A Coffee Story

No, this may not be the place for the forest Edward Cullen is taking while he traverses in his vampire-ly state, the way he runs faster than a lightning. No. But this is definitely one forest I would love to go back to when I get the chance.

I was with some indigenous people, of the B'laan tribe. This place is their comfort zone, no one gets here without their permission. No one tries to get anything here, because they don't like it. No one hunts in this place. Not without the permit of the Bantay Gubat Chief, the chieftain, or the tribal leaders.

So you may wonder where I have gone to with these pics. I went to Mt. Matutum. I climbed Mt. Matutum.

**Mt. Matutum**
A UNESCO World Heritage Site

It is bounded on the North by Kiblawan and Malalag, Davao del Sur; on the South by General Santos City; on the East by Malungon, Sarangani and on the West by Banga, Koronadal and T'boli, South Cotabato. The area is located within Barangays Kinilis, Landan, Maligo and Palkan of the Municipality of Polomolok; Barangay Albagan, Tablu and Lampitak, of the Municipality of Tampakan; Barangays Acmonan, Cebuano, Kablon, Linan and Miasong of the Municipality of Tupi; Barangays Datalbatong and Datalbita, Municipality of Malungon; all in the Province of South Cotabato and Sarangani. Mt Matutum is a steep mountain north of the town of General Santos in South Cotabato Province. A recent forest cover survey reported that the forest stands on Mt Matutum are found at 1,290 to 2,270 m, and are therefore all montane in type. Mt Matutum has a forest reserve of 14,000 ha, of which c.3,000 ha is reported to still be primary forest. The boundaries of this reserve are used to define the IBA.

The Mt. Matutum is a volcanic cone formed by volcanic uplift during previous period of activity. The geology of the area is dominated by material of volcanic origin. It is classified as a non-active volcanic cone; generally of pyroxene andosite and surrounding areas are classified as volcanic slopes and piedmonts.

Mt. Matutum forms the headwaters and catchment area for several major drainages including the Klinan, Silway and Buayan rivers which empty into Sarangani Bay through General Santos City.

About 68% of the area is characterized by nearly flat rolling terrain, which is generally located at the lower elevations of the protected area boundaries. Highest elevation at the Mt. Matutum is 2, 286 meters above sea level.

Mt. Matutum is host to diverse plant and animal species including the Philippine Eagle. There are 110 plant species and 57 animal species. *** from here.

So yes, I went. You may wonder what the adventure is for, I am really not one whom you'd call adventurous, but there are things that mystify me a lot, and I need to find answers.

One of the magazines of Cebu Pacific "Smile" magazine, contains an article that captured my boss' attention and so she sent me here to check on details.

We were entertained by the tribe, a lovely music to the ears, this is what they welcomed us with. The music filled my ears, it was really overwhelming.

But we weren't supposed to sit and listen to music. We were supposed to investigate on this civet cat who makes the tribe rich. Yes, they are already rich because of the civet cat.

So up we went, and while stopping by for some gasp of air, we also had a chance to pick up wild berries along the way.

Yummy but strange to the taste, it was a sure way to stop for some snacks while trailing along forested mountain. I was super scared because of many things, I am a klutz, and if I mistakenly slip or trip, I'm bonkers. The mountain is so steep and thanks to my Nike sneakers, I survived this trip.

I felt kind of queasy taking each step, but there were a few B'laans watching my every step, and very ready to help in case I make a thud.

After a while of walking, slipping, resting, we are in the coffee plantation.

We are supposed to check the coffee berries, and they seem glorious. There are other trees too. They are so tall, that not even 5 6feet people will equal them.

But the coffee trees are within reach. These red cherries, meaning they are already ripe coffee beans are the favorites of the nocturnal civet cat. They munch on the red ones, getting the sweet meat, and swallowing the whole bean nonetheless. After that the beans are inside the civet's stomach, digestion starts, and also fermentation.

The cat is filled, and after that, unloads it's stock in the forest floors. And this is what the tribe is handpicking in the early mornings.

Sorry about the image guys, but this civet poo is the golden nugget for the B'laan tribe residing in Mt. Matutum. Most of the tribe is into farming but this farming thing could not really give them the satisfaction of a comfortable life. And so the planting of the coffee trees are done, and they do it to preserve the civet's sanctuary.

The civet poo, while on its way to the tribe's center, is being washed and washed again. The bean is still intact because of the endocarp covering the beans. The endocarp is never cracked so no amount of anything dirty is entered into the bean. After that process, for the beans to be made into coffee, they are being roasted thru Rearden Technology here in Gen Santos City.
After being processed and ground to be coffee granules, or coffee powder, they are of course supposed to be taken as the favorite drink of most people - coffee. Only, this is not your ordinary kind of coffee.

How will the tribes get rich because of this, you might ask. They get rich because after waking up in the early morning and setting foot on the wet mountain, they get to handpick the civet poo and as much as they could gather, they can sell to a trader for a much bigger amount than what they can get for the normal coffee beans. For normal coffee beans, they sell at P80.00, while they sell P800.00 per kilo of the civet poo beans. What difference, right? So that's why they are so careful of not ruining the environment, they not only help the watershed, they also help their families hit big.

After our trip to the mountain site where the coffee plantation is located, we went back to the tribe center, and what relief that gave us. My knees were soft and wobbly but my heart stopped when they served us this! Kapeng Alamid!

Others call it that, here in Gensan, where the tribes call the civet cat "balos", we refer to the coffee as "Kafe Balos".

And guess how much does that coffee is in other coffee shops? P300 per cup. I am not kidding. Yes, as many as I can google, many restaurants and coffee shops here in our country serve this coffee for P150-300. And yes, they say this is the most expensive coffee in the world. The bag of 1 kilo ground coffee, is guess what? P8,000.00.

In the mean to preserve the environment and the tribe's sustainability, the tribe made this little nursery, with coffee as the main plant, to be scattered in the forest floors. That way, when the coffee is blooming and bearing fruit, it will entice more civet cats to dwell in the area, eat the berries and unload their stock in the forest floors. Get the logic?

Coffee Seedlings in a Nursery in Kinilis, foot of Mt. Matutum.

And after everything has been made to perfection, and we have tasted the sweet and chocolatey coffee, we are proud to have been satisfied and our questions have been answered.

Today, the supplier here in General Santos is our friend, and he asked for hubby's help in making his packaging. He is exporting to other countries that's why we have to give him the best packaging that will catch the interest of consumers, we made him this:

click on image to enlarge

They also sell regular coffee beans, I have mentioned and the beans are made into this regular coffee. You may want to try this coffee too. You may want to contact the supplier at greentropics_coffee@yahoo.com to try this very Philippine made delicious beverage. I swear, I have tasted it and it's good, very very good. Besides, this is helping the B'laan community in Mt. Matutum.

click on image to enlarge


Anonymous said…
Oh, my, gosh!!! I wish I could try this. You know by my name that I kind of live off of Java, (coffee) and this would surely be unique. You are so lucky you got a chance to learn all about this and to try it too- thank you for sharing your experience with me, I love this post! You are such an interesting person :)
Sinta said…
Thans for sharing a lovely account on your recent adventure :) Only 800 pesos? That stuff goes for a lot more here in Europe. I think it's a delicacy. I've never tried.
teeni said…
Very interesting stuff here. I had heard of this coffee before but I learned much more about it by reading your post. Now it makes sense why they would be so protective of the environment. I don't think I could ever afford that coffee but I'm not a big coffee drinker. Still, I enjoyed learning more about it. Thanks!
sheng said…
@JQ: It's really fascinating when One can travel up mountains. I thought I wouldn't survive the trip. It was hard, but overwhelmingly fun, and informative. And I feel the inspiration from the tribes. They are so industrious, from waking up so early and farming again after they have gone up the forest floors.

@Teeni:They love their environment. I guess it inspired me to be all the more loving to Mother Nature.

@Sinta: When you get back to the Philippines, you might want to try this coffee. I saw your pics in Flickr, hope you had a nice trip to Boracay. I will be having a Bora-experience soon too.
witsandnuts said…
A wonderful experience you had! I always wanted to try kape alamid even before I left. Till I totally lacked time. I'll try it this December.
Jeanny said…
wow sheng....what a great adventure. Love the photos..thanks for sharing...

We filipino are very lucky to have such great gift of nature ;)
Hi Sheng. Thanks for sharing your coffee stories and pics. They made me miss home!
Blue Rose said…
thank you so much for sharing your stories here sheng.

totoo pala tong kwentong ito. about chivet poo. actually, i heard about this story kaya lang akala ko dinidiscourage lang nila ako to drink coffee. hahaha. pero since sabi mo malinis naman pala. iinom pa rin ako ng kape...hehehe. coffee addict ata ako!
ms firefly said…
and i missed the mt. matutum trek because you were too late in inviting me for a climb. arrgh.

perhaps next year sheng? if kj won't tag along to the phils, i'm sure going up there! updan mo gid ko!
caryn said…
cool. we have civet coffee in mindanao! is it expensive? i heard it was. how did it taste like sheng?
bariles said…
hello sheng! was supposed to write about this gourmet coffee too.

but you wrote a very detailed and engrossing account of your trip that i will just link this post to mine.

ok lang ba?

and hey! can you help us with the MBS2? we would love to have you on board as a member of the soccsksargen convenors collective.

please leave a message at my blog if you can.

daghang salamat. ayo-ayo! :)
BlogusVox said…
Hi Sheng, just dropping by to pay you a visit.

I used to drink brewed coffee, 2 to 3 cups a day, pero naging magugulatin ako. So I cut back to only 1 mug and instant coffee nalang.

BTW, I like your blog. Clean and organized… just like mine. : )

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