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International coffee group says local brew remains largely an unknown commodity abroad

In Photo: World Coffee Events Creative Director Amy Ball

Despite the strong growth of coffee shops in the Philippines, the Filipino brand of coffee has yet to have a wider presence in the international market.

World Coffee Events, a group that is part of the Specialty Coffee Association of America and Speciality Coffee Association of Europe, said the world has yet to be fully aware of the Filipino coffee beans.

“In the United States I know there is an awareness of coffees in the Philippines, but it is not common to see beans from the Philippines in specialty cafés. But I know they are always looking for quality coffees everywhere, and I know there is interest in developing more of a sort of a specialty commodities market here,” World Coffee Events Creative Director Amy Ball said.

However, Ball said the Philippines is slowly gaining a name for itself in the world’s coffee industry through its representatives who have continued to rank high in the annual Word Barista Championships.

Ball commended the progress the Philippines is making in its bid to professionalize the country’s coffee shops.

“There is a difference now in food-and-beverage training, and they understand the specific skills of the job, and that is a really cool thing to standardize and professionalize, so that shows there is some traction and some progress,” Ball said.

Meanwhile, Philippine Asia Conferences and Exhibitions President May Juan said there is now a boom in coffee shops across the country, noting that the number of independent coffee players has exceeded those from popular franchises.

“According to research that we have seen, there are more independent cafés and coffee shops compared to franchises. But, of course, these franchises are still strong in marketing. This is also the case for restaurants. Not that we want to kill the franchises, but it is good to see that there are more independent players.  This will show that our country is indeed progressing.  You have to create a balance,” Juan said.

Juan, whose company will be handling the Philippine Restaurant, Café and Bar (Philresca) Expo in March, said there are now also more companies supplying equipment for café businesses.

Philresca will be the first trade event focusing on restaurants, cafés and bars.  It will also host the Philippine National Barista Championship and Philippine National Latte Art Championship, where the winners will represent the Philippines at the world championship in South Korea in November next year.

Outside of coffee shops, Juan noted that full-service restaurants and fine-dining centers in the country are now revisiting Filipino cuisines.

“Mostly the food here is modernized, so the authenticity is a bit lost. If you go to Thailand or Vietnam, they have some sort of ownership of their food.  Here in the Philippines, adobo alone has different versions,” Juan said. “So there is a debate. When you talk of adobo or sinigang, we have to know its history. Is it really a Filipino or a Spanish dish?”

Juan said they will be working with institutions like Culinary Generals & Razor Chef Philippines in a discussion of traditional Filipino food, and how there can be a single identity that can be presented to the international market.

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