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June 1, 2018


It’s been a caffeinated week at THAIFEX Bangkok as our ASEAN COFFEE FEDERATION members gathered at one of the bigger shows organized for coffee—Celebrity Baristas, Cuppers, Tasters, and coffee producers as well as café owners, coffee equipment suppliers and most of all—coffee drinkers!

Much ado about coffee you may say but if the crowd is a gauge of how popular coffee has become, we know that coffee in Southeast Asia is very much alive as a business and lifestyle.

Our friends like Dao Coffee from Lao PDR has a huge stand and has come up with a very special coffee—just 200 small bags in a gift box fit for a queen, and no less than the owner and founder Madame Leuang Litdang presented me with her latest brainchild, specially-processed Typica variety of Arabica coffee grown in the highlands called the Bolaven Plateau in Laos. The boxed gift is super limited in quantity and speaks of Laos’ best foot forward in coffee processing.

Another event we enjoyed watching everyday is the Celebrity Coffee Bar—where ASEAN winners of Barista competitions around the world, including our very own Aldrin Lumaban (yes, that’s his last name, and rightly so—he fought and won), displayed their barista skills to the delight of the crowds who milled around the ASEAN Coffee Federation (ACF) and International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA) stand which was right across the huge stage for the celebrity baristas.

On a huge LED screen, the crowd watched as each one poured milk into a cup of espresso to show their “LATTE ART” skills, painting birds and flowers in a tiny cup of coffee—some cups as small as an espresso cup!  What skills these young men and women have and how coffee people from around the world admire their honed talents.

In another corner, serious coffee people tasted coffees the whole day, getting flavor notes and comparing their scores on coffee from different origins—Indonesia, Philippines, Myanmar, Thailand—whose LIbericas, Robustas, and Arabicas were roasted to an agreed roast profile, and were cupped by Cupper Trainers from different countries. Our bets were coffee farm owner Genevieve Bionat from Iloilo and Ros Juan of Commune Café—who compared their tasting notes with other cuppers from Indonesia and Myanmar.

At the Jupiter seminar room, three Pinoy baristas were being trained to be Certified Trainers by no less than Barista Competition Judge Justin Metcalf who hails from Australia. Justin taught the trainers the ACF module for Barista Training so they may cascade these lessons in the Philippines, most specially in their areas in Visayas and Mindanao. Andrew Marvi Canamo, Christina Tuya, and Norfed Rhudy represented not their companies, but the country in this training program.

Indeed, the ASEAN Coffee Federation (ACF) has been the glue that makes the coffee producers of ASEAN stick together to raise the bar for quality and to improve the livelihood of farmers and everyone in the coffee value chain. The ACF, since 2010 and after its formalization in 2013, has been organizing the “ASEAN coffee group” at least twice a year—at Café Asia in Singapore in March and at THAIFEX in Bangkok every May.

This year, the drive is towards each origin’s sustainability beyond donations from other agencies and non-profits, beyond the soluble coffee business, and beyond commodity coffee.

The drive to increase specialty coffee processing has never been more palpable than this time.

The ACF will continue to organize trips to coffee farms around the region as well as exchange ideas on how to make ASEAN coffee the choice of many coffee connoisseurs and co-producers, the coffee drinkers like ourselves and you.

Only by getting to know and tasting each others’ coffees will we appreciate the potential of ASEAN as the biggest consumer and biggest producer of quality coffee. After all more than 600 Million of us are here to drink the brew and millions of farmers can continue to plant and propagate it along with our ASEAN coffee experts in every step of the value chain.

Thank you to Koelnmesse, our hosts for THAIFEX, for the continuous support over the years.

And thanks to our ASEAN brothers and sisters for keeping the coffee spirit alive.



Photos from Philippine Coffee Board, Inc.


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