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Latte lowdown: Must-know facts about coffee

Whether it’s 3-in-1, brewed, blended, or iced, coffee remains the staple drink of Filipinos. It’s hard to resist this aromatic beverage that puts the “ooh” in good morning. So don’t just get your quick fix of caffeine, learn more fun facts about our local brew.

Did you know that the Philippines was one of the world’s top producers of coffee sometime in the late 1800s? It was the Spanish who first brought coffee to the country.

Coffee beans from different countries were featured at the Philippine Restaurant, Café and Bar Expo (PHILRESCA). These beans are green and have yet be roasted. Photos: Nikka Sarthou-Lainez

The Philippines is one of the few countries that produces the four varieties of coffee: Arabica, Liberica, Robusta, and Excelsa. Barako belongs to the species Coffea Liberica, which accounts for less than one percent of the country’s commercially grown coffee. Robusta was the top-produced variety in 2016, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.

Coffee is a good wake-up call since it contains caffeine, which is legally addicting. But the caffeine content actually depends on factors like the roasting of coffee beans and the coffee-making process. “The darker the roast, the less caffeine. The lighter the roast, the more caffeine. The more you burn, the higher the temperature—the caffeine gets converted to sugars or carbon,” said Vie C. Reyes, a coffee farmer advocate who is the director of the Philippine Coffee Alliance and CEO of Bote Central Inc. “The longer you extract coffee, the more caffeine you’re getting.” She said that espresso has less caffeine because of the shorter extraction time. Drip coffee, therefore, has more caffeine.

Coffee also has benefits. “Coffee has lot of antioxidants,” said Jay Caragay, a US-based coffee expert. He owns Spro Coffee and was recently in the country to be the head judge of the Philippine National Barista Championship and the Philippine National Latte Art Championship at the first-ever Philippine Restaurant, Café and Bar Expo (Philresca) held at the World Trade Center. Several studies revealed that these antioxidants are linked to potential health benefits such as protection against heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Latte is love.

The Philippines was included in the list of Top 50 Coffee Consuming Countries in the 2013 data of, but we shouldn’t just let coffee run through our veins. Always remember to drink in moderation.

“As with anything, it can be very positive or neutral to you, as long as in moderation. If you’re drinking too much to the point where you’ll get palpitations, that’s probably too much. Everyone is going to be different at how they react,” said Caragay.

As for coffee preparation, Caragay disclosed, “I don’t know if there’s a best way—it’s really about what you prefer or what you have available to you. In the coffee business where we’re making coffee drinks for customers every day, we try to control the different parameters: water quality, water temperature, quality of the coffee, roasting of the coffee, grind size of the coffee, the temperature of the water, and then how much time the water in the coffee are combined will also have a big impact on how the coffee will taste.

“I don’t think that people should necessarily worry about controlling all those parameters tightly at home because that’s not practical. Maybe you should use so much coffee per ounce. We use two grams of ground coffee for every ounce of drink. If I’m making a 12-ounce cup, I’ll use 24 grams. So those are simple ratios. If you start there, you’ll have better results, I think.”

Freshly roasted beans are the best. Reyes said that you could tell so by checking if it still has aroma. “Take it as pure as possible; shy away from flavorings.”

We can’t deny that coffee is really part of our lifestyle—the plethora of international chains and third-wave cafés is solid proof of it. Let’s just try to be more conscious about our choices and choose local so we can support the small coffee farmers and the local industry as we get our daily cup of joe. — BM, GMA News

Tags: coffee