November 18, 2009

More than Just a Caffeine Fix: Coffee 101 and My Day as a Barista

I once applied as a Barista for a popular coffee chain. No joke...I really did! Suffice it to say I didn't get the job but when I sent in my resumé, I was under the impression that there really was not that much into making a good cup of coffee. After all, as long as I could follow instructions, that should be enough, right? However, after being able to attend a Coffee 101 Workshop hosted by Ms. Pacita "Chit" Juan, co-chair the Philippine Coffee Board, I realized there is so much more to coffee than meets the eye. Or should I say nose? Good coffee goes beyond just how it smells, looks or is prepared. It starts from how and where it is grown to how it is picked, processed and roasted. Also, it depends on the variety of the coffee. In the Philippines, four varieties are grown and harvested for commercial use. These are Coffea Arabica, Coffea Canephora or Robusta, Coffea Liberica which is popularly known as Barako, and Coffea Excelsa. The flavor you get depends on the variety of the bean. Among the four species, the most fragrant is Arabica. It is also the most widely traded variety. However, the most popular variety here in the Philippines, especially for instant coffee, is the Robusta which is known for its body and strong character. This is why instant coffee gives us a jolt or makes us palpitate quickly, because of the robust quality of the bean. Interesting, huh? Liberica, on the other hand, is more earthy while Excelsa is more fruity.


There is a science behind coffee and an art to mastering it. In fact, during the seminar, I was given the chance to fulfill that dream of becoming a barista. And first attempt was a dismal failure! It seems I didn't pack or press the coffee grounds hard enough, thus when the pressurized water from the espresso machine passed through it, it did not have that good espresso quality. To be fair, when I did it over, I got it right!

Contrary to my beliefs, good coffee does not necessarily have to come from Columbia or Brazil but in truth, we can buy Philippine coffee and be proud of it's excellent quality and flavor.

Prior to the workshop, I knew nothing about the diffrent variants of coffee beans or grounds. Whether it be Arabica or Robusta, all that mattered to me was that it smelled good...and that is was affordable. To be honest, buying coffee beans (especially here in Manila) does not come cheap!  Further, I used to think that "house blend" would be the best option ALL the time. There is a thought process behind what type of coffee to buy, as well as what kind of roast or grounds to choose. For example, the kind of grounds you would choose would depend on how you will be preparing your coffee. This explains why my morning coffee always has a lot of powdery-sediment in the bottom of my cup.I definitely learned a lot about coffee and would love to learn more about preparing it better.  If you already love coffee, you will surely have a deeper appreciation of it if you attend the Coffee 101 workshop yourself. The Philippine Coffee Board also hosts other workshops such as Basic Barista Training.

The seminar was held in Le Bistro, a quiet nook along Valero Street in Salcedo Village. With it's artsy interiors and cozy ambiance, it would be great to hold meetings and Christmas parties at Le Bistro.

photo credits: Jen Juan, a.k.a. SexyNomad :-)

After enjoying the café mocha I had made myself, I was treated to a little token...a bag of Yrong Yrong Blend Coffee! This is the first time I will be sampling this blend which comes from Iloilo. I'm really looking forward to trying it! This Christmas, you may want to try giving your friends, colleagues and loved ones some of the Philipine's finest coffees, especially those who are not aware of all the available local options we have. However, if they are not coffee drinkers, you may want to buy Christmas gift baskets at Echo Store, a local eco-friendly store that aims to promote a sustainable lifestyle by supporting marginalized communities in the Philippines. 

7 stars twinkling:

aajao 11/19/2009 08:10:00 AM  

yay, coffee! this post is nice. i love it just as i love coffee! ;)
i wish i have experienced being a barista too.

Ria 11/19/2009 11:37:00 PM  

it was fun! you should try signing up for the coffee 101 and barista training! :-)

MerryCherry, MD 11/21/2009 09:14:00 PM  

Btw, haven't seen each other in ages! Meet up soon?

Hotchiqqa 11/22/2009 12:36:00 PM  

cool experience! I'm settling for nescafe 3in1 mix.. cheaper and suits my simple sweet love for coffee. hahaha ;-)

Pero miss ko na starbucks sa Pinas. Haha

Ria 11/22/2009 04:51:00 PM  

@ Merry Cherry: yes, i miss you na !!! lets have dinner soon. treat ko dessert sa haagen dazs, promise!

Ria 11/22/2009 04:51:00 PM  

@ Hotchiqqa: ako naman di ko feel gano yung 3-in-1 coffee...but i dont mind instant coffee every now and then.

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