In the Nescafé country

According to a Philippine joke some representatives of countries producing coffee sat together in a meeting. They tried busily to point out the contributions of their countries to the coffee. The Colombian delegate said: “We have the best coffee beans" The Japanese representative appreciated the merits of his country with regard to the technical improvement of the coffee flavor and the American emissary made clear, that America has the most coffee brands and the most modern production methods. But then the Philippine representative got up and explained impressively: „And we have invented the two hour coffee break!" “

Perhaps the explanations of the Filipino highlight some Philippine attitudes to work; however, they show also the high esteem coffee has in the Philippines.  A Philippine Internet author formulates more exaggeratedly and also a little bit blasphemously:

Caffeine is my shepherd. I will not doze.

It wakes me up on a green pasture.

It raises me over the masses still sleeping.

Caffeine, you are with me: Your cream and your sugar will comfort me …


The stimulating effect of coffee is sufficiently known. A hot cup of coffee for breakfast warms the stomach, clears the head and brings the drinker from the night in the day. The number of further cups of coffee  is variable. Imaginable for a municipal employee is another cup of coffee in the time between breakfast and lunchtime. Soon the next cup is expected - no lunch without a cup of coffee. The fourth cup then comes perhaps in time of the after-lunch break. The dinner tastes even better with another cup. The evening conversations finally can also include drinking of coffee, too. The next morning the usual coffee cycle starts again.

Here we have outlined exemplary the consume of an excessive drinker. However, it is questionable whether the average Filipino has actually a coffee mania as it is often claimed. If we follow a statistic (2) , the average consumption per day of adult persons  is only a little more than  two cups of coffee. And this coffee must be a thin one, if we follow the same statistic, which pretends that in 2008 the per capita consumption was merely 0.7 kg. (The basis of this market research was presumably the whole population including children. By the way, there are some countries in Southeast Asia, which still show a lower coffee consumption (e.g. Thailand, Indonesia, India) (2)  .

We stay with the thin coffee. Also poorer households have mostly coffee. But it is relatively expensive also for the Philippine normal household. Therefore, it is not surprising that the coffee is often thinned with a lot of water. Sometimes the coffee is nothing more tan a colored hot water. Referring to thin coffee the former American president Lincoln grouched one day: “If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee" “

Principal beverage in the Philippines remains the natural water or better tap water. However, the raw water is frequently – particularly in municipal slum areas – not germfree. Fortunately, number Two in ranking is coffee prepared with hot water.

Let us still have a quick glance at other nonalcoholic drink substitutes.  Tea is a rather seldom drink in the Philippines. However, starting from a low baseline the sales figures of tea show  presently a remarkable increase.  For example, at present the Nestlé Company beats the advertising drum very for its Nestea.

"Bottled water" belongs to the group of nonalcoholic drinks. Annual consumption per head of the population 2004 was 17.1 liter (3). Mineral waters are offered with  and without carbonic acid or with caffeine or lemons or strawberry flavor. "Carbonated" waters are strange for some Filipinos. The sales of these more prestigious middle-class drinks show an rising tendency like tea.

Only a  few free-accessible  figures are existing on the Internet about the consumption of Coke drinks. They are not quite clear and consistent. One source specifies the Philippine consume of Cola drinks with 121 liters per annum (4) in 2000.  The consumption of the US citizens is with 212 liters much higher, but the Philippines surpass the world average with 83 liters.  

Pinoys like also to drink a cup of cold coffee. Coffee can be bought as green coffee beans, roasted and grounded and as soluble instant coffee. Filipinos prefer quite obviously soluble coffee and the instant coffee of Nestlé is in general the favorite brand. Instant coffee represents 90% of the coffee sold in the Philippines (6). A similar percentage of instant coffee can be found in South Korea (95%) and in Great Britain (90%). In Germany the share of soluble coffee in the entire coffee market is only 11 per cent (7) . By the way the instant coffee came onto the island archipelago with the American soldiers at the end of the 2nd World War.

Soluble coffee – also in its more refined versions -  is for coffee gourmands in general a perverted coffee and they suggest that high-quality grounded  coffee has a better flavor and taste. Most Filipinos don’t bother about this verdict. They estimate more  the advantage of a fast and simple coffee preparation. Perhaps bad experiences from the past – when the coffee was not still vacuum packed  and got easily fustily – are  a  the reason for the extensive denial. So instant coffee is strongly preferred in the Philippines. However, some experts see a renaissance of grinded roasted coffee  along with the increasing number of   coffee shops (Starbuck) in the towns.

Nestlé is market monopolist with a 85% market share on the entire coffee market in the Philippines (8). Other companies like Commonwealth Foods, General Milling Company, Universal Robina Company or the market newcomer Starbuck are only nibbling on the outer edge of the complete coffee cake market. The list of the product and packing variants sold by Nestlé is long. We only want to refer here only to the "Nescafe Classic", the "Nescafe Gold" and the coffee mixed drink "Nescafe 3 in 1"(with Creamer and sugar). Sari-Sari shops offer mostly also the 15 gram little bags ("Sachets"). At first look they seem to be cheap and they attract also have-nots.  Additionally, Nestle expands the volume of sale by milk whiteners and coffee shops on franchise basis. Nestlé belongs in the Philippines to the companies in the Philippines with the highest advertising expenditures.  Musical entertainment is a preferential style of advertising, whereas the statements are quite trivial. They ventilate often only the optimistic message: „Have a Good Day!" or "Open up".

Since 1994 Nestlé with its "Nestle Experimental and demonstration farm” (NEDF) in Tagum City is striving for the expansion and improving quality of the Philippine coffee. It is told that in the last 13 years more than 12,000 coffee farmer got a training in coffee planting. And this note leads us to the history of the Philippine coffee cultivation.

Presumably, the Arabica coffee tree was imported by Spanish monks around 1710. The prerequisites were favorable because the Philippines are climatic,  geographically located in the so-called worldwide "coffee belt". The coffee cultivation was then done particularly  in the province of Batangas. The Philippines were even around 1880 on place four on the list of coffee exporting nations. But then, the coffee plague virus slammed also the Philippines, especially in local niches on Mindanao. The coffee cultivation is in a relative flower again in the seventies of the 19th century. 45,000 tons of coffee can be exported in 1986. But then in 1989 the USA got out of the international coffee cartel which had favored the Philippine export before. The consequence was a rapid price collapse. Many smallholders get out of the coffee cultivation, the earlier coffee acreages were changed in favor of other products.

It is supposed that The Philippines have today only round about 30,000 coffee farmers, for many of them the coffee cultivation is only a secondary job. The acreage shrunk from 130,00 hectares in 1989  to 70,000 hectares in 2009. The beans harvest  was also reduced – from 112,ooo tons in 2001 to 97,400 tons in 2008. And this despite all efforts of increase the output by the National coffee board (NBC). The Philippines have turned from a coffee export country  into an import country. At present 30,000 tons of coffee must be imported from abroad (9) . The coffee comes mostly from Vietnam which has expanded its coffee cultivation with an efficient production engineering in the last decade. Now Vietnam has the second place  in world ranking with 1,1 million tons of coffee beans behind the main production country Brazil. The hectare yield in Vietnam is tenfold of the Philippine yield (10). The Philippines play nowadays with a share of round about one percent  only a tangential role in world production. The production methods are antiquated. The Philippine coffee farmers  are afraid of the short-term price fluctuations and the long-term downward pressure of prices on the world market.

About 67 per cent of the domestic coffee cultivated  in Mindanao. The southern Luzon follows with a further distance.

Four coffee types can be found in the Philippines. Almost ninety per cent of the production are belonging to the species Robusta. It is used – also from Nestle - primarily as filling coffee for the production of instant coffee because of its firm body and the lower costs. The taste is more bitter and rigorous and the caffeine content is higher. The more exquisite species of Arabica grows in the Philippine highland, for example in the northern Luzon. The rare species of Exelsa  with its aromatic, sweet and fruity taste is as  add-mixture appreciated. The Philippine Coffee Board (PCB) is very hopeful with regard to the fourth lowlands species Libreca. It has particularly big coffee cherries, a firm and tasty taste. The brand Barako supplies the local market with coffee of the species Libreca. The Philippines could have competitive advantages, because this species is only cultivated in two other Asian countries

If you have too much money, then try the "civit coffee".  It is regarded as the most expensive coffee of the world and has to do something with the civit cat ("alamid"). Civit cats like to eat the sweetish red coffee cherries. In the past they were hunted because their meat was  appreciated. Today, their defecation after the cherry consumption is more appreciated.  The cherries get fermented in the stomach of the cats. After discharge and difficult gathering the digested coffee bean a coffee can prepared, which allegedly stands alone with regard to taste and flavor. Rumors say, that one habitat for findings  are the Malarayat mountains south of Manila. However, more exact locations are kept top secret because a lot of money can be earned with the cherry excrements of the civit cats. The price for a kilogram of cherry beans overtopped already more than $ 115. The reason for the high price is the small annual harvest of only round about 500 kg  (11). We wish an exquisite coffee pleasure with this very special coffee.

 © Wolfgang Bethge, 2011


 (1) cf., Coffee: Now The Good News, in: http : // www. now- the-Good news/

(2) List of countries by coffee consumption by capita :

 he Philippines are holding  only place 93 in the worldwide scale of coffee consumption.  The Scandinavian countries are -- for whatever reasons -- more addicted to coffee. They consume between 10 -12 kg per annum and take globally the front top ranks. The amount of coffee consumption depends also dependent on the prosperity standard of a country. If one puts the south East Asian industrial nations aside, then the Philippines have in inner Asian comparison, however, a relatively high per capita consumption. So the inhabitants of Laos   consume only 1.4 kg; in Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India the consumption is meager 0.1 kg coffee in the year per head of the population.

(3) PUBLIC urged to quit bottled water habit, into:

(4  Painting South Africa, in:

(5) cf. world online in:

 (6) Philippine Coffee Facts and Trivia, into:

(7) the hidden coffee empire, Hamburg evening newspaper, 18-1-2011

(8) Alejandro C-. Mojica, Philippine Coffee 2020, in:

(9) Philippines looking to revive coffee Industry, in:


(11) BBC News, in: