Cupping competition highlights emerging Ifugao coffee industry

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The coffee industry in Asipulo, Ifugao got a major boost with the conduct of the first Cupping Competition during the town’s Kulpi’d Asipulo Festival on April 16, 2019. Asipulo has the biggest coffee planting area in Ifugao, a major Robusta coffee producer, with about 1,394 hectares or 55 percent of the province’s total coffee area.

Robusta coffee samples by 21 farmer-members of the Hojap Multi-Purpose Cooperative (Hojap MPC) were rated based on the international standard of cupping and bean grading.

Corazon Wangag, 35 years old, emerged as the first-place winner of the competition, with an average cupping score of 84.06 percent, followed by Leon Donato, 61, who garnered a score of 83.13 percent.  The third place went to Rosita Dumelod, 47, with 82.83percent average cupping score.

According to Coffee Quality Institute (CQI), a non-profit organization working internationally to improve the quality of coffee and the lives of people who produce it, coffee samples which score 80 points or above on a 100-point scale is graded ‘specialty’.

CQI created the industry’s first comprehensive guide of compiled standards and procedures that define fine Robusta coffee. The scoring is based on ten attributes: fragrance/aroma, flavor, aftertaste, salt/acid aspect ratio, bitter/sweet aspect ratio, mouthfeel, balance, uniform cups, clean cups, and overall defects, both taints and forms, of the coffee. The higher the score, the better price it commands in the specialty market.

The average cupping score is derived from the consolidated rating from the four judges tapped by the Philippine Coffee Board, Inc. (PCBI), namely: PCBI’s Robert Francisco, panel chair, Mario Macalalad of Magellan Coffee, Bea Belardo of Belardo Coffee Enterprise and Jennifer Rimando of Ola Farms.

According to Rimando, the coffee submitted during the competition has shown how much the quality of coffee has improved in the region over the years.

“May potensyal ang kanilang kape. Masaya ako dahil na-apply nila ang mga learnings (from the trainings). Suggestions were also given to the farmers to further upgrade the quality of their coffee,” she said.

Another judge, Macalalad, also recognized that Ifugao can now compete in the growing market of the coffee industry.

“Malaki ang inimprove ng kalidad ng kape at sa palagay ko ang mga ganitong mga competition ay makakatulong upang iangat ang kalidad ng Ifugao coffee. Kung mataas kasi ang kalidad it also dictates a better future for the industry,” he said.

Hojap MPC’s Manager Shirley Tagtag meanwhile lauded the passion and dedication of the farmers to develop high-quality coffee products in the province.

“Ang requirement ng market kailangan ng quality. Pag maganda ang kape mo, maganda ang presyo,” she said.

The competition was spearheaded by the Peace and Equity Foundation (PEF), in partnership with PCBI and Hojap MPC.

“We started as a sari-sari store na ang binebenta namin ay basic needs ng mga tao,” Tagtag said.

In 2002, the cooperative expanded its business to include lending services to help their farmer- members with their needs. According to Tagtag, Hojap MPC started venturing into the coffee industry in 2009 when its members participated in an educational trip in Cavite organized by the Department of Agriculture and Department of Trade and Industry.

“When they came home, nakita naman nila (participants) na may kape na sa Asipulo so why not start with coffee,” she added.

After years of catering orders for trade fairs, Hojap in 2014 began its regular coffee production.

“All year round available na ang (coffee) processing and we also started selling green coffee beans,” she said.

To help their farmer members, Hojap MPC conducts trainings; provides lending services to avail agricultural loans; and sells the produce to shield them from unscrupulous traders.

As shared by Tagtag, the cooperative aims to bring back the interest of the people to coffee farming.

“Nung bumagsak ang presyo noong 1980s, napabayaan ng farmers natin ang kape. If we give them sure market and sure price na hindi naman sila malulugi, I’m sure mae-encourage sila (magtanim).”

Hojap MPC, a partner of Peace and Equity Foundation in the development of Asipulo coffee farmers, currently has 962 members. They have been marketing their coffee products like Kesi’melan coffee not only within the province but also to specialty shops, cafes and supermarkets in Manila. HOJAP consolidates the local farmers’ harvests of green coffee beans, and fresh and dried coffee berries for volume-based incentives and better prices.

Hojap MPC is based in the municipality of Asipulo, Ifugao which hosts the biggest coffee planting area in the province with about 1,394 hectares, roughly 55% of the province’s total coffee area. The coop named itself as “Hojap”, an Ayangan term which means Haliap, the barangay where they are currently operating.