is more high end.

    • stuff4kids profile image

      Amanda Littlejohn 3 years ago

      Fascinating stuff - I have to try it. I'm always careful to buy fair-traded coffee and organic where possible. I think most of my coffee comes from South America but I will now keep my eye open for Philippine coffee, too!

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Hi Beth37, it was really heavenly. But I think it helped a lot that Mr. Sevilla prepared it for us. I have bought some since, it is truly delicious and worth the price, but I am no expert barista.

    • profile image

      Beth37 3 years ago

      When we went to Kenya, coffee and tea were abundant, of course, and we were too poor to buy any. What a bummer. I wonder how that espresso compares to the coffee in Kenya. It sounded heavenly. :)

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      True, Sujaya Venkatesh. Good, brewed cuppa just ain't the same without that steam giving you a unique sort of face cleansing even as you enjoy your cuppa:). I exaggerate....

    • sujaya venkatesh profile image

      sujaya venkatesh 3 years ago

      steaming hot it is gran

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Yes, we really have wonderful brewed coffees that go far beyond barako. Athough I love barako, too.

    • CrisSp profile image

      CrisSp 3 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      Tasty article that comes with such interesting history with a hint of marketing! Very clever!

      I enjoyed it. Thank you Mona. Can I call you Mona? :)

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you DDE, and thanks, too, for visiting:)

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Phiippine Mountain Coffe has an interesting history and I enjoyed reading this hub.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Thanks Suzanne Day, come to think of it, the translation of Barako is really funny. In it's rawest form it has a rough taste but is a great pickup for the day. Barako was cosidered "poor man's coffee" until Sevilla came up with a refined blend.

    • Suzanne Day profile image

      Suzanne Day 3 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

      Interesting read on the history of Philippine Mountain Coffee. I like the bit about the volcano and the meaning of Barako. Voted interesting!

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Sujaya Venkatesh, yes, coffee is best enjoyed when it's ground:)

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Thanks Ms. Dora, oftentimes Filipino coffee is affiliated with barako, which I also like. But we can make and brew delicious coffee beans, too. Thanks Nell Rose, like you, I do appreciate the history that goes with the food we eat. For example, I didn't know the tomato came from Mexico and we eat ketchup every day. The cultural experience of food beyond taste is a way of understanding different communities' stories and ways.

    • sujaya venkatesh profile image

      sujaya venkatesh 3 years ago

      hv a cup grnd

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      This is fascinating mona, and I learned so many new things, from how the coffee got there in the first place, and new cultures too, great stuff! voted up and shared!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      Tony Sevilla inspires us to believe in our ideas. Thank you for the hisory and the inspiration.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Thanks LWhip. Hope you enjoyed your cuppa:)

    • LWhip profile image

      LWhip 3 years ago

      Thank you for this enlightening article Mona. I drank my coffee while I read it!

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Hi caneko! I think you have a wonderful rage of topics among your hubs and your writing is quite good. Proud that you are my kabayan.

    • cianeko profile image

      Cianeko Abueva 3 years ago

      I love your style of writing and so, I am looking forward to producing articles like this (with different themes though). Thank you for sharing this.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you, Flourish Anyway. I appreciate the time you took reading this article about Filipino coffee:)

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      Although I do not drink coffee myself, I enjoyed reading about the industry here.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you Faith Reaper. It's very hard NOT to love coffee, don't you agree? Especially Starbucks:)

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      thanks for your kind remarks, Ericdierker. Interesting to know that Vietnam is among the top five coffee producers. They are so near the Philippines, what am I missing!

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

      I love coffee, so I loved reading this article, very interesting!

      Up and more

      Blessings,

      Faith Reaper

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Very interesting and well presented. Our other home country Vietnam also has a great coffee history. Little known that they are in the top 5 coffee producing countries in the world. It would make sense that our neighbors would likewise be so inclined.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you Billybuc. I'm glad you liked the article:).

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Another excellent article. I knew nothing about this industry until this article; thanks for the education.

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