Sagada Gold, A Coffee Worth Treasuring
(by Jhoanna Keith B. Santiago  11/22/2019)

Sagada is a small town in the Mountain Province, reached by travelling the steepy and sloping roads of the rocky mountains of Cordillera, famous for its hanging coffins, cave exploring and spelunking, nature hiking, trekking, and natural wonders. Unknown to many, this town is also home of the Arabica coffee in the Philippines.

The Sagada Arabica Coffee Growers and Processors Organization (SACGPO) which is a 10-year old organization, began planting coffee in 2008 and started their processing four years after.

“We are encouraging every farmer member in our organization to maximize their land, plant coffee, and process quality coffee both for the local and national market.” Mr. Vincent M. Andawi, manager of SACGPO said in an interview.

With the collaborative efforts of the local government in the area, Department of Agriculture – Cordillera Administrative Region (DA-CAR), Bureau of Plant Industry – High Value Crops Development Program (BPI-HVCDP), Sagada Arabica Coffee Council (SACC), Agricultural Training Institute (ATI-CAR), and the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PHilMech) claim that Sagada will be the country’s coffee Arabica capital is fast becoming a reality.

Humble beginnings

The SACGPO started in traditional processing of coffee using mortar and pestle in pulping, and drying of coffee beans in winnowers or burlaps under the sun.

According to Andawi, their traditional method before of pulping increases the number of broken coffee beans while drying under the sun exposes the coffee from dirt and sudden rainfall compromising the quality of their coffee beans.

“We want our coffee to be known as one of the best so we need to comply with appropriate technologies and standards to produce quality coffee that can compete with other local coffee brands”, he added.

Technologies consist of PHilMech developed coffee pulper which lessens the breakage of the coffee beans. The usage of All-Weather Dryer enhances the quality and efficiency in drying the coffee beans by avoiding contamination from dust and dirt.

According to SACGPO, the facilities were already given to them even before they started their coffee processing. They were greatly encouraged to not just produce but also to process and establish their own local coffee brand.

“It was in 2012 when they granted us the facilities. The DA-CAR, DTI, PHilMech, BPI, ATI-CAR, and the LGU-Sagada provided everything from planting materials, building, equipment to training and seminars. We couldn’t ask for more. The assistance given compliments each other completing the needs and gaps in our organization,” Andawi proudly shared.

According to Mr. Benjamin Malecdan, 63 year-old chairman of SACGPO, The PHilMech-developed coffee processing system resulted to better production – less breakage of beans in pulping using the pulper, easier and faster drying using the All Weather Dryer (AWD), and quality coffee beans (whole and ground) processed.

“We were exposed to different local coffee entrepreneurs like in Benguet and in Aurora Province, gaining enough knowledge to process our own coffee with confidence. We now have the coffee pulpers, roasting machines, and other processing and working equipment granted by our support agencies”, he added.

The SACGPO consists of 65 members, both coffee farmers and processors. Their produce are bought in the organization at Php 250/kl for dried parchment and Php300/kl for green beans, 20% higher than the prevailing price.
Worth treasuring

Today, the Sagada Gold has become the word of mouth of the locals and even tourists visiting Sagada.

Mr. Adawi shared that in order to promote their product, they also need to share the beauty and goodness of the place and the people in their area.

“It’s the same way of how you take care of your customers, you need to take good care of your people, the nature and what it has to offer – and it’s the coffee for us.”

It is undeniably true that coffee is a treasure for them. Just like how SACGPO named their local coffee brand as “Sagada Gold”.

“The first coffee product here is called ‘Pidlisan’ (the name of barangay in northen part of Sagada). However, this is gone now because of the rising private gold mines here. So, we rose up again and harvest the gold from our coffee trees. We produced our very own Sagada Gold – a coffee worth a treasure for us”, Andawi said.

Sagada Gold is currently brewing in different coffee shops in the locality including Baguio, Manila, Tagaytay, Cavite, and other places in the country. This is offered as roasted whole and ground coffee beans.

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