Starweek Magazine

Let's talk coffee

- Lydia Castillo -

After watching an exciting episode of “Master Chef, Australia” where the contestants exhausted their creativity to produce a variety of desserts using coffee, we became inspired to talk coffee this week. After all, the “coffee culture” has  strongly influenced our lifestyle.

The beverage has crept into the daily habits of most of us. It is like a symbol of relaxation, camaraderie and way of life. “Let’s have coffee...” an invitation always made when one meets friends, when waiting for an appointment, at corporate meetings, after a meal, when malling, when one has time to spend leisurely. Coffee shops are favourite stops and today, some of them offer free WiFi, so what else can we ask for? Actually, a good blend, efficient service and proper ambiance.

We are happy to note that recent medical research has confirmed that coffee is not a health hazard as it was thought to be. It is, in fact, confirmed to prevent certain cancers and diabetes. It is suggested that three cups a day will be an advisable intake. Hurray for us coffee drinkers.

It is said that coffee plants were first raised in Ethiopia, then found their way to Brazil and Colombia, which to date remain major producers of the beans, the most viable of which are Robusta from the lowlands, with single dimensional flavor and Arabica from high altitude areas, with elegant and more complex flavors. Add to that the Philippines’ Excelsa and Liberica (Barako).

The beans are called cherries and roasted to desired strength. Coffee spread fast throughout the world and the following evolved: American of medium roasted beans; French, much stronger and glossy; Italian for espresso; European which combines strong and medium roasts; Viennese which is the opposite of the latter. There are choices on how to serve and drink coffee – brewed, instant, freeze-dried. When we want something richer, we add a dollop of vanilla ice cream instead of milk and sugar. Super!

The Philippines used to be a big player in the coffee industry until production waned. Yet, our beans can still stand side-by-side with foreign counterparts.

We grew up hearing our lolas brewing kapeng Barako or even roasting rice to produce a soothing drink.

When talking coffee, our good friend Chit Juan always comes to mind. We like to call her the “Coffee Lady” as she has championed the cause of the industry, scouring the country for beans and the people who farm them, convinced that the Philippine brew meets international standards. To promote coffee farming and provide assistance, there is the active Philippine Coffee Board which works for the resurgence of coffee farming and promotion.

Our favorite coffee shops include Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf at the Alabang Town Center, where you get a card that would allow you to use their WiFi connection. The Viennese blend is recommended taken with a piece of their P45 biscotti. Bo’s Café came to Metro Manila from their base in Cebu, providing free Internet access. The Echostore in Serendra, where aside from leisurely sipping the beverage, we would select from a variety of coffees to take home. Their latest are labelled Rizal, an evident tribute to our National Hero, and one called Women in Coffee, a product of the board’s hard work in encouraging women to engage in a peso-earning endeavor. The blend, produced by women from Benguet, is 100 percent Philippine Arabica. Each sells for P250 a pack. Echostore will grind the beans to your desired type. For a less premium drink, we’d head to any Jollibee or McDonald’s, never a Chinese restaurant where tea is the better drink.

While the beverage has been infused with different flavors (such as hazelnut), coffee has not remained solely as a drink. Today we find mocha flavored cakes, candies, pies and more. Goldilocks has a good mocha roll, Red Ribbon has coffee crumble cake. There you can get your coffee fix in a variety of food items.

A few days ago we wanted to have premium meat for our fabada and cocido. We went to Tenderbites at the Makati Supermarket in Alabang, where the ladies behind the counter are always gracious and accommodating. We got tuhod with plenty of tendon and boneless shank for the two dishes at P199.95 and P246 a kilo, respectively. We tried our newly-found chorizo (from Mrs. Renata Cuerva of Alabang Hills, tel. no 824-3052) and we were pleased with the very Spanish flavor of the sausages (P165 for a pack of four). She also has our favourite sobresada spread at P150 a pack. Good buys, really.

Have a great cooking and coffee-drinking Sunday.


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