Coffee is life. We often see people use this as a caption alongside their Instagram-able shots of their first (or 5th) cup of coffee of the day. Some use this phrase to express their undying love for coffee while some just for cool content purposes.
Coffee is life. For the Loón family, this means quite literally. Coffee is their source of livelihood.
We had quite an insightful conversation with Loón Coffee Farm founder Mr. Sergio Loón, and his daughter Lendilou Loón, where they shared with us their family’s journey and aspirations for the coffee industry.
(Note: This is a story best enjoyed with a cup of joe in hand 🙂 )
Our Coffee Story (As told by Lendilou)
When I was 5 years old, my family and I lived near the foot of Mt. Apo, in a sitio called Balutakay (Bansalan, Davao del Sur) where my father Sergio Loón worked as a farmer. Despite being the only income earner in the family, he was able to sustain our daily needs including sending his children to school.
My father was one of the first coffee farmers in the area. In fact, he started planting coffee when he was only a teenager. However, as time passed, he put aside coffee farming and decided to cultivate vegetables instead. This was because coffee was not earning the family as much money as vegetables could.
Coffee farming demands a lot of hard work; picking the coffee cherries and drying them is quite a tedious process. Selling them to local traders who were only willing to pay 80-95 pesos per kilo, was not worth it. It was just not practical for the family at that time.
However, by 2003, my father decided to adapt the intercrop technique in farming. He gave growing coffee another shot and started planting the coffee species of Arabica in between our vegetable crops. Luckily, he was able to source seedlings from his friend’s farm, the only coffee farm remaining at that time, located on the other side of Mt. Apo.
Our farm was situated at the top of the mountain and I could still remember how thick fog would form and surround the entire vicinity. I was always excited to help out in farming, but my father would keep his planting schedule a secret to keep me from bothering him. He would even hide behind the fog, so I won’t notice him. But with my little hands and a shovel, I was determined to plant seedlings myself. I always found a way to be involved.
Three years later, our coffee plants started to bear cherries. However, we still couldn’t sell them at a higher price point.
Fortunately, by 2015, our business gained progress when the NGOs of KAPWA and ACDI/VOCA, taught us how to increase the value of our coffee. They shared with us better practices in picking, processing, and drying our beans.
Today, I am happy to share that we are currently selling natural process specialty coffee from our small farm of 4,000 trees situated at 1,400 meters above sea level. We have also started seeding the Typica varietal to increase our production capacity again.
To help boost our business, I created a Facebook account for my father and taught him how to utilize the platform so that he could sell our coffee to a wider range of customers. Through this, he is able to engage with them, get direct feedback, and gather sound insights on how we could improve the quality of our products.
Our Best Coffee Farming Practices
We are still practicing the dry/natural process since we can’t afford a coffee pulper yet. We are planning to adapt the wet process, as well as looking forward to experimenting with other available methods like the anaerobic natural process.
Some of our best practices in coffee farming is to always make sure to pick coffee cherries in the right degree of ripeness and observe cleanliness throughout the entire process.
Our Vision for the Philippine Coffee Industry
The motivation to continue our business comes from the vast learning opportunities that the coffee industry could give us to produce better quality products. There are still a lot of techniques that we could adapt to improve our coffee farming.
We would like to inspire and encourage other Filipino coffee farmers to continuously improve their processes by adapting best practices shared by coffee experts to their own farming methods as well.
My dream for the Philippine coffee industry is to see our kababayans support our local products more and to educate them about specialty coffee - how it’s different from the commercial instant coffees.
Our vision is to one day produce quality coffee that will put the Philippines at the level of other globally competent coffee producing countries like Ethiopia and Colombia.
We are excited to be part of the bright future of the coffee industry in our country.
“Coffee is a language by itself.”
– Sergio Loón
Note: The story has been shared with Yellow Turtle Coffee by the Loón family with the purpose of sharing it with you. All photos in this article are courtesy of the Loón family.
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