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Kape Dose: Brewing success from humble beginnings

Whether you prefer the intensity of espresso or the different varieties of brewed coffee, one cannot deny that the coffee industry has conquered the world. 

In the Philippines, coffee has become one of the most sought after beverages of people from all walks of life.  

Tracing coffee’s humble beginnings

The Philippines came to know about coffee during the Spanish occupation in the 1800s, when a group of friars brought it to the country, planting it in Lipa, Batangas.

Lipa became the production hub for coffee at that time. By the turn of the 19th century, the Philippines had started exporting the commodity, making coffee the second-largest traded good after tobacco.

Today, the Philippines produces high-grade coffee beans such as Robusta and Arabica, which are grown in various provinces of the country like Batangas, Cavite, Benguet, Bukidnon, and Sultan Kudarat, as they have the best climates and soils for better yield and flavor.

Aside from Robusta and Arabica, the country also produces Liberica and Excelsa. Coffee Liberica is locally known as "Kape Barako," a coffee bean that has "floral and spicy undertones" to it and, when tasted, exudes a distinct smoky taste and strong flavor. It is primarily grown in Batangas and Cavite.

The Philippine Coffee Board, Incorporated, describes Liberica as "the world’s rarest type of coffee and is now cultivated mainly in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia."

While sharing certain characteristics with Liberica, coffee Excelsa, on the other hand, has a strong flavor with a tangy, fruity, but dusky profile to its taste. It is more commonly used as a blending variety and as an extender due to its scarcity and potent flavor.

Also, Liberica coffee has an astonishingly low caffeine content compared to Arabica and Robusta coffees, despite its powerful flavor and aroma. For coffee aficionados and enthusiasts, Robusta coffee has the highest caffeine content of the three, with Arabica coming in second.

In Soccsksargen, coffee does not only represent some trendy status, but it also symbolizes identity and culture as a household staple of the indigenous people in the uplands. 

File Photo: The Kape Dose Bar, which the Dept. of Trade and Industry (DTI) XII installed during the launch of the Kape Dose Festival in September 2022, showcases the coffee variants produced by micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSME) in Region XII.

Branding Soccsksargen’s native coffee to Kape Dose

Before, people in Soccsksargen just simply called the local coffee in the area "native" coffee in general. But the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Region XII saw the need to give it a fresh, new brand dubbed "Kape Dose."

Joven Quiriones, information officer of DTI XII, recounts that in 2019, the agency conducted a study titled "Development of a Strategic Collective Brand for Soccsksargen Coffee," which aimed at creating a unique identity, enhancing marketability, and gaining the support of stakeholders.

The outcome of the study, he adds, led to the brand creation of Kape Dose, which is poised to "represent quality and the ‘fine/specialty’ coffee standard for Region XII."

The brand name was launched during the “1st Kape Dose Festival” on September 29, 2022, in General Santos City.

Taking pride in DTI XII’s initiatives in elevating Soccsksargen’s coffee profile among peers in the country, Regional Director Flora Gabunales underscores the importance of branding the local coffee to give it a distinct identity that every individual from Soccsksargen can identify with.

Soccsksargen in general, she says, is positioned to be the coffee capital of the Philippines, being "now the number 1 coffee producer, contributing about 32.4% of the total domestic coffee production."

She also emphasizes the need for people to patronize and appreciate their own regional products, maintaining that “our very own region has the best coffee output to offer the world that everyone could be proud of.”

“The utilization of the Kape Dose brand and adherence to the proposed quality standard led to an improved product quality and marketability of green coffee beans,” Gabunales tells this writer.                                                                      

Because of this, she points out that coffee certified as Kape Dose can now command a price 100% to 500% higher than commercial coffee.

The 1st Kape Dose Festival, which served as a venue to display the best coffee products of Region XII and showcase high-quality green coffee beans from smallholder farmers, also introduced the newly-elected officers of the Region XII Coffee Council that year.

As of now, says Quiriones, "the DTI has scheduled a meeting with its partner agencies next week to finalize the guidelines on the use of the Kape Dose seal quality so we can proceed with our next step, which is already the intensified promotions."

Denz Bert Deramos (in yellow shirt) entertains guests at his family coffee farm in Senator Ninoy Aquino, Sultan Kudarat province. Beside his family, also with him is Coffee Brothers Company owner Kenneth Clint Bajade (in the blue jacket), a Q Arabica grader from South Cotabato province, who mentors and inspires Deramos to pursue coffee farming. (Photo: Coffee Brothers Company)

Positioning Sultan Kudarat as the coffee capital of the Philippines

Among the places in Soccsksargen Region, the province of Sultan Kudarat (SK) shares about 86 percent of the region’s total coffee production, that is, for both dried coffee and green coffee beans.

Because of the more than 26,000 hectares of coffee production area, Sultan Kudarat contributes at least 20,437 hectares, or 78 percent of the total area dedicated to growing coffee.

Adrian Clave Lariba, regional project coordinator of the DTI XII RAPID Growth Project, says that with this huge production area, Region XII has more than enough to supply the increasing demand of the entire country.

He is also confident that the region has a competitive advantage over other regions, citing a particular coffee variant that thrives in the area—Robusta.

In addition, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) also showed that for the first quarter of 2023, the green coffee bean production was pegged at 9.42 thousand metric tons, inching up by 1.3% from 9.30 thousand metric tons in 2022.

Among the coffee products in Soccsksargen, Robusta has shown to be “the most produced type of coffee with 73.5 percent of the total production during the quarter.”

PSA says that coffee Robusta grown in Sultan Kudarat posted 1,873.18 metric tons in the first quarter of 2023, which is 14% higher than 1,643.14 metric tons in the same period of 2022.

Soccsksargen, as PSA notes, remained the highest coffee producer with "3.15 thousand metric tons, or 33.4 percent of the country’s total coffee production for this quarter" followed by Northern Mindanao with a 13.7% share and Davao Region contributing about a 12.3% share.

The Sultan Kudarat Coffee Council and Soccsksargen Coffee Council chairperson, Ronan Eugene Garcia says that the local government of Sultan Kudarat is bent on pushing the designation of the province as the coffee capital of the Philippines.

He acknowledges that such an honor would spell out massive benefits for the province, especially for the coffee growers of the entire Soccsksargen area.

Garcia believes that being declared the coffee capital will have an "impact and favorable" outcome for local businesses and will increase the revenue generation of the province. Aside from that, it would also boost tourism and create job opportunities in the area.

Supporting the roadmap to making SK the PH coffee capital

The Regional Development Council (RDC) XII expresses its support to the Provincial Government of Sultan Kudarat to be officially declared as the "coffee capital of the Philippines."

In March, the RDC XII unanimously approved Resolution No. 38 series of 2023, "Requesting the Senate of the Philippines to Confer to the Province of Sultan Kudarat the Designation of Coffee Capital of the Philippines."

The move also reinforced the resolution earlier passed by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of SK.

Recently, the Sultan Kudarat Coffee Council met for a two-day planning workshop for the crafting of the Sultan Kudarat Coffee Roadmap 2023–2027 in Koronadal City.

The roadmap translates "the vision, mission, goals, strategies, targets, and action plans" in order to further improve the growth of the coffee industry in the SK from this year onwards.

In a written note, Sultan Kudarat Governor Datu Pax Ali S. Mangudadatu spells out the importance of making the coffee industry “an effective instrument for poverty alleviation and lasting peace in the province.”

Garcia insists that "with Governor Mangudadatu taking ownership of this initiative…we will consolidate and process. Sultan Kudarat will be known as a source of fine Robusta in the Philippines.”

He also believes that "we [SK] have long been the champion" when talking about coffee. 

So whatever coffee you want, just name it; Soccsksargen has all the great coffee beans. (CTA – PIA SarGen) 

About the Author

Catherine Apelacio

Information Officer III

Region 12

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