|Civet Cat droppings freshly-picked from the trail|
The trail to a cup of good coffee is not always a paved one -- our hike through the forest of Malarayat takes us through the brush with scenic views of Mt. Susong Dalaga. Apart from some muddy parts, the hike was uneventful but come the rainy season, one can only imagine how slippery the trail can become. This isn't a reality TV show, folks, rather it's the Alamid Cafe Xpress Coffee Tour. An exposure trip for us media people, it seems more of an immersion experience on the coffee culture.
Going the extra mile for coffee. To begin with, venturing to Malarayat in Batangas for a cup of coffee may seem to be too much of a stretch but a coffee fanatic like me will go to great lengths to to get a stab on fresh civet cat brew. I've always known civet cat coffee to come from Mt. Matutum in Mindanao but only recently realized the cats thrive in the mountains of Batangas. We get our freshly-ground, freshly-prepared cup of the sought-after brew at the end of our tour but first, we have to earn it.
Life-changing brew. The Alamid Coffee Tour is part-hike, part-engagement as it gave us the opportunity to meet the people whose lives were literally changed by coffee.
Aling Lucy and her husband are part of a seven member-brood who pick civet cat droppings for a living. Five years ago, Aling Lucy confesses to a disdain for the droppings, avoiding them on the trail like these were ordinary animal wastes. Today, it has enabled her to buy a lot, purchase things for her house and send her children to school. Picking civet cat droppings may be lucrative business but it's hard work scouring the mountainous terrain inhabited by snakes. Still, it is a profitable venture with Alamid Coffee offering the pickers good prices and most importantly, know-how.
At the end of the tour, we also dropped by Brgy. Sto. Niño where Alamid Coffee has helped the cooperative touch bases with a Swiss bank which provided the the MACOFA (Malarayat Coffee Farmers and Consumer Cooperative) a grant to acquire its own coffee roasting, grinding and packing facilities, helping its over 60 members get better prices for their coffee products.
Despite the hard work entailed by the personal interaction with farmers and pickers, it is in mini-success stories like these that continue to inspire the people behind Alamid Coffee to continue this "sustainable relationships". Perhaps, like good coffee that is best savored one sip at a time, lives are more dramatically changed among coffee farmers and pickers, one community at a time.
Alamid Cafe Xpress is located at the R.O.X. (Recreational Outdoor Exchange) in Bonifacio Highstreet, Taguig City. For more info, visit www.alamidcafexpress.com