BY PATRICIA BIANCA S. TACULAO
Coffee has become a staple beverage in people’s lives since it gives them the ample boost of energy that they need to accomplish their tasks for the day. The variety of flavors and aromas that come from different kinds of coffee also satisfy coffee enthusiasts and foodies everywhere.
But coffee is more than just a beverage. As the second most consumed beverage in the world after water, coffee provides a profitable industry to many.
More than 100,000 people in the Philippines depend on coffee for their livelihood. The current demand for coffee beans in the country now amounts to 64,000 metric tons valued at P2.5 billion annually.
There are four coffee varieties recognized around the world because they are consumed as beverages. These are the arabica, robusta, liberica (also known as kapeng barako), and excelsa.
Arabica coffee, aka kapeng Tagalog
When growing arabica coffee beans, they need to be planted in an area that’s 1,000 to 2,000 meters above sea level because it produces better tasting beans when grown in higher altitudes.
Its plant can produce beans from 500 to 1,000 kilograms. But aside from its high yield, arabica coffee is known for its aromatic flavor.
Robusta coffee, aka kapeng manipis
Compared to arabica, the robusta coffee variety can be grown from zero to 1,000 meters above sea level. It also yields more than the latter by 200 kilograms.
Nearly everyone has tasted the flavor of the robusta coffee variety because it’s usually used in instant coffee. It also got its moniker because its beans are thinner than the other varieties.
Excelsa coffee, aka kapeng makapal
Also known as kapeng makapal, because of the large size of its beans, excelsa is a coffee variety that can grow at sea level to 600 meters above it and has a yield of 1,000 kilograms.
Propagating coffee plants by seeds
There are two ways to propagate coffee. The first is sexual propagation which uses seeds as the source of the new coffee plant.
Using this method, farmers first gather coffee cherries from disease and pest-free high-yielding coffee trees. 750 grams should be enough to plant a hectare but there should be a 50 percent allowance for ungerminated seeds, poor seeding, and replanting.
Once they’ve collected enough seeds, farmers will then start selecting seeds subject to floatation which will help determine which seeds are suitable for planting.
To start, the pulp in the cherries will be removed by hand or via a pulping machine before they are soaked in water for 24 hours to quickly remove mucilage or the gelatinous solution from plant roots, seeds.
After 24 hours, wash the seeds and discard any floaters. Air-dry the ones that didn’t float in a well-ventilated room for at least four days. When dried, store in a dry parchment and keep in a cool place until ready for planting.
Before planting the seeds, make a germination bed that’s one meter wide and 15 centimeters high from the ground level. Once this is done, they can start sowing the seeds in shallow rows.
Germination starts 25 days after sowing. Some ways to help the seeds germinate is by mulching the seedbed with rice straw and watering it regularly.
When they reach the butterfly stage, or when the seedlings sprout two leaves, transplant the coffee seedling to polyethylene bags that measure six by eight inches.
Propagating coffee plants through cuttings
The other way to propagate coffee plants is through asexual propagation where new plants will sprout from cuttings derived from a healthy mother plant.
First, collect vertical sprouts from the mother plant then dip them in fungicide to remove any pests or diseases that weren’t initially seen during the selection process.
Within three to four months after planting the cuttings in a soil medium, farmers should constantly prick the seedlings that sprout from them. This means separating seedlings growing together and transferring them into their pots or plots.
Once the seedlings have established a good root system, they can be transplanted to a polyethylene bag and placed in a nursery to harden. Hardening means exposing them to their growing environment and allowing the plants to adapt so that they may grow healthy and resistant to pests and diseases.
People have different perspectives on coffee. For some, it’s a drink that could boost anyone’s energy at any time of day. For others, it’s a beloved beverage that comes in different flavors, temperatures, and forms. And lastly, coffee is also a good source of income as there continues to be a high demand for coffee both locally and internationally.