On our way to Baguio City by car, my colleague Nicky and I were joined by his daughter Nicee Matti and my niece, Ros Juan—two young ladies who have started their journey in coffee.
Ros has been in coffee for over 10 years now, starting with part-time jobs as my assistant during my coffee foundation days and later as our Corporate Communications Officer, the first expat we seconded to Shanghai, where she lived for four years.
Last year Ros embarked on her own coffee career, opening a café-bar with focus on and predictably so . . . on Philippine coffee. Her Commune Café fits her career choice of being a Social Media Strategist and Barista rolled into one. She has listened and learned well, “Put up a business doing what you like, and selling what you drink or eat.”
Nicee, on the other hand, took up History and like her history-loving father loves reading up on world history especially that of Europe and the United States. Of late, she has started to brush up on Asean history, also to trace how coffee got into the Philippines from down south in Malaysia and Indonesia or alternatively, maybe from the European colonization in the 1700s.
On our five to six hour drive to the North, Nicky and I played songs from the 80s while the two young ones busied themselves with their phones and their Twitter feeds. They conceded to being immersed in our playlist over coffee topics such as: the volatility of coffee prices and the scarcity of good Arabica planting materials in Mindanao.
Upon our arrival in Baguio, we explained to them the purpose of our immersion trip. For them to imbibe our playlist, not only of music, but of our advocacy in developing the coffee industry.
The next two days were spent in the mountains of Benguet, and in more coffee talk over cocktails, over dinner and over lunch at Health 100, where I introduced them to healthy Baguio vegetarian meals. On our second day, ironically, the village where we had lunch did not have any vegetables save for a few shreds of cabbage and carrots in our Pancit Canton. They also served us white rice and fried fish, fried pork and fried chicken.
This is how the locals were eating, at least where we visited.
The next day we made it a point to eat what Baguio was famous for: Longganisang Baguio, Tinaw-on rice or heirloom rice, organic eggs and freshly brewed Arabica coffee.
It’s funny how we had to go back to the city to have this kind of local fare. Over in the high 1500-meter place where we got coffee, we did not get any vegetables or native rice varieties.
And this is my frustration when we visit communities. Most, if not all, will serve us white rice and fried chicken rather than the usual local fare.
In fact, food-wise, the highlight of the mountain visit for me was being served freshly-boiled Camote and hot cups of freshly-brewed native coffee at 5,000 feet above sea level. I also took a slice of bread and spread it thick with the locally produced peanut butter. And then more coffee.
In two days, the conversations between the girls and among the four of us changed from Nicee opening a café to their identifying cultivars of coffee and checking what elevation resulted in hard bean coffee (HB) to Strictly Hard Bean coffee (SHB). The girls took to coffee like duck to water. From sorting pea berry beans to sorting coffee in parchment, they did not tire of our endless discussions on the future of coffee farmers, given the development of Asean Economic Community, among many other political developments.
On our way down, it was Nicky’s turn to listen to the girls’ playlist: Twitter, hashtags, trending topics, Waze and many more modern applications, social media networks and talk about how Instagram can promote your advocacy or business.
It was a good exchange of two generations with a common denominator: coffee. Truly, coffee is a social drink like no other.
It crosses race, creed and ages. We just experienced that common thread which coffee weaves. Between playlists, between generations.
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Chit Juan is a founder and owner of ECHOStore sustainable lifestyle, ECHOmarket sustainable farms and ECHOcafe in Serendra , Podium and Centris QC malls. 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, youth and NGOs on social entrepreneurship, women empowerment, and coffee. You can follow her on twitter.com/chitjuan or find her on facebook:Pacita “Chit” Juan. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org