Kape de Barako, anyone?


By Elpidio Estioko

Have you ever heard of kape de barako? Of course you were, but do you know where to buy the almost extinct barako (liberica)?

One matured FilAm lady from Batangas happened to pass by a group of coffee aficionados at Seafood City last Sunday and noticed the 16-ounce pack of coffee lying on the table and said: “Ano yan kape barako? Alamid? You know what, a relative of mine brought some barako when she visited us here in the US but after consuming it, I looked around to buy some, but I found nobody selling them”.

So the demand is there but there are no supplies or they don’t know where to buy them.

David D. Bacho, duly assisted by his wife Digna, coffee trader and owner of CJB Coffee Trading residing in Colma, CA said, “Now it’s available in San Jose and Milpitas area. I have partnered lately with Edgar Madarang of San Jose and Gene Granadosin of Milpitas to sell our 16-ounce kape de barako and other coffee products in the area. It has been selling in San Francisco for the past two years and now it needs to reach to as many Fil-Ams in the area,” Bacho added, “Coffee is our business and our passion.”

Negotiations are going on to put up a Specialty Coffee Shop (Kape de Barako) in Milpitas and San Jose, according to Madarang.

Bacho said his Batangas coffee being distributed here in the US is grown in a 1.2 hectare plantation in Amadeo, Batangas where they plant 1,200 trees. “We bring in the beans from Batangas to the US, process and pack them (handcrafted) here in Colma. We bring them in through airfreight in order to preserve consistency and preserve the characteristics of the coffee, unlike ordering them through sea freight on container vans which contaminates the coffee and it takes months to arrive.”

The seedlings are grown for 4 to 5 months and then they plant them on the soil. After 18 months, the plant starts to bear fruits and harvest time comes in late November or early December. The owners harvest once a year and the cycle starts again. The barako coffee grows up to 6 feet high.

Bacho, a stroke survivor said, “Coffee rejuvenates dead cells in the body. I drink barako in the evening and I don’t have any problem sleeping after drinking it. It puts me to sleep, and not keep me awake, as alleged. The three qualities of barako are, according to Bacho are, “Matapang (strong), walang sabit/suwabe (smooth), and malasa (tasty)”.

Barako coffee or liberica is a rare and exotic coffee found only in the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Borneo, and Liberia. Today, there are only a handful of barako growers in the Philippines and is in the brink of extinction due to farmers switching to planting pineapples and other fruits.