THE year was 2005.
“Organic will give you less yield,” he says to me with a warning. “Yes , Doc, I am ready for that,” I replied. We planted our first coffee trees in Amadeo, Cavite. I remember planting trees first in 2001, then 2005 right at our own farm.
Dr. Andy Mojica has been my mentor and adviser since I met him in 2001 through my first coffee mentor Father Roger Bag-ao. He has put up the National Coffee Research and Development Center within Cavite State University, and has always been our champion in research on coffee propagation.
Fast forward to 2015.
I visited Dr. Mojica and a few other farmers and what did I find? The Mendez Organic Coffee Farms. Located in the inner roads of upland Mendez Balikbayan returnee/retiree Levy Perez has set up (with Doc’s guidance) a training facility for organic coffee farming! I was tickled pink and was actually waxing sentimental when I saw the vermicompost pits, the coffee trees and the processing facility. All these features were inspired by Dr. Mojica and our travels to coffee lands.
We have traveled to Kampala, Uganda to attend the First Organic Coffee Conference organized by IFOAM( 2004). We traveled through Central Java, Indonesia to see coffee farms that looked like Cavite coffee farms, too. We also went to Malaysia in 2005 to check on their Liberica or Barako species. Then , we co-wrote a book on our favorite coffee variety BARAKO: The Big Bean. (Anvil Publishing, 2005) and encouraged Cavite farmers to plant a part of their lands to Barako.
In 2010, we received an invitation to visit Brazil, specifically Minas Gerais—the coffee lands. With the guidance and support of Instituto Agronomico de Campinas(IAC) whose members accompanied us on the journey, we saw how Brazil made it to the No. 1 spot in coffee production. We traveled for five days around Minas Gerais visiting famous farms like Daterra, and other farms who supply many of the world’s coffee retailers and roasters.
So, Doc and I go back a long way..more so when we both became directors of the Philippine Coffee Board Inc. (PCBI), a non-stock, non-profit group of coffee advocates.
What surprised me today is that Doc has already espoused organic farming, and has taught it to many of his mentees. I could not wipe the smile off my face when I saw the project he has mentored Mr. Perez on—organic coffee farming.
Doc continues to travel to coffee lands as I also continue to do so. He went to Colombia while I went to Guatemala. He may soon go to the USA to even learn how to be an “R” grader or a Robusta cupper and grader as there is no one in the country yet. While I may go to Colombia sometime soon for the Women in Coffee or IWCA summit.
In our many years together, Doc has always surprised me with his new tricks and new gadgets. He now roasts his own coffee, and brought along to our training his paraphernalia which totally impressed me. My good friend has perfected the bean to cup chain. From planting to processing to drinking his own harvest of Barako.
My co-chair in PCBI Nicky used to say:”The coffee prices are determined by people in blue suits at the stock exchange in London and New York,” I felt a little discouraged that he as my co-chair may never really believe that local coffee prices could get better for our farmers. That was 2002.
Guess what he is doing now? Well, 13 years later, Nicky and I travel far and wide to encourage farmers to “raise the bar for quality coffee”. We have been to Davao, Benguet, Cotabato, Sulu, and Negros, Iloilo and many parts of Luzon like Cavite and Batangas.
He tirelessly talks about quality coffee and coffee history to all of our farmer audiences. He has been at it for the last few years because he has started to see change. The change he thought he would never see when we first started working together.
Today, we were up in Mendez, Cavite and on our way home he intimated to me: I AM INSPIRED. I can see that Cavite will rise again. This came from the same person who used to say “we could never change the prices of coffee.”
And these are two coffee men who inspire me to go on—to travel far and wide around the country and around the world learning new coffee technology, learning about new coffee trends and learning more about coffee period.
They used to doubt organic coffee and used to doubt we could get better coffee prices. Look at them now. It takes time , a little time and a lot of “marination” as they say. Soon, the non-believer becomes a believer. The doubting Thomas is no more.
This is my tribute to these two coffee veterans. Between them they may have 60 years of coffee experience but the last two years have been the best, as far as I am concerned.
Chit Juan is the Founder and President of ECHOstore Sustainable Lifestyle located in Serendra , Podium,Centris, Davao City, Makati and Cebu .She is the President of Women’s Business Council of the Philippines and the Philippine Coffee Board Inc. She often speaks to corporates, academe and entrepreneurs about her advocacies: Social Enterprise, Women Empowerment and Coffee. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or find her on Twitter@Chitjuan, Instagram: CHITJUAN or Linked In: Pacita Juan.