The hostel receptionist informed me the night before that my two co-house guests will go to Kiltepan peak and that a van will fetch them at 4:30 a.m. for 600 PHP. He thought that maybe I would like to join them. At that point, my body was so dead tired that I graciously declined. Since my room window showed promise of gorgeous views as it manifested during the previous day’s sunset, I figured I could just wake up early and look out my window than hike up a mountain at dawn. I was rewarded with this beautiful view the following morning.
My aching body did not want to leave the bed too but I was hungry. I had to.
Since I only ate a cookie for dinner, I was excited to fill up my tummy again. This time, I ordered danggit (fish). Here’s their in-house menu, by the way.
After taking a while to finish my filling breakfast, I inquired about the free coffee farm tour of the hostel. I arranged it at around 9 a.m. to freshen up and prepare for another walking trail that would take 30-45 minutes one way.
Nikki (I dunno the spelling of his name), whom I thought was the manager of the house, was actually my tour guide because he was a coffee specialist. I’ll try to list down all the important coffee and coffee farming facts he told me but first, photos of the trail behind the hostel.
Forgive me if I look like I’m just half-listening sometimes because I can’t help but stop to take in the wonderful red earth and the towering pine trees. I felt transported into a different country as I’ve never seen foliage as great as this. It’s my first time to trek on red soil and be surrounded by so much pine trees.
From what I gathered, Coffee Heritage House’s earnings is a means for its founders, a group of coffee enthusiasts, to help improve farming of Sagada coffee in the north. During planting days, the house closes to the public as the accommodation to volunteers and farmers during the wet season. Trivia time:
- Coffee trees thrive during the rainy/wet season of the Philippines.
- How good the harvested coffee berries are depend on the nutrients of the surrounding crops.
- The original Sagada coffee type is typica arabica, not robusta beans.
- Pure Sagada coffee has low acidity that you can drink as many cups as you like without experiencing palpitations.
- Whatever roasting method you try on Sagada coffee beans, it still gives its best flavor even just by roasting it in a kettle over firewood method.
- Aerating the Sagada coffee while drinking it (slurping while sipping) will bring out the flavor or notes of the brewed beans.
We were on our way to visit the scattered coffee farm plots or the area in collaboration with Manang Mary, their local partner. Unfortunately, most coffee cherries have been harvested already so there was nothing for me to handpick. This was the lone coffee cherry waiting for my arrival.
As I learned more and more information about coffee farming, it made me appreciate REAL coffee more. Apparently, the coffee cherries don’t ripen all at the same time in the tree so this one was left because it was still a bit green. The hardships of coffee farmers and farmers, in general, are heightened by stories of pambabarat or cheap tactics of coffee traders who buy the beans in gantas.
What CHH people would do is continuously educate the workers on the worth and gains the latter could get if they have information on the proper selling prices for their harvest. Coffee beans are damn hard to grow! It needs the proper climate, soil nutrients, timing for harvest, etc. but all the greedy traders just want the profits for themselves. It made me angry, but it made me thankful for the CHH people for existing. They care. They care enough to want to make Sagada the new coffee capital of the Philippines (instead of Amadeo, Cavite), but they’re finding it hard to get support from the government.
Manang Mary was out on the plains but her husband, Manong Andrew, was the one whom I met.
We were treated to a freshly-boiled kettle of Sagada coffee that was roasted on firewood. It was so good and minty that it almost seemed like mountain tea! The family also grows vegetables and herbs in their yard, but the main feature is their 100-year-old coffee tree.
We thanked Manong Andrew for his hospitality after exchanging stories and finishing the brewed Sagada coffee and made our way back to the hostel. By this time, I had grown such disgust for instant coffee which is only made of chemicals as explained by Nikki. Amadeo, Cavite is the coffee capital of the country which people barely know, I think. Sagada coffee production is catching up on the output where its reputation precedes itself.
I made a mental note to buy ground coffee from Bana’s Cafe at the town proper because they sell authentic Sagada coffee. I’m taking the expert’s word on it and will not buy from somewhere else. Back in the hostel yard, some coffee beans were already out for drying.
I’ve been taught some techniques on how to evaluate coffee beans if ever I see sacks of it in the metro. I can hardly remember all of them, but one that stuck with me is that if it’s too cold inside the sack of beans, there’s too much moisture. I forgot what relevance it is to roasting, but am sure there’s a connection, hehe.
Spot.ph has a more comprehensive background of the Coffee Science Center affiliate in Teacher’s Village, Quezon City. Its founder, Rich Watanabe, explains his vision for Sagada coffee farming that led to the Coffee Heritage House expansion. If you’re interested in taking classes and workshops, go to their Facebook page.
Let’s support locally-grown coffee especially Sagada coffee! For those who want to taste it and the cafe’s yummy food, you don’t have to go all the way to Sagada. Drop by SGD Coffee at no. 45 Maalalahanin St., Teacher’s Village, Diliman, Quezon City (street behind Pino and Breakfast and Pies).
Want to help plant coffee trees? Here’s a poster I saw online: