From buying local to supporting caffeine-fueled advocacies, here are my resolutions related to my favorite drink this year.
As a self-proclaimed coffee dependent, 2023 was a good year for me in terms of deepening my relationship with my elixir of productivity and sanity. Not only was I able to sample well-brewed cups of coffee, I also got to meet people and groups that wish to elevate the coffee industry and pursue greater missions beyond serving our daily doses of caffeine, one good cup at a time.
With several lessons in coffee culture from 2023, I am buzzing toward 2024 with the following resolutions:
Improve the value chain of coffee by supporting local
As much as we welcome exquisite coffee concepts from overseas and take their expansion here as an indication of a more powerful spending market, supporting local concepts in and out of the metro should be at the top of any Filipino coffee lover’s to-do list.
In my recent holiday trip to Negros Occidental, I witnessed how coffee unites local cafés and brewers, providing livelihood opportunities to farmers, roasters, and baristas in every cup that they make.
One good example of this is Coffee Culture Roastery in Bacolod, which is known in the locale as an artisan roaster of local and imported coffee beans. With two branches in the provincial capital, Coffee Culture is owned by Thomas Sproten, a German roaster based in the Philippines. Some of their beans are also used by fellow cafés in the city, such as Origami Café and Bar, a Japanese-themed coffee shop near the New Government Center of Bacolod.
More than introducing specialty beans to Bacolod, Sproten works with coffee farmers and producers in the island to introduce best practices for increased yield, improved coffee bean quality, and a more sustainable coffee industry. His work takes him to upland locations such as Murcia, which is southeast of Bacolod, where he works with the Minoyan Murcia Coffee Network Community. Hailing from this area is Teddy Cañete, a coffee farmer who advocates for clean and fair production practices for coffee. Guided by these missions, the two are also part of the Slow Food Community movement and the Coffee Coalition Network.
In the nearby city of Silay, there is another roaster that embarks on a similar endeavor: Celery Coffee Stand. Owners Lara & Ash travel all over the Philippines and the globe to visit coffee farms, sample their beans, and help farmers improve their coffee planting and production processes. As a micro-roaster, they only use beans and ingredients that they’ve gathered from their trips; hence, their menu always changes and no two drinks served might ever be the same.
When we visited this quaint stand last December 29, 2023, Lara shared that they had just arrived the night prior from Manila, where they met up with a farmer from Mt. Province for a coffee farming consultation. They only opened shop on the 29th—enough time for me to enjoy their refreshing Coffee Lemonade—only to close again the next day for another farm visit in the northern city of Victorias.
For sure, there are more local endeavors across the country being done to improve our coffee industry. Next time you see yourself in Bacolod, make sure to visit these cafés—or, better yet, check out what’s being done in your area and work your way from there.
Support cafés with missions beyond a cup of coffee
2023 also allowed me to meet coffee shops that not only serve good coffee, but also take it upon themselves to mix artistic, cultural, and social endeavors in every brew that they make.
Still within the city of Silay is Damgo, named after the Hiligaynon word from “dream.” True to its name, the café has a dream-like atmosphere to it, what with the artwork plastered on its walls, a mini-library, merchandise crafted by Negrense artists, and a vinyl player altar with an enviable Taylor Swift collection.
Owner Johnny Java shared that just last December, Damgo collaborated with neighboring café Celery to host Brew + Art, an afternoon of creativity and coffee featuring local brewers, artists, and drag queens, at the German Unson Heritage House. Java noted that the gathering—and the café concept as a whole—took inspiration from the creative events being held at The Den, a café nestled within HUB: Make Lab at the First United Building in Escolta.
Just like how the Manila-based café is a safe and artistic space especially for queer folk, Damgo and its pocket events aspire to foster such spaces that nurture and develop the creative scene and LGBTQIA+ community in Negros Occidental. I’m looking forward to seeing the work that these cafés will do for 2024, especially for Pride Month!
Meet the experts who elevate coffee to greater heights
Last year, I was fortunate enough to meet some of the world’s greatest baristas, which I wrote about in detail here. Manila-based Deuces Coffee and Cebu-based Good Cup Coffee Co. hosted the Philippine leg of The Dream Team’s four-month world tour: 2023 World Barista Champion (WBC) Boram Um, WBC coach David Crosby, and Canadian barista champion and WBC finalist Cole Torode held masterclasses and café takeovers to share the gospel of a well-made cup of coffee.
The best thing about meeting these guys—and attending masterclasses in general—is that you get to appreciate what goes into a specialty cup of coffee beyond what could be perceived as frivolities. Granted, you may not need to be insanely specific with grind sizes, water temperatures, and extracting methods every day, but when you get to hear why they go the extra mile to improve their brewing methods and how this goes back to the farms that they help and do research on, you’ll understand why and how competition-level brews and methods can elevate the industry as a whole.
In fact, one of the things that Boram and the Dream Team want to happen, as a consequence of their tours, is to show that there are several opportunities within the coffee industry, whether you’re a barista, producer, farmer, researcher, or even an everyday connoisseur. It’s a sentiment that Deuces owner Richelle Ortega-Labrusca shared with me during the masterclass: that the Philippines also has its own competition-level baristas that work hard to elevate our own coffee scene, but their exposure could be better improved.
Therefore, we can only look forward to the workshops and café takeovers that Deuces and other coffee shops will host for our local baristas and international guests in 2024.
Another thing we’re looking forward to is the official launch of Singapore-based Common Man Coffee Roasters in the Philippines on January 10. However, the café, which had its soft opening at Ayala Triangle last December, is already currently open for guests to dine in and enjoy. We’re excited to try the specialty brews and brunches that the café has been known for in the Lion City.
With the local coffee scene becoming more exciting and caffeine-filled than ever, I’m just buzzing with anticipation for what 2024 will brew for coffee lovers like myself.