Coffee with a cause » Manila Bulletin Lifestyle

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Wake up and smell the coffee; it’s time to support local coffee

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By Sol Vanzi

Coffee drinking, now part and parcel of everyday life, has created a very young generation of coffee aficionados who take coffee very seriously. They want to know the coffee variety in their cups, the method used to extract flavor and aroma from the beans, the level of roasting, and how fine or coarse the coffee beans are ground.

This is a far cry from the local scene just a few decades ago when coffee was nothing but a drink at the end of a meal. Those were the days when pouring brandy into coffee impressed everyone as an act of sophistication and worldliness.

These days, coffee is finally getting the respect it deserves. Standalone coffee shops have become the place to meet and catch up with friends; after which the group moves to restaurants for meals. It’s a scenario calling for change. Early this week, we found a place where coffee is serious business and whose home-cooked meals can compete with five-star restaurants.

  • Foundation for Sustainable Coffee Excellence founder Michael Harris Conlin

  • White, red, and black velvet

  • La Trinidad frozen strawberry milk shake

  • Exterior of the Giving Café

  • Pinoy comfort food from the café

  • Different colors and flavors of Bloom coffee


The Giving Café (TGC) is the first home of the Foundation for Sustainable Coffee Excellence (FSCE), a brainchild of its founder Director Michael Harris Conlin, whose family exports all-natural rope made of abaca.

Over a meal of ribs, chicken, and pasta, Conlin bewailed the fact that the Philippines spends P7 billion a year to import coffee (roughly 70,000 metric tons (MT) of coffee beans at P100 per kilogram) simply because local coffee production is unable to meet the national consumption of 100,000 MT, blamed on low production and uncompetitive pricing for local coffee products.

Conlin aims to correct this imbalance by reaching out to coffee farmers, specifically in Benguet where Arabica coffee flourishes. Offering The Giving Café as a model to adapt, corporations are given opportunities that generate social and financial returns.

“From the machines required to the beans for brewing, everything needed to take part in this mission can be provided,” shares Conlin.

Henry and Sons and FSCE have been helping La Trinidad farmers by assisting in all aspects of their trade like livelihood, equipment, water, education, and health.

Other elements of the program are: The Giving Caravan, a vintage Volkswagen Kombi café that has been giving free coffee in BGC, and The Giving Cart, a portable pop-up concept that infuses events and activation spaces with good will in the form of a steaming cup of Java.

The Giving Café serves coffee from the company’s Bloom Coffee line, a special range crafted to support programs that solve issues preventing La Trinidad’s coffee farming community from harvesting quality coffee. A substantial portion of sales is set aside to fund more programs for Benguet’s coffee farmers.

“If we can help and inspire Benguet coffee farmers to better their trade, without a doubt they can help us get Philippine coffee back into the international market by 2018,” Conlin explained.

With a special blend assigned to generate proceeds for specific programs that address a major concern, Henry and Sons and FSCE have been helping La Trinidad farmers in all aspects: livelihood, equipment, water, education, and health.  FSCE’s programs have distributed vaccines and 1,000 mosquito nets for the benefit of the children, granted two La Trinidad barangays with Atmospheric Water Generators (AWG), installed  a moisture meter, and several La Trinidad youth education assistance grants.  The AWG miraculously produces water from moisture in the air.

What makes The Giving Café stand out is its menu that offers home-cooked comfort food. Our group shared tender baby back ribs, succulent roast chicken, spaghetti with pesto, Chinese sweet and sour pork, and several desserts. After the meal, we participated in a cupping session, which is the coffee version of wine tasting. Guided by Conlin, we learned to detect aroma, undertones and other qualities unique to each bean or blend.

For more information on TGC and The Giving Café, please follow Facebook/tgcsocialentrep

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