I first met doctor Andy Mojica in 2001 when Father Roger Bag-ao, my first coffee mentor brought me to Cavite State University(CvSU) in Indang, Cavite. I was amazed that we even had a Coffee Research Center in those parts and that someone shared my love for Barako, the coffee variety most of us grew up drinking. Father Roger would soon take a sabbatical and Doc Andy would become my default mentor. Four years later we co-wrote a book aptly called Barako: The Big Bean. The book got a National Book Award and we often joke each other that we must soon write a sequel.
Doc Andy and I would do many innovative (and to some, crazy even) projects involving research on coffee like collecting Barako trees from all over the country for our germplasm collection in the CvSU grounds. We went to Uganda for the very first Organic Coffee Conference back in 2004. We travelled to Indonesia and Malaysia in search of Barako’s brothers or sisters in the ASEAN region.
After our book was published, we started to go beyond planting and delved into sample roasting of coffee and improving quality. Our dream is still to put up a Quality Institute before we both retire from coffee. And that dream may not be too far off. While Doc Andy still serves as vice president for research in CvSU, we continue to travel for coffee and continue to learn.
This is why Barako is now a prized variety of coffe—It is now sorted from among other varieties such as Robusta and Excelsa, and farmers now keep it until a buyer comes and agrees to pay its hefty price tag. I sometimes do not even get to buy enough Barako for my own use. Much of it is now exported to Malaysia, Japan and the Middle East.
So Doc Andy and I are now developing the coffee that is aplenty in Cavite—the Ro-busta. In many Robusta-producing countries, it is a well-respected variety because they treat it well. First, it may already be organic by default as farmers hardly buy chemical fertilizers anymore. Second, it can be processed using the wet method or by washing. Third, it can be dried on raised beds and sorted or sieved as to size of beans. Now, that is quality washed Robusta or what we call gourmet Robusta or specialty coffee. In fact, we will grade it like we grade premium Arabica. Doc Andy himself will be taking an R grader certification course, as a Robusta grader.
So much ado about coffee? Yes, of course. If 90 percent or our coffee production is Robusta, we may as well find some gems in our produce so farmers can get better value for their coffee. We’ve done it with Arabica the past years—picking red, washing and then cupping our coffees. We are doing it now for Robusta and the world is waiting for our Cavite AA or Mindanao M-1, our export-quality Robustas of yore. Did you know we used to export a lot of it to the US roasters? This time, we are eyeing Europe and regional buyers who are waiting for our heirloom variety Robustas.
Doc Andy is there to research about, roast and cup the coffee. Cupping is a method where coffee sample batches are scored for taste and quality. We just finished a campaign to get the farmers of Cavite on board. And they signed up to get their Robustas to world-class quality.
Thanks, Doc Andy. Your passion and dedication is the only secret sauce we need to get our coffee (albeit small in production numbers) to global tables and cafes. And yes, we can write another book. This time, we can write about the resurgence of Cavite AA—Robustas that will be exported to the rest of the world. Just like our grandfathers did. After Barako, let us set our sights on Robusta.
Doc Andy made planting coffee easier. Anyone who meets him and visits his many pilot plots will right away be convinced: there is a future in coffee. Thanks, Doc.
Then we can say: this is what the doctor ordered. One gourmet Robusta coming up!
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 twitter.com/chitjuan or find her on facebook:Pacita “Chit” Juan. Email her at email@example.com