I’ve been trying to promote Philippine coffee among non-Filipino friends with mixed results. For years, the only presentable roasted coffee beans were those from Batangas. Back in the 1980s, if you didn’t serve imported blends, the homegrown Batangas blends were THE things to offer, knowing you wouldn’t regret it. Then I moved to Europe and indulged in the assorted roasts from Austria and Italy, ruining my simple tastes forever, and ended up bringing back packs of Austrian, Italian and German coffee to India and the Philippines. Every once in a while I would indulge in a Kenya or Indonesian roast, if I could find it and actually afford it as well!
While living in India, however, I discovered the magical brew of South Indian Coffee, which is absolutely gorgeous but really hard on the stomach lining and intestines. You don’t need laxatives or digestives after any meal if you get addicted to this particular type.
After moving to Thailand in 2014 I also discovered that Thai coffee, though little known outside of Asia, has its own merits worth mentioning. It is a bit on the milder side, and will pale in comparison to Vietnamese coffee, but it is an emerging product to watch out for.
Having returned to live in the Philippines June of this year, I resumed my quest for a world-class Filipino coffee. The Batangas coffee, to my mind (and a few others), has slipped down the ranking and been overtaken by two other areas.
The first is Monk’s Blend from Malaybalay, Bukidnon. I have a soft spot for this particular coffee, since it hails from a place down South close to the place I was born. It has a full and well rounded aroma and a taste that can hold its ground with top Columbian coffee. Monk’s Blend lives up to its name and is the product of the Benedictine Monastery of the Transfiguration, located at the foothills of Mount Kitanglad, and if I had to connect flavor, location and producer, I would say there are depths certainly worth contemplating.
My most recent discovery, and not on my own volition but upon the recommendation of others, is Cordillera coffee. I had the pleasure of spending some time with Chef Jessie Sincioco, one of Manila’s renown chefs last week who recently switched from serving the high-end Italian Illy to homegrown Cordillera coffee at her restaurant. My curiosity was piqued, to say the least, because if the Cordillera coffee passed Chef Jessie’s high standards and discerning palate, I have to deduce that there is really something special about the Cordillera coffee. Prior to this, two other dear friends spoke highly of it as well, but I have neither the time nor the inclination to trapeze around Metro Manila in search of it in the current traffic situation.
I remained supremely intrigued though, and when I asked my godbrother whether he knew where I could get my hands on some, he picked up the phone, and dialed a number. Five minutes later I was informed with a twinkle in his eye that four kilos of Cordillera coffee (coming directly from the Cordillera) would be packed in a box and sent to Manila for me by bus. The box arrived the next day at 4:30am at his house and the aromatic beans were promptly delivered to me a few hours later.
After a few failed attempts at experimenting with the right water to coffee proportions, I discovered that unlike the Batangas, Bukidnon or any other European roasted beans, the Cordillera coffee requires a 1:1 proportion. My cat sat patiently on the counter and watched me pour one cup after another down the drain until I got what I wanted. Her whiskers twitched in disapproval but her eyes remained transfixed on the grinder and coffee machine with curiosity, and neither of us has looked back since. I now have an abandoned container of Batangas coffee powder looking forlorn in the corner, but after this Cordillera coffee, there is no way I will change my mind!