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Local café advocates for quality coffee in Maitum town
The Philippines has witnessed a coffee boom in recent years, with numerous coffee shops popping up across the nation. However, not all of these establishments promote quality coffee and support the local coffee farmers, who are vital to the industry.
A local coffee shop in Maitum, a coastal town in Sarangani Province, has a vision to showcase the municipality's coffee production. Thirsty Tongue Café, owned and run by barista Mervin John Keith Reganit Sabarre, aims to help the coffee farmers in their community and educate his customers about quality coffee.
Sabarre teamed up with Q Robusta Grader Raniele Cedrik De Vera, the owner of Sidenotes Coffee Co., to organize the Maitum Coffee Connections in his town on August 24, 2023. The event aimed to educate the stakeholders on coffee and to support local quality coffee.
"The goal is to educate them that there is more to coffee than what they know. Coffee is already a part of our lives, and it should be of high quality if we consume it," he said.
Sabarre demonstrated the coffee cupping procedure to the attendees and discussed its significance.
"This event also helps farmers understand their purpose in the industry and encourages them to be more active in ensuring quality processes. I hope that Maitum will soon have a consistent supply of Fine Robusta to contribute to the world of coffee quality," he added.
De Vera presented Manual Brewing Essentials and demonstrated brewing techniques using various coffee vessels. As a new Q Professional in the coffee industry, he places great importance on educating the public about coffee.
"One of the roles of a Q Grader is to provide accurate coffee education. There are misconceptions about coffee that do not align with industry standards. As Q Professionals, it is our responsibility to educate both consumers and coffee stakeholders," he said.
A Q Grader is a certified professional who evaluates the quality of green coffee. They use the Q Program to grade coffee and share a common language of quality with producers and buyers. Many jobs in the coffee industry require employees to be certified Q Graders. There are over 7,000 Q Graders worldwide.
The Q Grader certification is administered by the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI). CQI is a non-profit organization that works internationally to improve the quality of coffee and the lives of the people who produce it. They offer training and certification programs for coffee professionals, including the Q Grader program, which certifies individuals in the sensory evaluation of green coffee.
After the two sessions, attendees shared their experiences participating in the event. Many expressed appreciation for the importance of consuming local quality coffee and recognized the efforts of the Maitum farmers who produced it.
'Maitum Coffee Connections’ was the second coffee event series to take place in Maitum. The first was held at Malaya Brew on May 30, 2023.
Sabarre and De Vera, along with other coffee shop owners in the Soccsksargen Region, are advocating for local quality coffee. They aim to raise public awareness about the value of the local coffee industry and its stakeholders.
Advocating local quality coffee
Government agencies and NGOs, such as the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the ACDI/VOCA-PhilCAFE Project, have organized coffee quality competitions like the Kape Dose Coffee Quality Competition to encourage and reward standard protocols for coffee farming and production. These competitions inspire the farmers to produce quality coffee, which can fetch higher prices in the market.
Datu Kubli Kusin, a Tboli farmer from Maitum, was one of the winners of the Kape Dose Coffee Quality Competition 2023. He ranked fourth with a cupping score of 83.83 for the Fine Robusta Category. Datu Kusin currently serves as the president of the Upo Valley Farmers Association (UVFA).
Sabarre supports the coffee growers in Maitum by buying their Robusta coffee beans, especially from Datu Kusin. He features the Maitum beans and other local beans from Polomolok, South Cotabato (Mt. Matutum coffee beans), Sultan Kudarat province, and the Davao region (Mt. Apo coffee beans) in his coffee shop. He is also looking forward to a long-term collaboration with Maitum coffee farmers.
"When you buy coffee from a café, you wonder who will benefit from your purchase," he remarked.
Sabarre, a former maritime worker, became the head barista in a Starbucks branch in the United Arab Emirates. There, he developed his passion and skills for coffee. He returned to the Philippines and opened a beverage store with his mother, which later became Thirsty Tongue, Maitum's first café.
He started with ice-blended coffees and juices and then expanded to offer local coffee beans from Maitum and other regions. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, he persevered and continued to run his coffee shop.
Sabarre's goal is to educate people about coffee, especially his customers. He urges the public to drink locally produced coffee, as it benefits both the local coffee shop owners and the coffee farmers who supply the beans.
"We should always continue to champion our Philippine quality coffee. By supporting quality coffee, we are also supporting the Filipino coffee farmers who produce it for us. They will not only raise the standard of Philippine coffee but also improve their standard of living. They will be able to provide food for their families and invest in their farms," De Vera said.
"Local quality coffee in Maitum or the region deserves our advocacy because it empowers local farmers to adopt good agricultural practices and produce excellent coffee. This will put them on the Philippine coffee map and secure their future. Supporting our local coffee industry means promoting fair trade and sustainability for all stakeholders," said Sabarre. (Photos contributed by Maitum MIO & 10th Digital Photography)