Reclaiming Philippine Coffee with Boondocks Roasters: Part Two

We continue our discussion on Philippine specialty coffee with Boondocks Roasters’ Emil Vanta. 

BY EMILY JOY MENESES
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE

Feature photo courtesy of Boondocks Roasters

Yesterday, we began our two-part discussion with Boondocks Roasters’ Emil Vanta about the Philippines, its history of coffee production, and the direction the specialty-coffee world is moving for the Southeast Asian country. In part one, we discussed how coffee arrived in the Philippines via colonization and how that affected Philippine coffee producers, as well as how Emil, through Boondocks, is trying to put power back in the hands of Filipino farmers.

In part two, we’ll explore the different regions in the Philippines where coffee is being produced, and how Filipinos in both the homeland and diaspora are staying connected to one another through coffee.

Bags of green coffee bags stacked on the back of a trailer at a coffee farm in the Philippines.
Based in Los Angeles, Boondocks Roasters specializes in single-origin coffee from the Philippines. Photo courtesy of Boondocks Roasters. 

The Beauty of Kapeng Barako

Based in Los Angeles, Boondocks Roasters specializes in single-origin coffee from the Philippines. One of the varieties they offer is kapeng barako, aka barako coffee. This variety gets its name from the Tagalog word barako which means “wild boar”—an allusion to its bold and robust flavor profile.

Grown primarily in the provinces of Batangas and Cavite, kapeng barako is known for its boldness and full body, along with its earthy and nutty undertones. Boondocks also describes their kapeng barako as having a “subtle jackfruit sweetness” and hints of nutmeg, peanuts, and dark chocolate, along with a creamy mouthfeel.

A man tends to a coffee tree on a farm in the Philippines.
Through their work, Boondocks aims to put power back into the hands of Filipino coffee producers. Photo courtesy of Boondocks Roasters.  

In addition to kapeng barako, Boondocks sources coffee from Davao and the Cordillera mountains, with a focus on sourcing coffee from co-ops run by women and indigenous communities.

Staying Connected to the Homeland

Boondocks’ co-founder Emil Vanta describes why, as Filipinos living in the diaspora, it’s important to stay connected to the homeland and continue working with people currently residing in the Philippines.

“As a Filipino-American, I believe it’s crucial for our generation to collaborate with individuals in our home country for several reasons,” he shares. “It strengthens our connection to our roots, allowing us to preserve and celebrate our heritage—and it promotes cultural exchange, fostering mutual understanding and growth. By actively engaging with individuals in our home country, we nurture our cultural heritage, contribute to progress, and demonstrate our sense of responsibility while creating a global community that celebrates our shared Filipino identity.”

Three bags of Boondocks coffee, labeled Kapeng Barako from the Philippines.
Boondocks’ kapeng barako, sourced from the Philippine province of Batangas. Photo courtesy of Boondocks Roasters.

Emil remains hopeful for not only the future of Boondocks, but the future of Philippine specialty coffee as a whole. 

“My journey in the coffee world has been challenging at times but rewarding,” he states. “I’ve met so many wonderful people from many walks of life that have encouraged and inspired me throughout this process. I’m very grateful for every moment that has led me here.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Emily Joy Meneses (she/they) is a writer and musician based in Los Angeles. Her hobbies include foraging, cortados, vintage synths, and connecting with her Filipino roots through music, art, food, and beverage.

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