Exploring more local coffees

Catimor beans (left) and civet cat coffee (right) from Bansalan, Davao del Sur.

Catimor beans (left) and civet cat coffee (right) from Bansalan, Davao del Sur.

These past days I’ve been exploring local coffee beans some more. I’ve almost given up on the local beans, and it’s a shame coz we’re in a tropical country with lots of high mountains and a climate conducive to coffee growing.

As I’ve said, I almost exclusively get my local beans from Serenity Coffee aka Arengga, after a frustrating year of searching for a green coffee supplier. Serenity’s beans are still not at par with the specialty grade beans you get to buy online from shops like Sweet Maria’s and the distributors at GCBC. But if you lower your standards a bit, for the sake of economy on my part, their coffee could be drinkable.

One day Benson of Cebu, about the only one leaving comments (and maybe the only reader, too? Hehe …) in this blog, said that he has tried roasting coffee from Davao del Sur. In the cup, he said he was so disappointed because it tasted like camote! Uh-oh … Told him I had once dropped by Bansalan in Davao del Sur, and I saw lots and lots of green coffee beans, and bought samples that I didn’t like, too.

Then came Louie from Bansalan, a coffee grower somewhere at the foot of Mount Apo in Davao del Sur. Apparently offended by Benson’s comments, he volunteered to send in some samples of his coffees. I insisted on paying, but he won’t let me. As long as I say my honest opinion about my coffee, he said, he’d let me try my coffee.

So an LBC package did arrive at my doorsteps a few days later. In it were 2 packs — 500 grams of his “catimur” variety (I found out later from pals at GCBC that it’s spelled “catimor,” being a cross between Caturra and Timor coffees), and 200 grams of his civet cat coffee, still in parchment form.

Civet poop

I really got excited with the civet poop, called in Indonesia (which popularized this coffee) as Kopi Luwak, in Luzon as Kape Alamid (popularized by Arengga). Here in Mindanao, the civet cat is called as Musang or Milo (not pronounced as the energy cholocate drink, but the Visayan way). I once saw a boy in Iligan’s Mt. Agad-agad cooking a poor charred civet cat on a barbecue stick.

People in the mountains love to eat civet cats, like this poor little creature at the foot of Iligan's Mt. Agad-agad.

People in the mountains love to eat civet cats, like this poor little creature at the foot of Iligan's Mt. Agad-agad.

Eniweys, civet cat coffee is supposed to be the most expensive coffee, fetching a price of a few hundred dollars a pound in its green form, meaning, still unroasted. But is it the best? Read on …

Since it came in parchment form, I still had to remove the outer covering using a wooden mortar and pestle, which I purposely bought a couple of years back when I bought a kilo of this expensive dung from a coffee supplier in General Santos City, who also supplied me with this coffee in parchment form.

Cupping time, I still don’t like this coffee as before. I hate the slippery feel in the mouth, like you can feel where it came from. Yuck!!! This one, though, didn’t have the more yucky manure flavor of the first kape alamid that I tried. But I’m sure to the uninitiated, who’s used only to either instant coffee or brewed coffee from just about anywhere (like breakfast areas of 5-star hotels), freshly roasted civet poop might actually taste good. Some photographer friends in Manila did actually enjoy it after several rounds of beer.

Civet cat coffee still in parchment form

Civet cat coffee still in parchment form

So for me, civet cat coffee is more hype. It can’t compete with most of the specialty grade coffee beans I’ve tried. Why so expensive? Maybe coz they’re so rare. And to consider how it’s “processed,” man, that should be one good conversation piece. Just tell your guest about the process AFTER he had the coffee, not before. Anybody seen Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman in “The Bucket List”?


On to the next coffee — Catimor. It surprised me coz it has a very different color than the rest of the green coffees I’ve tried. It is darker, and has some see-through appearance. And it’s soft. Maybe still a little moist? Maybe it needs more drying.

Catimor beans

Catimor beans

When roasted, it takes about double the usual roasting time. Like, 12 volume ounces of it took me 23.5 minutes to hit 2nd crack, when it’s usually just in the 12-minute mark on most of my coffees on my oven toaster rotisserie.

In the cup, nothing really stellar, nothing bites your palate to want some more. But I don’t mind drinking it. So I texted Louie if I can buy dryer samples of it. I’m hoping it would taste better. He said he’d send me some.

Of course I consulted my buddies at GCBC on their opinion of this coffee.

Unfortunately, most do not like this coffee. A coffee grower in Panama, a country known for its really good coffee (the likes of La Esmeralda Gesha that has taken the coffee world by storm), said he had all his catimor trees cut down to be replaced with better variety. While the catimor coffee tree produces a lot of coffee, it supposed to be “very bitter” and has a “bad aftertaste.”

I passed those information I got to Louie, who was shocked, because he insists a big instant coffee maker (make your guess) actually likes his catimor, said to be among the best in the country. Of course, instant coffee and specialty coffee are really not on the same level. But I passed information just the same to help Louie — coz he is a grower; coz he can help change the coffee industry; coz while I can talk the talk, Louie can walk the walk if he does decide to go the specialty coffee route. And I’m really hoping he does, or at least experiment with it, coz I’m really hoping that the Philippines will be on the world’s coffee map. I have an ulterior motive, of course, so I’d just be eventually buying local beans all the way, not from online shops, especially so coz USPS increased its rates once more.

Mystery coffee

While I was roasting the civet poop and Louie’s catimor, another LBC package containing a kilo of green beans arrived. It was wonderful looking, almost no defects, I was almost sure it would taste great in the cup. The package had no return address. So I texted Louie why he sent me another pack. But he texted back he did not. Hmmm … mysterious. I texted my usually supplier, Serenity Coffee, if it was the sample pack from the new crop I’ve been asking from them. Nah, they didn’t send one. Maybe you have fans you don’t know about, said Vie of Serenity.

Hmmm … where could this coffee had come from?

And then, hours later, I realized that my fellow home roaster Alfonso, yet one of the handful of Pinoys at GCBC, said that while visiting Baguio during the Christmas season, he got good beans from Garcia’s Pure Coffee at the market in Baguio. A couple of weeks back he asked for my mailing address. Mystery solved, this coffee was from Sagada up north. Garcia’s was my first green beans supplier. My very first order from them, I think January 2007, I remember, was also good. And then a few I get lucky, but most times I was disappointed.

When I finally tried the Sagada beans, I remember it’s about the same beans I first ordered from Garcia’s, which I really liked a lot in the early part of my roasting days. I remember having sent a kilo of that coffee to one of the GCBC guys in the US with a Filipina wife, and he liked it too.

So I called up Garcia’s right away, and asked if they still have that coffee from last Christmas. Sorry, Bob, this is a new crop now. I asked for a kilo just the same, hoping it’d be great. The green beans weren’t as great looking as Alfonso got. Cupping time, I didn’t like it, can’t drink it.

But then I made a deal with Tony of Garcia’s — every time he’s got new crop, he’ll send me one kilo for me to try. I’ll pay for the coffee and shipping cost, of course. When I like a coffee, I’d usually hoard 10 or so kilos of the green beans.

And so the search for local green beans continues …


14 Responses to “Exploring more local coffees”

  1. Mindanao Bob on February 14th, 2009 10:17 pm

    Hey ‘ngay,

    What do you mean? I am a reader, and I comment sometimes too!

    I like Kape Balos, but I’ve had it only 3 or 4 times. Too expensive. It’s not good enough to pay that much extra.

  2. Bobby on February 14th, 2009 11:35 pm

    Oh, yeah, I forgot, I actually have 2 readers! :-) So that’s how they call it in Davao, Kape Balos? Good for you you like it.

    When you gonna start roasting?

  3. Mindanao Bob on February 15th, 2009 12:17 pm

    Hi ‘ngay,

    I believe that Balos is actually the Bisaya name for it, or somewhere down around South Cotabato. Given that South Cotabato is quite halo-halo, it could be Ilonggo or something like that.

    I want to start roasting soon, but I am so busy, I hardly have time to think about it! I enjoy reading about your experience, though.

  4. Vikki G on February 23rd, 2009 12:02 am

    Hi Bobby, list me down as one of your regular readers pud. Ang misis kini ni Criocksz nga adik pud ug kape.

  5. Bobby on February 23rd, 2009 9:24 am

    So, Vikki, tell me when you’ll start roasting! ;-) Say hi to Cris!

  6. ron b robles on February 24th, 2009 10:24 am

    Hi Bob,

    I met Dante Pamintuan via GCBC and he was the one who mentioned you last year. Anyways, count me in as a reader of your blog. Very interesting indeed. I am from Quezon City and have been a coffee enthusiast that led to its maturity of sorts when I received my Quickmill Anita in October 2005. Kudos!

  7. Bobby on February 24th, 2009 10:36 am

    Hey, Ron! I noticed you said “received.” Your Anita’s a gift? Who’s the Santa?! Can you introduce me? Hahahah!


  8. Tinoy from Kapatagan on September 8th, 2009 8:05 am

    I’m into farming now after (early) retiring from my job. My area is in Kapatagan, Digos City. I’ve been asking around what’s the best coffee variety to plant and Catimor and Robusta topped the list of the suggested ones. Catimor, according to some is the better variety because it bears fruit all year round (although not that much) and it commands higher price because its (priced) like Arabica. The tree though, some said won’t last long so you have to re-plant after a number of years, I really don’t know if it’s true. Some also suggested Robusta because this is a more lasting variety (a hundred years?) and bears more fruit than any other kind. This is also the variety that a big beverage company is using but the price is much lower than Catimor/Arabica. I hope you can help me in making a decision on what to plant.

  9. Bobby on September 11th, 2009 10:48 am

    You may want to talk to Louie, who leaves comments here every now and then. His family has a farm in Bansalan, so that’s not far from where you are.

  10. Khamhiane on January 27th, 2010 2:05 pm

    I am about to start coffee farm and looking for such info. like Tinoy too. Hoping someone can help. I am from Laos. Probable you might ask where is Laos. So please google it.

  11. M1 on October 11th, 2011 10:07 pm

    I’m interested to send you a roasted coffee. I hope to know what you think about it…. but i dont know where to send it… :)

  12. april on March 2nd, 2012 9:01 am

    i will be conducting a thesis about coffee. specifically on endophytic bacteria on coffee plant. do you know any coffee (Coffea robusta) plantation in Barangay Kapatagan, Digos City?

    hoping for your immediate response

  13. Bobby on March 4th, 2012 8:53 pm

    sorry i’m not from the place. your best bet would be to go to the market of bansalan and ask the coffee compradors there as to where they get their coffee. i haven’t seen a market with so much coffee.

  14. Jtin on May 3rd, 2012 1:59 pm

    Hey everyone! I’m looking for anyone who is or who knows a supplier of variety of coffee beans here in Cebu or any close location. I’m planning to start a business. Thanks and have a great day! ^____^

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