Text and Photos by Henrylito D. Tacio
Consumer reports say eight out of 10 adults in the Philippines drink an average of 2.5 cups of coffee every day.
In fact, more and more Filipinos are drinking coffee. Senator Cynthia A. Villar, chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, reported that coffee consumption has grown from only 75,000 metric tons in 2002 to 170,000 metric tons today.
For farmers, this is good news. Unfortunately, they cannot cope with the huge demand.
The Philippine Coffee Board, Inc. (PCBI) said that local farmers can only supply around 35,000 metric tons—about 20% of the country’s annual coffee requirement.
“If we can only increase production in our coffee farms, it would help make our country less dependent on imported coffee,” said Roy C. Alimoane, director of Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center (MBRLC) Foundation, Inc. based in Kinuskusan, Bansalan, Davao del Sur.
Alimoane added that a coffee plant takes three years to grow. But once it matures, a coffee plant bears cherries for about 50 years.
The coffee tree (or bush) belongs to the genus “Coffea.” It probably originated in Abyssinia, the former name of Ethiopia.
The word “coffee” may have been derived from the Ethiopian “keffa” or the Turkish equivalent word “qahveh.” The Arabs call the beverage “qahwa,” which means “strength.”
The coffee’s use as a drink spread through Arabia in the 13th century and it became popular in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries.
In the Philippines, coffee was brought by the Spanish friars in 1740. Since then, the Filipinos have become coffee drinkers.
People around the globe consume coffee in all forms totalling about 100 million bags (one bag weighs about 60 kilos) a year. After oil, coffee is second largest traded commodity in the world.
Some countries largely depend on coffee as their primary source of national income.
Brazil produces more coffee than any other country. Other coffee-producing nations are Colombia, Ivory Coast, Indonesia and Vietnam. Leading consumers of coffee are the United States, Germany, Italy, France, Australia and Japan.
Unknowingly, the Philippines was the fourth largest exporter of coffee in the world in 1880. Ten years later, the Philippines became a net importer of coffee when almost all coffee farms were wiped out by a coffee virus.
“Until the early 1950s, all efforts to revive the industry failed,” Reyes lamented. “It was only in 1995 when a national coffee development program was successfully launched through a special five-year joint project between the Philippines and the United States governments.”
Earlier, in 1975, the Philippines had the opportunity again to export coffee. This was due to the devastating frost which hit Brazil and the political and civil unrest that swept through Angola. Both countries were key suppliers of coffee around the world.
In the early 1980s, Davao region was the major producer of coffee in the country “because of the presence of many coffee planters and producers,” according to a news report. It was when the international organization for coffee collapsed and the price dropped considerably that farmers resorted to planting other high-value crops.
The peace and order situation in the region was also partly to be blamed. The insurgency problem also left big coffee plantations abandoned, leaving coffee produce to the hands of rebels.
Not to mention is the agrarian reform of the government. “Many coffee plantation owners were left with no other choice but to give portions of their lands to agrarian beneficiaries.
As result, coffee production in the country went down. So down that it has to import from other coffee-producing countries. “Philippines is a net importer of coffee,” said the PCBI official. “More than 54% of our coffee is imported from Brazil and Vietnam. Majority of our imports are instant coffees.”
Coffee is very popular around the world because it makes a newly awake person active. Recent studies show that there’s more to coffee than just being an energy booster.
In fact, there are some health benefits a person can get from drinking coffee. Researchers scanned nearly 220 studies on coffee and found that overall, coffee drinkers may enjoy more health benefits than people who don’t drink the brew,
Robin Poole, who led the study, wrote: “Drinking moderate amounts of coffee—about three or four cups a day—is more likely to benefit our health than harm it, our latest research shows.”
Alice Park, in an article published in Time, noted: “Scientists learned that people who drank coffee were 17% less likely to die early during the study period from any cause, 19% less likely to die of heart disease, and 18% less likely to develop cancer, compared to people who did not drink coffee.”
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.
A 1990 Harvard study of 45,589 men found no link between excessive coffee drinking and heart disease.
Research has also shown that regular, moderate drinking does not dangerously raise blood pressure. And studies have failed to substantiate fears that coffee might trigger abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) in healthy people.
“For heart disease, I think the issue is closed,” said Dr. Meir Stampfer, an epidemiologist at Harvard who has studied many aspects of coffee and health. “Coffee drinking at reasonable levels is unrelated to heart risk.”
What about cancer? Until recently, there is no conclusive evidence that caffeine or coffee is a risk factor for the development of human cancer.
In 1990, the International Agency for Research on Cancer held a monograph on “Coffee, Caffeine, Tea & Maté,” the latter being a beverage unique to South American countries. The purpose of this monograph was to assess whether these beverages should be classified as carcinogenic.
Coffee was cleared in all areas with the exception of bladder cancer where there was insufficient evidence available at that time, though several studies have since been published that clearly show no link between coffee consumption and bladder cancer.
A new study, conducted by Dr. Carlo La Vecchia in Italy, showed that “coffee consumption lowers the risk of liver cancer by about 40%,” reported Medical News Today. “In addition, some of the results suggest that if you drink three cups a day, the risks are reduced by more than 50%.”
Then, there’s the case of osteoporosis. Coffee drinking has been implicated because it has been suggested that caffeine causes calcium excretion which in turn results in weakened bones.
However, a British government report 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.”
“We have yet to see any conclusive evidence that moderate coffee consumption is a significant risk factor in the development of osteoporosis,” stated the National Osteoporosis Society in the United Kingdom.
There are more: “Drinking coffee was also associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, gallstones, renal stones and gout,” Dr. Poole reported. “We also found that it was associated with a lower risk of getting some types of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, depression and Alzheimer’s disease.”