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Davao's coffee and cacao experience: A platform of shared opportunities

Cacao and Coffee are two of Davao Region’s iconic agricultural and culinary products.

Davao Region was the third-top coffee-producing region, contributing 18% of the total coffee production in the Philippines in 2020. The region is recognized for producing high-quality coffee beans. In fact, in 2023 Philippine Coffee Quality Competition, Arabica farmers from Davao del Sur beat entries from other regions.

As for cacao, Davao Is the country’s top producer, with 80% of cacao production coming from the region.  Davao City, renowned for its high-quality cacao and exceptional chocolate goods, has achieved international recognition, securing victories in numerous overseas competitions. In 2021, Republic Act 115471 officially declared Davao City as the Chocolate Capital of the Philippines.

However, there have been few attempts to integrate cacao and coffee into a single culinary experience.The recent Coffee and Cacao Experience held on October 11 at SEDA Abreeza in Davao City aimed to synergize these two highly valued Davao products.

“The Coffee and Cacao Experience is one portion of the Davao Food and Wine Festival, which is to highlight how these two products are very important to the Davao Region and how we grow the best coffee and cacao in the whole Philippines,”  Monica Floirendo-Ugarte, co-founder of the Davao Food and Wine Festival, said.

The week-long Davao Food and Wine Festival from October 7 to 14 backed by the Department of Tourism, aims to bring focus to the region as a significant culinary destination of the Philippines.

The event brings together locally and internationally renowned chefs working with dishes from locally sourced ingredients and top agricultural products like coffee and cacao.

The festival hac 10 culinary events, of which the one-day Coffee and Cacao Experience was part of the well-attended food affairs.

“It’s high time we pay tribute to the dedicated growers, skilled roasters, and creative minds who are leading the charge in local production and consumption,” Floirendo-Ugarte said during the event held at the T’nalak Function Room of Seda Abreeza.

The Coffee and Cacao Experience was a jam-packed day filled with fruitful and relevant activities, which included chocolate-making, coffee-tasting sessions, panel discussions from the different coffee and cacao stakeholders, and an Aeropress Brew-Off competition.

Floirendo-Ugarte said the Coffee and Cacao Experience provided a unique platform for local business owners to connect and collaborate with fellow coffee and chocolate enthusiasts.

"We're introducing innovations on combinations of products and drinks made with coffee and cacao,"  Wit Holganza, cacao producer and chocolatier, said of this rare collaboration.

In the past, she said there was not much interaction; she cites that local coffee shops would source imported chocolate syrups for their products.

“We are very happy to be collaborating for the first time with the Davao Coffee Councill; this is the first time it is happening, and we are really happy because we’ve been wanting to have this romantic pairing with our chocolates and coffee,” Holganza, who is currently an active member of the Davao City Cacao Industry Council, said.

“By doing this cross-collaboration between the two crops (coffee and cacao), we can stimulate demand and increase usage. Yung mga coffee shop owners are still using chocolate syrups that are imported, not made in Davao. So it’s about time we put the spotlight on some local chocolates,” Holganza said.

According to Holganza, the event was participated in by about 14 cacao and coffee businesses, from processors to café owners.

“Coffee and cacao are really a perfect pairing,” Holganza said.

“We are thankful to the key organizers of the food and wine festival to look at the iconic crops of Davao because they know that we really have great cacao beans winning on the world stage, as well as coffee, we have our Mt. Apo coffee winning in international coffee competitions. It was just the right time for us to put the spotlight on our coffee and cacao,” Holganza said.

The enthusiasm for the collaboration was also shared by several coffee business owners.

Monica Floirendo Ugarte (third from left) and Wit Holganza (third from right)

Coffee shop proprietor RJ Lumawag said he joined the Coffee and Cacao Experience to show support for the local coffee community and to see opportunities for the business.

“This event allows us to network with other businesses and suppliers, particularly chocolates, as it is one of the things we are looking to expand, like our chocolate drinks,” Lumawag said.

Hid'n Coffee, one of the new coffee shops in Davao City

A former newspaper editor, Lumawag, along with coffee-loving partners, opened Hid’n Coffee, a forest cabin-inspired coffee shop in a leafy corner adjacent to a business district in Davao City.

He said that with the presence of many coffee shops in the city, there are limitless opportunities for coffee and cacao collaborations.

“The market is there; what I observe is that when a new coffee shop opens, there is a tendency for it to be absorbed by the market,” Lumawag said.

For Monica Floirendo-Ugarte, the success of the Davao Food and Wine Festival will inspire them to hold more similar festivals.“Hopefully we will have more of this, especially for coffee and cacao,” Floirendo-Ugarte said. (RGA/PIA Davao)

About the Author

Rudolph Ian Alama

Regional Editor

Region 11

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