For many people living in the Philippines, coffee is a way of life. From breakfast to dessert, you can find a cup of hot coffee accompanying most meals. While Philippine coffee might not be the biggest player on the stage, many varietals have made a name for themselves amongst U.S. coffee enthusiasts in recent years.
Thanks to its tropical climate and rich, fertile soil, the Philippines is one of the few countries to produce all four types of coffee beans, including robusta, arabica, liberica, and excelsa. While more than 90% of coffee to come out of the Philippines is robusta, there are plenty of other delicious regional coffee brands in the Philippines to try out as well. Here, we’re going to go over some of the best beans and brews to come out of the Philippines.
Also known as Batangas coffee, Kapeng Barako is one of the most well-known Filipino coffees in the U.S. and other Western countries. It's a liberica species that comes from a large, robust coffee tree that produces a sizeable harvest. However, it's also susceptible to coffee rust, making it more difficult than other types to dry, roast, and store.
Typically, Kapeng Barako has a bold, almost spicy flavor. You can taste many strong flavor notes, including anise and dark chocolate. A cup of Batangas coffee makes a delicious after-dinner treat, but for local coffee drinkers, it accompanies just about every meal.
Benguet Arabica Coffee
This coffee bean is harvested in the Cordillera Administrative region, or CAR. This is a mountainous, rocky area that tends to be colder than the surrounding farmland. As a result, coffee beans grown here tend to be bright and acidic. Often, coffee will have floral and fruity notes.
Not all coffee from the Benguet region is harvest in the traditional way. Some beans are collected only after passing through the digestive tract of the civet cat. These beans are prized as delicacies and lend civet coffee, also known as Kopi Luwak,” a unique earthy flavor.
Sagada Arabica Coffee
This varietal comes from the Sagadaregion of the Cordillera highlands, located in the northern Philippines. Unlike other popular types of Filipino coffee, Sagada arabica isn't mass-produced. Instead, it remains a relatively rare heirloom varietal brought over from Spain in the late 1800s. Often, it's grown and harvested on small family farms.
Sagada Arabica is light, mellow, and has little acidity. Most people prefer it in a medium to dark roast, though it can make a pleasantly mild cup of breakfast coffee. However, thanks to its sweet notes of cocoa and caramel, Sagada Arabica is often reserved for after meals.
Also known as Sulu robusta, this is another heirloom varietal that originally came to the Philippines from Prussian merchants in the mid-1800s. It’s now a staple amongst locals and has recently made a name for itself in the international coffee industry.
Like other popular Filipino coffee beans, Kahawa Sug is grown in small batches that are carefully treated and processed for superior taste. It doesn't have much acidity or bitterness compared to other robustas, but instead, it has a bold flavor with a sweet aftertaste.
Bukidnon Tribal Arabica Coffee
Though it’s a newer varietal, this arabica coffee has quickly gained popularity both in the Philippines and across the United States. It grows around Mount Kitanglad at higher altitudes than many other beans, giving it a bright, acidic taste.
As the name suggests, this arabica bean is cultivated and harvested by local tribes. The Daraghuyan people are famous for treating each bean with care to create a complex flavor profile. This arabica is sweet, with notes of caramel and brown sugar.
Bukidnon Tribal Robusta Coffee
This coffee is also cultivated by tribes that are local to the Maramag, Bukidnon region. A cooperative of women is tasked with coffee production, harvesting, and processing the beans in small, carefully dried, and roasted batches.
These robusta beans are grown at a lower elevation than Bukidnon Tribal Arabica beans, giving the coffee a bolder, less acidic flavor. It has a light, floral aroma and afternotes of dark chocolate, making it a popular choice amongst morning coffee drinkers.
Popular Philippino Coffee Brands
Since Filipino coffee first hit the U.S. market, brands have popped up nationwide selling popular varietals such as Kapeng Barako and Kahawa Sug. Some of the most popular coffee brands out of the Philippines include:
Coffee Production in the Philippines
The Philippines is ideal for coffee production thanks to its tropical climate and rich, fertile land that rivals Hawaii's volcanic soils. However, harvesting and processing tend to be a little bit different in the Philippines coffee industry than in other regions. While the tropical climate can help coffee trees thrive, the same heat and humidity can lead to coffee rust and rot on mature coffee beans.
Since coffee often arrives wet for processing, green beans are most often boiled and dried in an airtight space before processing. This extra step can bring out more flavor in each bean and even introduce new earthy notes that define many popular Filipino coffees.
The Philippine Coffee Board supports local farmers and helps to push the Philippines to the forefront of fine coffee production and maintain quality standards for brands. They endorse sustainable, fair trade practices and offer training and certification programs for locals to promote the coffee industry.
Unique Ways to Brew
For the most part, Filipino coffee is brewed like any other style of coffee. Most people serve it black and strong, some with a little bit of cream or sugar to mellow out the flavor profile. Traditional black coffee is often referred to as Barako coffee, or simply Kapé.
For coffee enthusiasts that want to spice up their brewing routine, coffee jelly is another popular way of consuming Filippino coffee. To make this sweet, chilled treat, simply mix your favorite coffee blend with condensed milk, whipping cream, sugar, and gelatin. Boil, then place into the refrigerator until set and ready to eat.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Filipino Coffee Arabica or Robusta?
According to the Philippine Coffee Board, the country is one of the few in the world that produces the main varieties of coffee: Arabica, Excelsa, Liberica (Barako) and Robusta. Most Filipino coffee is the robusta variety. Robusta is stronger in taste and has higher levels of caffeine than the most produced variety in the world, Arabica.
What kind of coffee is Barako?
A variety of Liberica, Barako coffee is harder to find that the more commercialised Arabica and Robusta in the Phillippines. Barako means boar or hog in Tagalog. The coffee has a strong flavor and aroma and according to the Philippine Coffee Board, a distinctive characteristic is its fruitiness.
What is the importance of coffee in the Philippines?
According to Statista, revenue in the coffee market of the Philippines economy amounted to US$4.5 Billion in 2020 and continues to grow. The Philippine Statistics Authority states that there are over 1/4 million coffee farms in the country. The majority of coffee farmers have an average farm size of one to two ha, with most farms owned by the farmers themselves. So the industry contributes a large amount to the economy in terms of revenue and employment.