Good coffee is right here in PH
Manila Bulletin, March 2, 2011
MANILA, Philippines--To know the story of coffee is as dark, rich, wild, and some might say, even erotic as the drink itself. Chit Juan and her partners at Le Bistro Café believe that good coffee can be found right at home. Coffee beans come in four varieties - Robusta, Excelsa, Liberica, and Arabica—all of which are grown and cultivated in the country.
A passion for coffee
Filipinos are certified coffee lovers. How we are all connected to that single cup - from the most rural mountain provinces to the most cosmopolitan city - is still the best story yet. Philippine coffee is slowly getting back to its feet with the help of a few people who keep the local brew alive and within reach.
Le Bistro Café, together with the Philippine Coffee Board, Inc., helps coffee farmers all around the country - from Sultan Kudarat, Bukidnon, Iloilo, Negros Occidental and Oriental, Cavite, Bataan, to the Mountain Province, Benguet, Sagada, and Kalinga.
“We help the local farmers in their endeavors. We provide sustainable livelihood programs, technical assis-tance, and opportunities for growth in coffee farming. We also encourage them to have their own brands,” says Juan about the booming local efforts done to boost the industry. Known in the country as an authority when it comes to coffee, Chit Juan was CEO of a successful chain of cafés and its foundation for fifteen years before stepping down to pursue her crusade of reviving the country’s ailing coffee industry and social entrepreneurship.
But more than coffee production, Juan is dedicated to the people behind the scenes and the hard work that bring the rich brew its grace. “We need to tell the story of our coffee history and its rich heritage. There’s a story behind our coffee. If you don’t tell it, it's just another brown liquid in a cup,” says Juan.
Sustainable coffee drinking
“In Le Bistro Cafés, we promote “locavorism”, which means we have to make sure that our products are locally-sourced, organic and natural. Drinking and eating sustainably means that we care about the planet. Why? Sourcing local ingredients means that food miles (from source to the roasted bean) is low since the ingredients don’t have to travel very far. There are a lot of local ingredients that you can actually use,” says Juan.
“Locavore” is a term for a group of people who commit to eating locally grown food whenever possible. Le Bistro Café’s coffees except for decaf are locally sourced. “Our coffees are sourced from farms from the different regions of the country. We train the farmers on how to care for their crops, how to pick the ripest coffee cherries, and how best to make a profitable living. From the farmer who grew the coffee to the man who roasted the beans – we have an emotional bond to it all,” says Juan.
A founding member of the Philippine Coffee Board, Juan started the advocacy of “Save the Barako” and is the author of three coffee books. In 2004, she also founded “Wild About Organic,” which promoted organic farming among coffee communities. She’s been a faithful fighter for the environment and sustainable lifestyles ever since.
“Roasting where you are located lessens carbon footprint. We get the coffee green from the farms. It’s dried to a certain moisture content that’s ready for roasting, then we roast it here in Manila because this is where our distribution is,” she says. Last February, Le Bistro Cafés in NAIA Terminals 2 and 3 launched their local coffee roasted beans, starting with the Sultan Kudarat blend.
“We want our countrymen and our guests to know that we do have good quality coffee here in the country. People want to help the planet and their community, but they don’t know how and where to start. You have to start with yourself – drink locally-sourced coffee,” says the passionate Juan.