Coffee and Asean women



In the continuing celebration of Women’s Month, let me share with you further the achievements of women involved in planting coffee in the region.

One of the easiest ways to convince people to plant trees is to plant coffee. Coffee also grows best under the shade of taller forest trees like in Baguio or Bukidnon. And I am sure it’s the same in the rest of the Asean—be it Bandung, Indonesia or Chiang Rai in Thailand.

Through the sponsorship of UPS Foundation and USAid-ACTI, 12 women from various Asean countries namely Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Singapore, and Thailand came over to learn about Philippine coffee on February 10 and 11. The activities were held in Cavite and Makati City.

The ladies came from various parts of the coffee value chain—from farming coffee in Cambodia to operating a coffee capsule manufacturing outfit in Laos. The group was mentored and toured around by yours truly as the Philippine Coffee Board Inc. (PCBI) President along with ECHOsi Foundation Director Jeannie Javelosa, and IWCA-PH members Reena Francisco and Ros Juan.

On touring Cavite State University, the group was surprised to see the large Barako cherries or fruits. They enjoyed taking photos in the demo farm as university vice president Alejandro Mojica spoke about the research efforts in Philippine Coffee.

The ladies then visited Café Amadeo as a replicable business model for cooperatives in one town-one product endeavors, the product of which is of course, coffee. They also went to see Café Belardo also in Amadeo, which is run by Bea Belardo, a woman roaster and entrepreneur who belongs to the third generation of coffee farmers and traders.

A special part of the training was held at Sancoco Café where coffee samples from the different participants were roasted by Robert Francisco, Q grader and master roaster and then “cupped” or tasted by everyone.

“I never thought our coffee could taste so sweet as the master said,” beamed Nanda Pok of Cambodia. Her Robusta coffee was described by Francisco as “sweet and tasting of guava.”

Other countries’ coffees were described as “citrusy, lemony and even like the dalanghita,” as the women participants gathered around the cupping table.

After cupping the coffees from different Asean growing areas like Bolaven Plateau of Laos to Bandung, Indonesia the ladies were treated to a Latte Art demo at Commune Café. The training was conducted by no less than champion barista Vanessa Caceres, a Filipina who lives in Singapore but has won many awards from Bogota, Colombia to other places in Asia.

Meanwhile, 3D latte art was demonstrated by Commune Café’s baristas to the delight of the delegates.

The Coffee Training is just the start of the program initiated by the Great Women in Asean Initiative, which is strongly supported by ECHOsi Foundation, USAid-ACTI and UPS Foundation. The next group will concentrate on training in textiles, in which many women entrepreneurs and indigenous groups are also involved.

Yes, the Philippines ranks high in gender diversity especially in an industry which is known to be a man’s world—coffee. “We have a lot of women in coffee farming and now in roasting and retail,” says Ros Juan, also the founding member of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance-PH chapter of a global alliance of women in the coffee trade.

We can be proud that our Asean neighbors can find best examples of women in entrepreneurship with agricultural produce and value addition right here in our country. And with the help of the different organizations we mentioned today, we surely make Asean coffee competitive in the global market.

Shall we plant some trees soon?

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Chit Juan is a founder and owner of ECHOStore sustainable lifestyle, ECHOmarket sustainable farms and ECHOcafe in Serendra , Podium, Centris QC mall, Davao, Cebu City, Antipolo and Iloilo City. She also is President of the Women’s Business Council of the Philippines and President of the Philippine Coffee Board Inc., two non-profits close to her heart. She often speaks to corporates and NGOs on sustainability, women empowerment, and coffee. You can follow her on or find her on facebook:Pacita “Chit” Juan. Email her at


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