Coffee : Now The Good News
What is one of the world’s most popular drinks? Coffee. In the Philippines, 8 out of 10 adults drink an average of 2.5 cups of coffee every day.
The popular drink comes from an evergreen tree, which was first discovered in Ethiopia, where its red, cherry-like berries (generally containing 2 seeds per berry) were used for wine and food before A.D. 1000. Its beans are first ground and roasted and made into a drink during the 15th century in the Arabian Peninsula. Coffee later spread throughout Europe since the 17th century.
“In the Philippines, coffee has a history as rich as its flavor,” says the National Coffee Development Board (NCDB), whose main objective is to develop and promote the Philippine coffee industry through technical assistance and credit programs for coffee farms and through marketing and promotions of coffee for domestic and export markets.
History records show that the first coffee tree was introduced in Lipa, Batangas in 1740 by a Spanish Franciscan monk. From there, coffee growing spread to other parts of Batangas like Ibaan, Lemery, San Jose, Taal, and Tanauan. Batangas owed much of its wealth to the coffee plantations in these areas and Lipa eventually became the coffee capital of the Philippines.
“By the 1860s, Batangas was exporting coffee to America through San Francisco,” the NCDB- records. “When the Suez Canal was opened, a new market started in Europe as well. Seeing the success of the Batangenos, Cavite followed suit by growing the first coffee seedlings in 1876 in Amadeo. In spite of this, Lipa still reigned as the center for coffee production in the Philippines and Batangas barako was commanding five times the price of other Asian coffee beans.”
In 1880, the Philippines was the fourth largest exporter of coffee beans, and. when the coffee rust hit Brazil, Africa and Java (Indonesia), it became the only source of coffee beans around the world.
Today, however, the Philippines produces only 0.012% of the world’s coffee supply. Majority of coffee produced in the country comes from the mountain areas of Batangas, Bukidnon, Benguet, Cavite, Kalinga Apayao, Davao, and Claveria. About 164,139 hectares of agricultural lands are planted with coffee, employing at least 300,000 Filipinos.
The recent worldwide popularity of special brews and exotic blends of coffee gives a sliver of hope to the Philippine coffee industry. This new trend might be the breath of life that the Philippine coffee industry needs to savor once again the taste of its coffee’s golden years.
There are a number of coffee varieties, but the four most common are Arabica, Liberica, Excelsa, and Robusta. The most important variety is Arabica, which accounts for 72 percent of world production. Arabica is an early bearer. Two years after transplanting, it produces berries. Generally, a full-grown and well-managed one-hectare farm can yield 1,000 kilos of green beans. This variety, however, is susceptible to coffee rust, which almost wiped out the coffee industry in the country.
The second most important commercially is Robusta, accounting for 27 percent of world production. The tree is more widely adaptable than Arabica, but it does best in warm equatorial climates. Large areas of Southeast Asia are suitable for its production. A well-tended one-hectare field can yield about 1000 kilos per year of green coffee beans.
Liberica, commonly called kapeng barako, produces the biggest berry. It is noted for its very strong taste and color. Trees are upright with straight trunks. Berries are round, borne singly or in small cluster with thick and firm pulp. This variety is drought-resistant and bears berries 4-5 years after transplanting. A one-hectare farm planted to Liberica can yield about 1,000 kilos per year.
Excelsa is similar to Liberica except for its smoother, thinner, and more rounded leaves with smooth edge. The berries are ovoid and a little compressed having a flat form. Like Liberica, its bearing age is 4-5 years after transplanting and has an approximate annual yield of 1,000 kilos per hectare.
“The Philippines is one of the few countries that produce the four varieties of commercially-viable coffee,” the NCDB states. “Climatic and soil conditions in the Philippines-from the lowland to mountain regions-make the country suitable for all four varieties.”
Why is coffee getting popular again among Filipinos? “Coffee’s popularity is also largely due to the fact that it is a soothing, flavorful drink that has become very easy to obtain,” the NCDB says. “Farmers and sellers have made sure anyone who wants a cup of coffee can get one. Coffee producers have created so many ways of packaging and serving the brew that this guarantees that one form or another will appeal to just about everyone.”
Coffee shops, market places, farms, and of course, the groceries, supermarkets, convenience stores, and in the Philippines-the sari-sari store, all have made sure coffee is accessible to anyone at anytime. Coffee dispensers in supermarkets allow the aficionados to customize the selection, weight, form, and cost of the coffee they purchase.
In the past, coffee had been seen as something that is not good for your health. But in recent years, medical opinion about coffee is changing.
Sure, massive intake of caffeine (of which coffee is loaded), or any other substance isn’t good for you, but moderate intake, the way most people drink coffee, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can even have specific benefits for your health.
For years the public was warned of the dangers of coffee. In one well-publicized New England Journal of Medicine study released in 1981, researchers found a link between coffee and pancreatic cancer. But when at least seven other studies failed to back up that finding, those results had to be retracted.
Now, more than 19,000 dietary caffeine studies have been done, and many experts agree that moderate daily caffeine intake-300 to 400 milligrams, about 3 to 4 cups of coffee-is not harmful.
The idea that coffee is bad for your heart pops up periodically. A Finnish study found that even those people who averaged five to six cups of coffee per day were not at a higher risk for developing heart disease than non-coffee drinkers. On the other hand, a Harvard study of 45,589 men, published in 1990, found no link between excessive coffee drinking and heart disease.
“For heart disease, I think the issue is closed,” says Dr. Meir Stampfer, an American epidemiologist at Harvard University who has studied many aspects of coffee and health. “Coffee drinking at reasonable levels is unrelated to heart risk.”
Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones are weakened, which in turn can lead to an increased risk of fractures occurring. Osteoporosis may be caused by many different factors, which collectively result in a weakening of the bones to such a degree that they break easily. Cigarette smoking, lack of exercise, and poor nutrition are all well-established as playing a role in the development of this condition.
Coffee drinking has been implicated because it has been suggested that caffeine, which is naturally occurring in tea, coffee, and chocolate and added to cola and some energy-type beverages, causes calcium excretion which in turn results in weakened bones. However, a government report from the United Kingdom on Nutrition and Bone Health which looked at all the available evidence concluded that concerns about loss of calcium in the urine due to caffeine intake, “are not well founded.”
The National Osteoporosis Society in the UK state that, “We have yet to see any conclusive evidence that moderate coffee consumption is a significant risk factor in the development of osteoporosis.” On the other hand, the Osteoporosis Society of Canada says that two or three cups of coffee are not harmful if you get enough calcium in your daily diet. “As long as women consume adequate calcium (1,000 to 1,200 milligrams per day), caffeine is not a significant risk factor for osteoporosis,” says one expert.
Meanwhile, the US Food and Drug Administration classified caffeine as “generally recognized as safe.” The American Medical Association stated that “moderate tea or coffee drinkers probably need have no concern for their health relative to their caffeine consumption provided other lifestyle habits like diet, alcohol consumption are moderate as well.”
By Henrylito D. Tacio