The coffee evangelist

Pan roasting coffee beans with a rice pot.

Pan roasting coffee beans with a rice pot. Photo by Ace Reston

These past months, I’ve been working hard converting fellow coffee lovers to homeroast their own beans for guaranteed freshness.

Only yesterday, I had eight guests who came for a coffee party as I brewed Sumatra Lintong Blue Batak, Kenya AA Nyeri Tambaya, Yemen Mokha Ismaili, Ethiopia Harrar. I roasted two more coffees for the occasion — Ethiopia Yirga Cheffe and Guatemala Huehuetenango — but could not serve it anymore as everybody was already drunk with coffee.

Part of the party was the roasting tutorial, using the most primitive, and least expensive, of roasters — a modified aluminum rice pot with a handle attached, and an egg whisk. (I’ve been using the rice pot these past few weeks coz the motor of my oven toaster with rotisserie broke down. The replacement motor, which isn’t designed to withstand high heat, just couldn’t do the job as it stops in mid-roast as the heat builds up. So until I can have the motor replaced, it’s the rice pot for me, or maybe the Whirley Pop popcorn popper for bigger batches.)
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Sweet guy no more

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I’m a changed man.

It’s been nearly three weeks since I last put sugar in my coffee. So it appears I’m a changed man. Hopefully for good.

But I have to confess that a couple of times since then, when I had to drink coffee in some cafes outside home, I had to put sugar and cream in my coffee. Those were a few times that I just had to force myself to drink coffee for the caffeine.

Since reading a lot about coffee about three years ago, I learned that coffee snobs — the coffee drinkers who roast their own beans usually from the world’s best coffee growing regions — drink their coffee black. No sugar, no cream. For them, putting anything on their coffee is sacrilege.
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Coffe party in Davao with Mindanao Bob

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On a business trip in Davao City last week, I had the chance to drop by Mindanao Bob‘s place, and had another coffee party with friends!

BobM roasted Rwanda COE, Kenya Gethumbwini, Sumatra Aceh, Ethiopia Yirgacheffee, Tanzania Blackburn Estate and I brought some Kalinga beans.

I slept pretty well after that. :D
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Muscovado sugar in my coffee

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I’m a sweet guy, remember? I said that so right when I started this blog. So I put a little amount of sugar in my coffee, about half a teaspoon or even less. Before I started roasting coffee in my kitchen, I used to drink Swissmiss hot chocolate in the morning. And when I ordered from those coffee shops, it’s usually café mocha. I’m sweet, can’t help it.

Over the years, I’ve preferred brown sugar over white. I just like the raw flavor in brown sugar, or maybe it’s just the looks? White sugar is too clean looking, so pure, so refined. That’s just not me. I’m rough.

And then I heard a lot about muscovado sugar. I heard it’s even rawer (there such a word?) than brown sugar. If I remember it right, my friend and fellow coffee guy Danny Ong, of Cotabato City, first introduced me to muscovado sugar. I tried it in his home. I liked it.
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3-in-1, anyone?

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Photo: Roger Marcelo

Yeah, it’s been a long time since I drank instant. But at somewhere in the vicinity of 7,500 feet above sea level, I got no choice really. So I drank that Maxwell House Original 3 in 1!

When my life-long dream of climbing up Mt. Apo, the country’s highest mountain at 9,692 feet, was about to be realized more than a week ago, I was dreaming, too, of bringing my coffee kit there and have specialty coffee in the mountains. In the highest peak, no less.

So the night before we drove to Davao City, then Kidapawan City for our trek up Mt. Apo, I roasted some Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Koke beans. But as I was packing up later that night, I thought it would be too much hassle to bring my coffee gear — a manual travel burr grinder and the Aeropress. My friend Keith was to bring a burner, so there should be no problem heating water there. But the thought that climbing up would be so tiring, and there would be so many of us up there, discouraged me to have specialty coffee somewhere near heaven. It was a tree planting activity with over a hundred participants.
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Coffee and hot bread

My first home-baked bread

My first home-baked bread. (All photos by Arkay T.)

What kept me silent on this blog for some time? It’s coz I’m into another hobby! Not about coffee, but something too closely related to it.

I’m now baking my own bread!

Well, I’m not actually into baking, but I found the baking equivalent of, um, instant coffee — automatic bread maker.

I know I know … you non-rice eating folks knew about this thing for the longest time. But for us Pinoys, this is something as hi-tech and as rare as a dishwasher! (You Americans and Europeans, I bet you don’t have rice cookers at home, right?)

In fact, I heard of the bread machine only about a year ago. I was doing a shoot for a book project of an NGO, the Volunteer Service Organization (VSO) here in the Lanao provinces in Mindanao. I was with the writer, Nicole, a Dutch girl. [From being a journalist to development worker, she’s now into Thai massage!] While having bread in some remote area somewhere one early morning, Nicole mentioned about missing her bread maker back home, of this automated machine that will let her make bread at home without much work, program it so that she’d have hot, freshly baked bread upon waking up in the morning.
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A trip to coffeeland

With ripe coffee cherries. [Photo by Roger]

With ripe coffee cherries. Photo by Roger

My first encounter with a coffee plant was in 4th grade, when our teacher, Mrs. Abragan, ordered me and a classmate to go look for some branches for the class Christmas tree. Candidates were that of a jackfruit, or coffee, coz they branch out beautifully. We saw the coffee tree first. So we cut it. It didn’t cross our mind that there has got to be an owner somewhere. When the farmer saw us, he unleashed his dogs. We ran as fast as we could, the coffee tree in tow. I had to jump through a barbed wire as high as my chest, and hurdled it easily. My slippers didn’t even let go in the mud. So that afternoon, our class had a Christmas tree!

I’ve seen coffee trees since then, the most of them was during a trip to Patikul in Sulu island summer of last year. The coffee culture in Sulu goes way back, maybe coz Sulu has among the oldest history in the Philippines, and the Tausugs’ trade with the rest of Asia is well documented. There, they won’t offer you soft drinks as in the rest of the Philippines; they’d offer coffee instead. But really sweet coffee, poured into your cup from large kettles. The coffee trees were just along the highway, the road connecting Patikul to capital Jolo. As far as I could tell, they were of the Robusta variety. They appear to also just grow everywhere, not really farmed. But going to a coffee farm in a place like Sulu just didn’t cross my mind, and I have no plans, too.

Since getting into this hobby, I’ve long wished visiting a coffee farm. If I’ve been chasing green coffee beans all over Mindanao these past two years, naturally the next move would be visiting coffee farms.
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Cupping at Mindanao Bob’s

Yours truly doing the inverted Aeropress. Mindanao Bob behind me.

Yours truly doing the inverted Aeropress. Mindanao Bob behind me.

So I went to Davao last week for a short meeting on Friday the 13th, then for coffee adventures.

Morning we went to SM to help Bob Martin to select kitchen items for roasting coffee. We got the simplest and cheapest of them all — a small aluminum rice pot, and a colander.

But we started the evening by “cupping” six different kinds of coffees — 5 from the Cordillera area up north in Luzon island, and the Red Sea blend, a mix of beans from Yemen and Ethiopia. Cupping is in quotation marks, coz it’s not the true cupping coffee professionals do. Our method is just to brew it the way we want it (Aeropress & French press), and drink it the way we want it, black or with sugar, or anything.
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Coffee and ice cream

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During my birthday party last night with a mix of Mediterranean and Filipino food, the surprise hit was the dessert, ice cream and coffee combined. We actually first experimented with this on our family New Year’s Day dinner. My wife Miyam unearthed a recipe book of desserts published in the 1960s, and looked for anything with coffee. There she found “Brazilian Snow,” basically vanilla ice cream sprinkled with freshly roasted, finely ground coffee, mixing them, then topped with whipped cream, then garnished once more with ground coffee and, finally, maraschino cherry for a yummy presentation.

It was one nice dessert for a special dinner. But then I’m no fan of the cherry, and I think I didn’t really get the correct whipped cream for the topping from Gaisano.

Last night, my brother Jong brought some ice cream — strawberry and ube (for the longest time my favorite ice cream, along with macapuno). One of the kids got the strawberry from the freezer first, and everybody followed suit.
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Today is my birthday

So yesterday I roasted some of the Red Sea blend (a mix of Yemen & Ethiopian beans) and the last of my Brazil Moreninha Formosa for the usual clan party tonight. My bros and sisses and nephews and nieces are now coffee drinkers, spoiled by my freshly roasted beans.

Birthday coffees

Birthday coffees

So my stash is fast depleting. My birthday gift to myself — I ordered 5 lbs of Yemen beans from the Hufashi mountain range south of Sana’a, the capital, and 10 lbs of natural Yirgacheffe coffee from Ethiopia. From the usual suspects at GCBC.

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