June 7, 2017
ASEAN: THE NEW FRONTIER FOR COFFEE
The IMPACT Exhibition and Convention Center in Bangkok, Thailand is the venue of the renowned THAIFEX – World of Food Asia where the F&B industry features as many as 15 product zones which include the World of Coffee & Tea. Lots of coffee beans (green and roasted) were on sale as well as coffee tools and equipment from May 31-June 4, 2017.
It’s not only coffee that is brewing in the sprawling 93,500 square meter space. Inside one of its function rooms, a group of passionate ASEAN coffee industry players held its 2nd Board Meeting. They are the officers and board members of the ASEAN Coffee Federation (ACF).
The ASEAN Coffee Federation (ACF)
ACF was conceived in 2010 by coffee industry players from Singapore, Thailand, Laos, Indonesia, and Malaysia. In 2011, the Philippines was invited by the ACF to be a member.
ACF is in constant pursuit of improving and developing the quality of ASEAN’s coffee beans which can compete in the world stage. Victor Mah of the Singapore Coffee Association is the Founding President. On its 7th year, ACF now has a commanding presence in the ASEAN with board members and new members from nine countries: Phaibul Kitcharoen (Barista Association of Thailand), Nicholas Matti (Philippine Coffee Board Inc.), Kimberly Yer (Singapore Coffee Association), Justin Metcalf (Aurigin Pty Ltd), Boyd Yap (Malaysia Specialty Coffee Association), Victor Leong (Malaysia Specialty Coffee Association), Cherry M. Cruz (Equilibrium Intertrade Corp.), Ho Chee Wu (Bunn-o-Matic Corp.), Kasmito (Specialty Coffee Association of Indonesia), and Carol Litdang (Lao Coffee Association). Emmanuel Torrejon (Philippine Coffee Board Inc.) is the Honorary Secretary, Alain Sengkeopraseuth (Lao Coffee Association) is the Treasurer, A. Syafrudin (Specialty Coffee Association of Indonesia) is the 2nd Vice President, and Meechai Amornpathanakul (Barista Association of Thailand) is the 1st Vice President.
Almost an hour of talking and listening about the efforts made by each member country reflects the group’s vision to be the key industry representative of ASEAN coffee. The message that the ACF wants to convey is for the ASEAN to be the New Frontier for Coffee. With members bowing their heads in agreement, they also delved on the need to discuss each country’s coffee culture and where it is heading. Mr. Mah particularly mentioned Philippines, Myanmar, and Vietnam as examples of countries with centuries of producing coffee. With corporate membership from Myanmar, Singapore, Starbucks, and the Thailand Coffee Association coming on board, a book on ASEAN coffee is also in the offing.
Among the many things that the panel discussed were enhancing channels in social media, promotion and design, and cost issues. Future activities include trips of baristas to origins of coffees in Southeast Asia and Cafe Asia in 2018.
The attendees agreed that it was a very productive meeting. “A lot of good ideas bounced around the room,” said Mr. Metcalf.
Cupping Session at the ACF Booth
At Challenger 1, the ACF booth was right across the Celebrity Coffee Bar which sets the stage for the crowd to meet and learn from champion baristas and brewers.
ACF members discovered coffees from Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. While green beans were on display to show pertinent details like origin, variety, and elevation, batches of roasted beans were grinded and cupped onsite. Cuppers and baristas were able to discover and rediscover coffees that various Southeast Asian countries have to offer.
Based on their feedback, each coffee sample was either given a passing mark, a failing mark, or a cut above the rest because it impressed the expert cuppers. From the meeting to the cupping, buyers were all ears and requested to know more about these coffees.
Philippine Coffees Get Good Reviews
People are aware that the Philippines is both a coffee producing and coffee consuming country. With the many coffee samples that the Philippine Coffee Board, Inc. brought, the cuppers, buyers, baristas, and coffee enthusiasts are amazed by our plethora of quality coffee, particularly from Benguet and Sulu. “They liked the taste and mouth feel of our coffees. The subtleness lingers. It’s more refined,” reveals Mr. Torrejon.
Sustainability and Profitability of ASEAN Coffee
The ACF has made remarkable progress for seven years and the second board meeting showed that it will do more. There was always constant communication among the ACF officers and members. They would invite each other for coffee seminars, coffee festivals, or simply observe the coffee culture. Some eventually engaged in trade. Somehow it’s the same way that our ancestors did—only now we have technology to speed up the communications and transactions. Can you imagine what coffee can do to help boost the ASEAN economy?
Southeast Asian nations always had quality coffee to boast individually. And with distinct flavor profiles, it only makes sense that we present this as a team for the rest of the world to drink and savor.
It’s time to drink more ASEAN coffee, not just because it’s ours, but because it’s worth every sip that is reflected in the meticulous process from seed to cup. If you’re thirsty to learn more, the ACF can help, and so does our own Philippine Coffee Board, Inc.
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