Sunday, November 20, 2016

Coffee Harvest Tour

Friends and family know how much I love coffee, and now I have a deeper appreciation for it and for the farmers who grow the coffee plants and process the fruit. I learned that it's hard, time-consuming work and I will never look at a cup of brewed coffee the same way again.

Yesterday, I joined the Coffee Harvest Tour in the community of Sayatan in Tublay, Benguet. Sayatan is a project site of the Cordillera Green Network, a Baguio-based environmental NGO. Since 2001, the organization has been working to help transform communities in the Cordillera into models of sustainable resource management.

Let's back up a little bit--how did I get to join the tour? Well, I was helping a friend look for a place to stay in, and Tala came to mind. I go to Cafe Yagam every now and then when I have friends over and see people coming and going from Tala, the guest house just below. I got curious about it but never pursued looking into it, until now.

I checked Tala's Facebook page and learned of its connection with the Cordillera Green Network, and also learned that the org conducts educational tours as part of its advocacy. Coming up was a Coffee Harvest Tour, and I signed up.

Aside from showing us how a cup of coffee is produced, the tour also gave participants that much-needed break from city life, and for the foreign students, the chance to practice their English. :)

The group met up at 7:30 (everyone was so punctual!) at Tala, where organizer Kanami gave a short orientation and where we introduced ourselves. It's a very 'international' group comprising Filipino, Japanese, Taiwanese, Korean and Vietnamese coffee lovers. When we were all set, we climbed aboard CGN's jeepney and off we went.

When we arrived at Sayatan, we were introduced to the "coffee queens," the ladies who manage the community organization. They told us about the CGN's advocacy as well as coffee's journey from farm to table. They also showed the proper way to harvest coffee cherries to make sure the plant bears fruit again.
Orientation and introduction at Tala.

A quick stopover to buy snacks
Bread, bread and more bread
Toploading ftw
Ate Lily explaining the process of how a cup of coffee is made
Pick just the fruit--avoid taking the stem along with it!
Before harvesting: hot coffee!
Sweet sweet dog
Coffee plant
Looks like Christmas
Just pick the ripe cherries (the red/red-orange ones)
The cold climate makes Benguet conducive to growing arabica coffee
Trying out guava
Picking coffee cherries...until the ants came (the fruit is sweet)

Coffee seedlings at the nursery ready for planting! The community sells these for Php 7.50 each.
It takes around three years for the plants to bear fruit.
At the old nursery (they're preparing a net to cover the seedlings)
This view.
Why did the chicken (and her kids) cross the road?
To say hello to the grazing cow, of course!
Here's Johnny making sure our meal's cooking well

After lunch it was time to try pulping (where the fruit pulp is separated from the bean) and hulling, where the remaining mucilage is removed from the seed. After pulping, the beans undergo wet fermentation for 24 hours, washed and then dried before hulling.

Forgot to take a photo of the (manual) pulping machine, but here's the output: the pulp at left and the seed or bean at the right. 
The beans are first pounded to remove the mucilage or hull from the bean
Separating the hull from the bean
Separating the dried hull from the beans is challenging at first, but once you've mastered the movement, it's beautiful to watch.

More hulling
After sorting the beans, these are roasted for an hour. While there's a roasting machine that can get it done in 20 minutes,it's in another town and for the purpose of the tour, a kawali can do the job just fine. 

Almost done! Heavenly smells all around.
Ready to be ground up!
These beans will be grounded, ready for brewing

Hanging out with "Sweet Dog" (we don't know his real name)
And done! (Don't you just love these cups)

I had a great time learning about coffee and meeting new folks. Thanks to Tala - Kanami and Sevy - and the CGN as well as the community of Sayatan and the women farmers who showed us about how coffee makes its way into our cups.

Fact: To make 450 grams of roasted coffee beans, you'll need around 4,000 cherries. A cup is usually brewed from 10 grams of coffee, so you'll need around 90 cherries for just this one cup.

And that, my friends, is why you should savor each and every sip.

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