Food & Drink

This DLSU Program Fuses Coffee and Science to Revitalize the Local Industry

A cup of coffee is deeper than most realize.
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The Philippines has a long history with coffee, starting in 1740 when the crop was introduced by the Spanish to the country.

Until the '70s, coffee was a major industry in the Philippines, but in 2014, with the collapse of the International Coffee Agreement (ICA), the country slipped from being the fourth largest coffee producer in the world to 110th.

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With several plans to revitalize the industry, it really is important to learn about what makes a cup of coffee from a scientific standpoint. And that's exactly what director of the La Salle Food and Water Institute and faculty member of DLSU's Chemistry Department Emmanuel "Mel" Garcia hopes to achieve. As an avid coffee drinker and chemist, Garcia realized that the tools used in a laboratory might be useful for the coffee industry.

From there, he decided to organize a coffee-science meet up to talk about the two. In an interview with Coffee Behind the Scenes, Garcia says, "I [want to] find that nexus and build a way around it to make my approach on teaching science understandable to coffee professionals or stakeholders and more than ever, useful. Because at the end of the day we want them to apply what they learn, to do better."

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With the goal of bringing coffee professionals together, Garcia hopes the program will ultimately help people gain more technical competence when it comes to coffee. Along with that, he hopes this information trickles down to the coffee farmers who don't have access to current scientific and technological innovations.

To further their research, the faculty members and students of DLSU's chemistry department received hands-on experience with local coffee. In 2013, the group collaborated on studies involving local crops eaten and excreted by the Philippine civet cat. “We try to uncover the factors in the chemical components of the coffee," he says. "We want to understand the basis for the claim that it is the best coffee and to check whether there is really a difference from non-civet coffee."

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"When one becomes more aware of what is in the food—and this is especially helpful for those in the food industry—one becomes more conscious of what should be prepared and how it should be done," Garcia adds.

Watch the video below to learn more about the program:

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