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March 23, 2019


I used to travel to a different country to explore. A few years after I started doing volunteer work, traveling abroad became a way to serve our country. Philippine Coffee Board Inc. (PCBI) taught me that. Even abroad, PCBI’s leaders, members, and partners work tirelessly to make our local coffee known and appreciated. One of those trips was the recently held Café Asia.

From March 21-23, Café Asia brought together café owners and managers, coffee and tea exporters and importers as well as distributors, and suppliers of café-related machinery and equipment in a dynamic marketplace.

Coffees of Southeast Asia
Nine out of the 10 countries that comprise the Southeast Asian region are either coffee producers, consumers, or both. The ASEAN Coffee Federation (ACF) is a registered non-profit organization domiciled in Singapore, where its President Victor Mah heads the Singapore Coffee Association. It is supported by its members which are the primary industry organizations in the member states.

ASEAN Coffee Federation

Right beside ACF’s booth at Café Asia is the booth of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance. As we were setting up our banners and meeting our counterparts in Indonesia and Myanmar, I was reminded of what a speaker mentioned in the women’s month talk that I attended before heading to The Lion City. She said, “The most lucrative companies apply diversity and inclusion.”

IWCA leaders and members are supported by the ACF

That was the second time that ACF supported IWCA. There was a common table where both ACF and IWCA members were able to hold meetings over cups and cups of coffee. We shared our local brews, stories, and plans to further strengthen our partnerships in the region. The smell of coffee, firm handshakes, and the warm smiles and hearty laughter made it a dynamic area which also attracted visitors from various countries to know more about our coffee culture.

Women and Their Love for Coffee and Country
While all these were happening, right in front was the stage where the Singapore Cup Tasters Championship, Singapore Coffee in Good Spirits Championship, and Singapore Latte Art Championship was held.

At specific times, crowds gathered to watch the competition which also helped because the foot traffic led to their curiosity about our coffees. They visited one booth but discovered three countries. How cool is that?

Chit and Ros Juan (IWCA Philippines), April Mcgil (IWCA Myanmar), with Cisca Darma and Maria (IWCA Indonesia)

Thuzar Myint, my new friend from Myanmar, told me that she liked how Singapore conducted the championship. Back home, she would also judge latte art competitions. I learned that her father is a coffee roaster, she is a coffee processor, and her daughter April is a coffee cupper. In fact, April Mcgil is the first cupper in Myanmar.

I asked April how her coffee journey started. While she was giving us samples of Myanmar Specialty Coffee produced by smallholder communities in Ywangan, Shan Highlands, April told me that she studied in Singapore. Cisca Darma of Indonesia was happy to learn about it because she also studied there. When April heard the inspiring speech of Aung San Suu Kyi to her fellow Burmese to come home and help rebuild their country, she immediately followed.

Likewise, the coffees of Cisca and her sister Maria resonate their family. “Meniek in Sanskrit language means a powerful woman,” reveals Maria. Sikha, on the other hand, is the name of their mom. The 5-year-old coffee business of Cisca and Maria is very promising. They have coffee packs and coffee drips that are not just packaged nicely but also taste so good.

Cisca is very active in IWCA. She even went to Colombia back in 2015 to participate in the global event of IWCA.

I also met Than Than Aye of Maha Coffee who is a dealer in Yangon, Nyo Nyo Thein who offers pure organic coffee, Khine Swe Swe of Coffee Queen who just started her business in Pyin Oo Lwin, and Soe Thin Zar Aung of Shwe Taung Thu Farmers (an organization that represents 18 communities in the Southern Shan) who also wants to be a cupper.


(Read part 2 HERE)


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