• Wine and coffee

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    CHIT JUAN

    CHIT JUAN

    Is there such a product classification as organic wines? How about biodynamic wines? Well, believe it or not, they do practice biodynamic agriculture in wine country in France and that is what I experienced in Bordeaux. In the four chateaus we had the fortune to visit, they all use biodynamic agriculture, where even planting the seedlings are timed with a receding moon. Is it about getting a higher price for the wines? Or is it about Nature?

    It is, like coffee, dictated by Nature. The biodynamic method is practiced by farmers because it is the way NATURE intended it to be. Just like in our tiny natural and organic ECHOfarms, we plant flowers at the end of each plot to make sure the insects have something to eat. Well, guess what I saw in Bordeaux? The same natural formula. It is the same everywhere, I sadi to myself. Whether it is a French bee or grasshopper, or a Cavite-born insect, they all look for the same food: flowers.

    I was smiling by myself as I told my friends Angel, Jojo and Emmalyn that “this looks like our farms in the Philippines!” Yes, we may not have a lavender bush yet, but I saw vegetables, rosemary, and other herbs growing in plots where there were sunflowers and marigolds at its ends.

    Just like coffee, wines come from natural environments. They both depend on “terroir” for their flavor, their distinct taste, their natural aroma. The grapes and the coffee fruits both like a micro climate suitable for their sugars to develop. Yes, coffee comes from red ripe fruits, that contain the sugars which develop the inherent flavors of the coffee or the wine in the case of grapes.

    The “terroir” is a mix of all the elements Nature wanted the plants to grow up in. The micro climate, the soil, even the fact that they just depend on the rain. No extra irrigation. How wonderful that two beverages I like grown under the same conditions.

    As we move up the value chain, we process the fruits and grapes become wine and coffee fruits become coffee beans (the beans are two halves inside the fruit). There are times when the bean is a round single berry in a coffee fruit, and this is what we call “peaberry”. They probably are only 5-10 percent of each coffee lot, and are prized for their special flavor profile. So, look for Peaberries next time you buy coffee. I used to think only Tanzania had it . . . until we taught the Benguet farmers how to separate it, we asked the Sulu farmers to sort them ,too, and now we have both Benguet and Sulu Peaberry selections.

    The similarities do not end there. People also look for “origins” and that is where the grape is from—Bordeaux has several places known for its particular wine like Sauterne, Graves and St. Emilion. Coffee has its Cordillera area with different places like Benguet, Mountain Province and Ifugao. After locating the region, we trace it back to the farmer. In wines, we identify chateaus or vineyards. In coffee, we identify farms and the very farmer who harvests the fruits and washes them or dries them in the sun.

    This process is also called “traceability” and now is such a premium that consumers do not mind paying for, because they want to know who grew their grape, their coffee or their food. That is why in Bordeaux they have AOC or Appellation Origine Controllee—the standards are checked and audited and standards are also improved every ten years, to ensure that French wines stay at the top of any wine list. If you are an AOC, you command more Euros or dollars.

    In coffee, we look at traceability to the farm and make sure our farmers are paid well for their hard work of choosing only the best fruits, of processing it according to global standards and soon we will have a stamp of approval as well. For now, we “cup” each lot and we grade them. We have winning origins and some that need improvement. But our winners already command a competitive price in the specialty market. Even without a seal yet. Just our implied warranty that we know where it came from and how it was processed.

    So, this is why these two drinks are so valued all over the world. Coffee in the morning, wine at lunch or sunset. And Nature had it all planned that way. From the way it is planted, to how it is cared for and up till the time it is harvested. Nature and man. This is their best project yet. All dependent on man’s care for what Nature has prepared.

    So when we say wine is just like coffee, it is true. They share many secrets from production to processing and up to the glass or the cup. Next time you order wine or buy a bottle, think origin. Next time you order coffee, find out where it is from. Chances are you may be drinking Philippine coffee and you just do not know it.

    Cheers to good coffee and good wine!

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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 and Davao 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, 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 puj@echostore.ph

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