The roasting company announced the release of its Philippines Set, a historic move to revive specialty-coffee production in a country that was once a top producer.
BY EMILY MENESES
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Feature photo courtesy of Blue Bottle/Selina Viguera and Annaliese Hazen
On February 28, Blue Bottle announced the latest installment of its Horizon Series. The new release, called the Philippines Set, is a historic move to help bring Philippine coffee back to the forefront of the specialty-coffee world. The release is a collaboration with Kalsada Coffee, which Carmel Laurino started with the goal of reviving Philippine coffee production and empowering Filipino coffee producers.
The Philippines Set includes two coffees: the Sitio San Roque Typica Sweet and the Sitio San Roque Anaerobic Natural. Blue Bottle describes the release as an “exploration in the resurgence of Philippine coffee,” alluding to a new wave of coffee production from a region that has been underrepresented in the coffee world in recent years.
We’ve previously discussed how the Philippines was once a top coffee producer, with coffee production thriving in the country for almost a century. Then, in 1889, an outbreak of coffee leaf rust destroyed nearly all of the nation’s coffee trees. Today, Philippine coffee producers, with the help of names like Kalsada and Blue Bottle, are working to once again create a place for the Southeast Asian country on the global specialty-coffee stage.
To better understand the history of Philippine coffee production and the importance of Blue Bottle’s recent release, we spoke to Matt Lapid, a Los Angeles-based coffee professional and Philippine coffee enthusiast. Matt was first introduced to Philippine coffee when he was living in the Philippines and a coffee producer introduced him to coffee farmers working in Bukidnon.
A Collab To Re-Establish Philippine Coffee Prestige
Matt explains the importance of a big name like Blue Bottle backing Philippine coffee. “It’s a big deal because Blue Bottle is arguably the biggest coffee brand in third-wave coffee,” he shares. “It’s validating for Philippine coffee on so many levels. Nine years ago, when I first shared Philippine coffee with folks in Los Angeles, people were not open to it … there were definitely certain biases at play toward coffees (grown) in Asia at that time.”
Shaun Puklavetz, Blue Bottle’s coffee sourcing and relationship manager, explains what prompted the launch of the Philippines Set. “We (at Blue Bottle) have been interested in Philippine coffee for the last few years,” says Shaun. “This is our first year buying coffee from Kalsada, but we’ve been long-time admirers. Everything finally aligned this year, and we’re excited to finally have these coffees on our menu.”
The Philippines Set comes with coffee from two lots, both from Sitio San Roque. “One lot consists of a variety that local farmers call ‘Typica sweet,’ due to its thick mucilage,” Shaun explains. “This lot is naturally processed, and we were drawn to it for its depth and intensity. The coffee has beautiful complexity (with notes) like dried fruits and clove, along with a deep, caramel-like sweetness.”
“The second lot in the set is an anaerobic natural, consisting of (notes of) Bourbon and Catimor. This coffee is bright and fruit-forward, with a really jammy sweetness,” Shaun continues. “The coffees are great counterpoints to one another. We hope tasting these coffees side by side will convey the broad flavor spectrum within Philippine coffee.”
A Coffee Connection
Selina Viguera, café leader of Blue Bottle’s Abbot Kinney location in Venice Beach, Calif., shared with us her emotional connection to the release of the Philippines set through her Filipino roots. “I first heard of Kalsada on the Twitterverse in 2012 and met Carmel and Lacy (of Kalsada) in Seattle for the first time in 2015 at Expo,” Selina shares. “I was so happy to see Philippine coffee represented in their offerings! I have so much respect for these women and what they’ve done to get coffee from the Philippines (into) the U.S. specialty-coffee scene.”
“In our small café space in Venice, I’ve been able to create an environment that feels like you’re walking into our home, and guests know that my home away from Venice is the Philippines,” Selina says. “As we launch the Philippine coffees, I’ve been given the opportunity to serve a limited amount of the anaerobic natural in my café, and it feels like a dream to be able to share a piece of home with my community.”
Check out more about the Philippines Set here.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Based in Los Angeles, Emily Meneses (she/her) is a writer and musician passionate about culture and collective care. You can regularly find her at Echo Park Lake, drinking a cortado and journaling about astrology, art, Animal Crossing, and her dreams.