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Paradox, Sagada, and "Macho": Here are 8 Filipino Coffee Brands You Need to Check Out

Sipping coffee has never been more patriotic.
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Filipinos are rabid coffee drinkers. We drink so much coffee that we need to import coffee beans from other countries. But that doesn’t mean local farmers aren’t doing their part to meet our thirst for coffee. 

In regions of the country that allow coffee trees to thrive, farmers are tending to varieties such as Robusta, Arabica, Exelsa, and Liberica (Barako). What the Philippine coffee industry may lack in volume, local farmers and producers try to make up with quality. Indeed, the emergence of third wave coffee shops has introduced a taste for specialty beans among coffee drinkers; and local producers are wielding this opportune moment to expand the average coffee drinker’s knowledge of our homegrown coffee beans.

If you’re a coffee enthusiast curious about what defines premium local coffee—and if your heart is set on promoting our coffee farmers—here are eight local brands you need to check out:

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1Kalsada Coffee

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IMAGE: Kalsada Coffee Website

Raised in the Pacific Northwest, founder Carmel Laurino decided to use her love for coffee to connect to her heritage. According to Laurino, an old photograph showing kapeng barako being sold at a Seattle market in 1909 was her source of inspiration for opening Kalsada Coffee. Today, her brand caters to coffee shops in Seattle, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Manila. The company also pays coffee farmers over 50 pesos (per pound of beans), which is beyond what Fair Trade practices suggest.

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Kalsada Coffee sources beans grown in Belis, Benguet in the Cordillera mountain region. Belis beans have a vanilla taste and floral aroma and offer notes of cacao, nutmeg, cardamom, and all-spice.

How to buy their product? You can purchase a coffee subscription via their website. They offer a three-, six-, and 12-month package for 1kg Coffee Subscription (at most, P1,800 per month) and 250g Coffee Subscription (approximately, P600 per month).

2Coffee for Peace 

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IMAGE: Coffee For Peace Website

Coffee for Peace sources its Arabica beans from Mindanao, particularly from communities with Christian settlers and Indigenous Peoples (IP). One-quarter of the investors’ net profit is also donated to PeaceBuilders Community, Inc. to support their “agents of peace and reconciliation” in conflict-affected communities. Coffee for Peace is well known for their social efforts. Joji Pantoja, the founder and CEO, received an award from the President Rodrigo Duterte at the Inspiring Filipina Entrepreneurs 2017. In 2018, the company was also the Country Winner and the ASEAN Winner for the SME Excellence In Corporate Social Responsibility at the ASEAN Business Awards 2018 held in Singapore.

Another thing the company is known for is the premium quality of their processed beans. Byron Pantoja, the company’s production manager, holds a Q-Grade certification, which utilizes Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) standards and is the most recognized assessment method for Arabica and Robusta cuppers.

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How to buy their product? Their coffee beans are available in 250g, 500g, and 1kg, priced at P1.25 per gram. You can order via their website or visit their café in Davao City.

3| Bo’s Coffee 

IMAGE: Bo's Coffee Website

Bo’s Coffee is focused on offering a fully homegrown coffee experience, selling beans while also using these to make the beverages in their coffee shops. What sets it apart from other coffee producers is the accessibility it offers from having multiple branches across the country.

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The company also provides nuanced flavors in a variety of beans, which includes Sagada (nutty taste with tobacco notes), Benguet (wine taste with herbal hints), Mt. Apo in Davao (earthy taste), and Mt. Matutum in South Cotabato (berry taste with spicy notes).

How to buy their product? Bo’s Coffee bags are available online via Shopee, Lazada, or its website. Its beans are also available in certain Bo’s Coffee branches at less than P300 for 250g Robusta blends and at least P395 for 250g Arabica.

4| Figures of Beans 

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IMAGE: Figures of Beans Website

Inspired by the idea of home brewing, founders KC Boter and Karen de Guzman opened Figure of Beans. They source their beans from Sagada and Benguet in the Cordillera highlands. The concept of their brand makes their products distinct—the names of their coffee variants are Paradox (Arabica), Oxymoron (Robusta), Irony (dark roast), Euphemism (vanilla), Understatement (hazelnut), and Metaphor (caramel).

How to buy their product? You can shop online via their website. Variants are at least P295 for 250g and at most P525 for 500g and P855 for 1kilo.

5SGD Coffee

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IMAGE: SGD Coffee Website

SGD is a play on the name of Sagada, which is the main source of their coffee beans. Founders Rich and Margaret Watanabe were particular about finding a specific sub-type of Arabica beans called Typica, which they found in the highlands of Cordillera. One of their most recognized variants comes from farmer and coffee producer Goad Sibayan, who is famous for his branded civet coffee, Bana’s Coffee.

In 2017, Bana’s Coffee received the Gourmet Award at the 3rd International Contest of Coffees Roasted in Their Countries of Origin, which was hosted by the Paris-based non-profit organization Agency for the Valorization of Agricultural Products (AVPA). The Philippine government has also tapped SGD Coffee to represent the Philippines in international coffee conferences. The Watanabe couple fervently spreads knowledge about local premium coffee, encouraging customers to “go for the black,” as well as offers training to coffee enthusiasts through their coffee academy (Coffee Science Center) and on-the-job training program (SGD Bodega).

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How to buy their product? Its 225g coffee bags are available via Lazada for P660. You can also visit their café in Teachers Village, Quezon City.

6| Kape Maria

IMAGE: Kape Maria Website

Sourced from Cordillera, Cavite and other parts of Luzon, Kape Maria offers coffee enthusiasts a choice in the strength of their coffee. Founder Julia Sevilla opened this social enterprise in hopes of promoting coffee from local farmers and highlighting the local flavors that coffee trees absorb from the ground.

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Kape Maria’s three variants are Pulag, Maynila, and Amuyao (strongest). Pulag contains Arabica beans from Benguet, Excelsa beans from Cavite, and Robusta beans from Ifugao Province to offer a balanced taste. Maynila, Kape Maria’s house blend of Arabica and Robusta, provides a dark chocolate flavor, while Amuyao, which is defined as possessing a nutty and “macho” flavor, is a mixture of Excelsa beans from Cavite and Ifugao Province’s Robusta.

How to buy their product? Kape Maria products are available online via Shopee and Lazada and in-store in Human Nature and SM Kultura branches at P750 for 1kilo or P350-450 for 200g.

7| Mount Apo Civet Coffee Inc.

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IMAGE: Mt. Apo Civet Coffee Facebook Page

Mount Apo Civet Coffee is known to produce coffee beans grown from the highest peak of the Philippines. With the high elevation and volcanic soil, the highlands of Mt. Apo create an ideal place to grow chemical-free Arabica coffee beans. The brand is perhaps best known for its Civet Coffee variant, which is processed from beans found in the excrement of free-roaming civet cats and then dried, fermented, and thoroughly washed. Their other variant, Altura Coffee, is also branded as “The President’s Coffee.” 

Where to buy their product? Products are available at the Crocodile Park Office in Manila, select Echo Store branches, Davao Crocodile Park Souvenir Shop, Davao International Airport, and pasalubong centers in Davao City. A 100g bag of Civet Coffee is priced at P1,200, while a 250g bag of Altura Coffee is at P425.00.

8| Monk’s Premium Blend

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IMAGE: Courtesy of joeiandme.com

Benedictine Monks cultivate and grow this blend of coffee in the high-altitude Southern Philippine province of Bukidnon. The monks create a special mix of Arabica and Robusta, packaging their product as whole or ground beans. Monk’s Blend is also a main ingredient for the coffee crumble flavor of a recognized ice cream brand in the country.

What makes this brand ideal to many retail and institutional clients is its affordability compared to artisanal beans. However, to capture a more unique experience with coffee drinking, the monks offer retreats at the Monastery of Transfiguration in Bukidnon, where people can also enjoy their homegrown coffee. Sipping coffee while in retreat has been described as a “healing and nourishing experience.”

How to buy their product? Whole beans and ground beans are available in major retail outlets and supermarkets in Davao City at P125 for 200g and Php290 for 500g.

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Chiara U. Mesiona
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