Kape Tayo: Connecting Cultures through Coffee

  Coffee hour at one of Vancouver's famous coffee jaunts.

Coffee hour at one of Vancouver's famous coffee jaunts.

By Iona Fresnoza, Groundswell community member

Vancouver is a coffee-crazed city.  With its cool clouds and almost always rainy weather, it just makes so much sense to have a cup of joe first thing in the morning and at anytime throughout the day.  Did you know that Canada's per capita consumption of coffee is among the highest in the world, third globally, according to a Euromonitor research.

I moved to Canada more than a year ago, not really expecting I would live away from my beloved homeland.  Among the things that helped me with the transition was the presence of small, independent cafes, micro-roasters, and people who love coffee.  Being here meant growth in my coffee education, and the wonderful opportunity to connect with likeminded folks about the simple joy of having a great brew.

It was in a cafe here where I met a fellow immigrant who would be instrumental in getting me started with my first job in the city; it was over cups of coffee when I learned so much from a mentor about navigating the complex Canadian workplace; it was in our coffee shop back home where I met my husband; and it was at the Groundswell Café where I learned all about community and social ventures! 

There are various coffee traditions around the world, and the best part about it is that no matter the method, coffee always brought people together.  In Africa, brewing coffee is a big social event; everyone gathers around a fire, while the women roast, grind, and prepare coffee. In North America, coffee gets people through the morning rush; while the Italians and the French have somehow mastered and perfected cafe culture, and the art of enjoying time for oneself and others without rushing from day to day.

Isn’t it inspiring to think how a humble cup can so powerfully connect people?

Coffee in the Philippines

In the Philippines, coffee culture did not catch on until the beginning of the millennium, when cafes started sprouting like crazy.  There was a sudden trend of people hanging out in coffee shops.  Pinoys were then getting their caffeine fixes in big chains and foregoing their usual instant coffee at home.

  Philippine arabica coffee.  Photo courtesy of Coffee AID volunteer JC Caldo.

Philippine arabica coffee.  Photo courtesy of Coffee AID volunteer JC Caldo.

However, little did Filipinos know that in the Philippine highlands, there has been a coffee-growing industry all along.  

In fact, our country used to export coffee, but with the lack of funding and financial support, coffee production declined.  Up to now, we have to rely on private initiatives to spur the development of coffee farming, harvesting, and processing in backyard farms.

Learning about this need has converted me from being merely a coffee consumer to being a coffee advocate.  

  The Cordillera region in the Philippines has the ideal altitude and the climate for growing high quality coffee. Above is a photo of the Luisito family's drying patio.

The Cordillera region in the Philippines has the ideal altitude and the climate for growing high quality coffee. Above is a photo of the Luisito family's drying patio.

Passion for Coffee

I can perhaps attribute this passion for coffee has grown in me from the many blessed years getting to know a remarkable community of coffee farmers in the Cordilleras (the region where I was born) - a group of very hard-working growers who have inherited this livelihood from their great grandparents, and what they will pass on to their children, too.

Since 2005, I have been happily volunteering and organizing programs for Coffee AID (Assistance for Indigenous Development), a non-profit bringing coffee farmers and coffee enthusiasts together.

Many hands make light work.  So twice a year, Coffee AID takes volunteers to work in the farms to plant, harvest, and process coffee - letting young professionals, coffee enthusiasts and coffee newbies alike, become part of the inspiring coffee story.

Though a small organization, we were committed to make a difference in the lives of coffee growers and their families through fair and direct trade practices, promoting community and capacity-building programs, and helping farmers with sustainable farming and harvesting practices.

  Coffee AID volunteers taking a break from harvest duties at Nana Meldina Calubsing's farm.  She's the cheerful lady, seated in the centre. 

Coffee AID volunteers taking a break from harvest duties at Nana Meldina Calubsing's farm.  She's the cheerful lady, seated in the centre. 

I left my heart in the coffee mountains — for I have always pined for those trips to the farms —- and I just knew I needed to do something to bring it closer.   What followed was this inkling, this dream of a social venture that would bring the story of Philippine coffee to Vancouver.  

Sharing Cultures through Coffee

Last year, Coffee AID has started to introduce directly-sourced, fair-traded, organically grown Philippine coffee (from Coffee AID farmers, of course) to the city of Vancouver.  Our mission is to elevate Philippine coffee to specialty level and expand their market.  Through our pop-up coffee booths at the Groundswell Community Marketplace this summer, Coffee AID offers single-origin coffee beans (in limited edition sampler packs!) and by-donation brewed coffee.  Watch out for our upcoming coffee appreciation workshops too where we'll share stories the Philippines' indigenous coffee farmers.

Also, and only at the Groundswell Market this summer, Coffee AID is introducing Kape ('coffee' in Filipino), Vancouver's first Philippine speciality coffee brand.  Be among the first to try this unique brew and learn about what makes it special: visit our booth this summer! 

Every cup has a story, and through each coffee shared, we aim to tell the story of Filipino perseverance, patience, and hospitality - in a transformative and lasting way.

Join us in this journey of connecting cultures through coffee.  Tara, kape tayo! (Let’s have coffee!)

Be the first in Vancouver to try specialty coffee beans from the Philippine highlands! Visit the Groundswell Community Marketplace on Granville Island Tuesdays 11am-4pm all summer.  Stay tuned for coffee tasting & appreciation talks - email iona@coffeeaid.net to join.