I woke up very slowly this morning. I drank a little too much coffee before my shift at the coffee shop, leaving me jittery and moving too quickly.
On Sunday morning, we leave for the Philippines. I’m trying to prepare, but there’s only so much I can do – in the past, our well-constructed ‘plans’ have dissolved on island time. Best not to structure things to rigidly.
I’m inhaling books and research and vocabulary builders, but for the most part, I am all too aware that even the best guides cannot prepare me for coffee growing and exporting. Nothing can prepare me for the questions I don’t know how to ask.
Who am I kidding? I’m a barista.
I have never tended the soil. I’ve killed all my houseplants. And now we have a hectare of red bourbon on ancestral fields abroad, and I am trying to pretend I know what I’m doing.
One one hand, it is very reassuring to know that the Ibaloi tribe, at its very core, is a tribe of farmers.
It is also reassuring to know we have a handful of resources in the Philippines, and are gaining even more here in the States.
But in just a few days I’ll be touching down in Luzon with my Ibaloi husband, learning firsthand just how to prepare for our first harvest. We’ll be discussing the building of a community dry mill for specialty coffee in the valley between Atok and Baguio City with neighboring farmers. We’ll be coffee crawling through Manila, and cupping existing Philippine coffee.
We’ll be talking about subjects that seem way over my head – exporting, importing, taxing.
Once this coffee is imported… it’s our job to roast it! And I am not yet a roaster, although I do know many more roasters than I do coffee farmers on this side of the industry.
Of course, to roast it, we’ll need a facility…
… and to have a facility with our own roasted coffee means owning a cafe….
… and to own a cafe means I’ll pour my heart and soul into building a small restaurant, because it’s been a longstanding dream to own a food service establishment.
And to own a cafe means to employ experts in the service world, and provide opportunities to travel overseas to visit the coffee farm, and the mill, and experience the harvest season. To crack the door of sustainable agriculture open a little further.
And it all starts right here, at the very beginning, with a seed in the soil.
The best part is, it actually started much further back – coffea plants growing in Ethiopia, khave discovered as a coveted beverage in Yemen, the theft of coffee plants to be grown in Dutch colonies, brought to America’s attention after the Boston Tea Party. Passed down until the day I stumbled into a coffee shop and met Isaac, an Ibaloi, whose tribe has grown coffee in the Philippines since its earliest history.
And we get to continue that history. We get to grow coffee with the knowledge of farmers and merchants. We get to serve coffee with the culinary knowledge of thousands of people before us, served to people who will one day sit in our cafe planning the revolutions of the future.
It is very exciting, and daunting, and adventurous.