SOUTH COFFEE GEMS: UNVEILING THE TREASURE INSIDE

Coffee is everybody’s favorite. Every day, many people is drinking coffee while for some, a glass of coffee for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Coffee is life.

For a young man from Poblacion 6, Midsayap, Cotabato, who happened to have ancestors from South Upi, Maguindanao, coffee is not just an ordinary product but a memory that needs to treasure for a lifetime.

Guelbert Pabillan or known as a newcomer in the agri-business sector names his business South Coffee Gems (SCG), or coffee treasures in the Southern part of Upi.

“It was December 2020 when I think of establishing a small buy and sell business. I presented this plan to my close friend and he suggested coming up with an authentic brand. Since most of us are coffee lovers, the idea boiled down to focus on coffee marketing,” shared Guelbert.

Since Guelbert and his friend have ancestors in Upi, they decided to promote the unique flavor of coffee in the South.

“He encouraged me to process the coffee beans and sold them for ₱90. Even before this project is conceived, we both believed that coffee beans and processed coffee products are the potential products in the market,” he added.

The need to research and study the market trends of the coffee industry

“Literally, I don’t have formal training on coffee processing, that’s why I pushed myself to research and how to promote it without much capital for ads or other expensive marketing platforms. I read available articles on the internet about branding and other helpful strategies and help me a lot,” he further said.

Believing that almost Filipinos are drinking coffee and according to some articles, it is the second most-consumed product next to petroleum, Guelbert has motivated and pushed the business into reality.

“I got more interested in the coffee business because my relatives in coffee have their own coffee farm. I considered them my primary source of quality coffee beans.

Since his relatives and friends are into coffee farming for quite some time, he firmly believed that their knowledge and learning could be a good foundation for starting a coffee business.

The simple beginning

Starting any business needs personal conviction and motivation to succeed. For Guelbert, coming up with the coffee business is not that easy. Without expecting unexpected expenses, he almost stops from getting the business on.

“I realized that my initial capital of Php22,000 is not enough and I needed to sell my own single motor, which I invested for how many years of working, adding that “ investing for me is not just money but the memories it brings into our family.

The feeling of simple joy and affirmation from their first few consumers motivate him to keep the coffee business running.

“It’s great to hear positive feedback, favorable comments coming from friends, known consumers, and first-time buyers. The ordinary experiences of the people behind the SCG and our day-to-day learning. The most exciting our journey is being able to generate a small amount of income and been helping some of my relatives- cousins earn extra income,” he narrated.

Helping local coffee farmers move forward

For almost two decades, local farmers in Kininan, South Upi, Maguindance, left their coffee farms unproductive for they experienced losses before not until SCG projects come into their area.

“It is a humbling experience that through our simple project, we are able to inspire and encourage our local coffee farmers to revive their coffee farm. Farmers in the barangays start to clean their coffee farm in order to have a good harvest after a few months,” Guelbert explained.

Raw coffee beans are harvested by farmers. (Photo contributed by Guelbert Pabillan)

During harvest time, SCG has been able to purchase fresh-picked coffee beans from local farmers. “Since we started this project last year, more farmers starts to check and revive their own coffee farms.  Initially, we are able to help our farmers earn an income again out of their coffee produce.

It is amazing to note, that some of our local farmers carry the indigenous knowledge on how to evaluate good quality coffee by just looking at the harvested beans. I know this will be our asset as grow our coffee business.

The Business Dynamics

One of the reasons why some agri-business-related endeavors is not able to prosper is the proximity and availability of the raw materials.

For SCG, among the challenges they consider about their coffee business are:

  1. Limitation of transport vehicle going to the south which entails high transportation fee,
  2. Insect infestation directly the coffee farms and lead to a lower volume of harvested beans
  3. Lack of  appropriate coffee de-pulping machine that results in low quality [crack or deformed] beans
  4. Lack of coffee roasting machine that will ensure the quality of coffee end product
  5. No available coffee mechanical dryer yet.

When asked how they address these challenges, Guelbert shared that being an agri-preneur, he needs to be resilient and innovative.

“Considering the risk of traveling often, especially during this pandemic, our team explores the ‘pasabay system.  It is a community contextualized errand strategy, where you can request a friend or relative who is traveling to a place where your item comes from and bring it for you,” Guelbert shared.

He added that in order to maintain the quality, farmer partners of SCG, manually pick the good beans before the actual drying process.

“Instead of roasting coffee beans using a machine, we do it manually. My mother Margarita, has the hands of making the roasted beans meet their desired aroma and taste. Thanks for her support,” he further said.

Today, SCG coffee products reach customers as far as the Manila area and push their ground to circulate in the provincial areas of Maguindanao and North Cotabato.

Photo contributed by Guelbert Pabillan

TIPS TO CONSIDER FOR STARTING A COFFEE VENTURE

For the coffee lover who plans to try this business, Guelbert has a few tips for you:

  • Pick the ripe coffee beans.  According to the locals of South Upi, the good quality bean is color red, not yellow or orange.
  • Picking Coffee beans without brown or black spots. This is not good quality.
  • Avoid washing fresh-picked coffee beans with water. Simply dry the beans under the heat of the sun. You can dry it using trapal or on a solar drier..
  • In depulping of coffee beans. Make sure that during the process beans are not crack or break.
  • Storage. Make sure to put the dried beans in a clean sealed plastic bag airtight to prevent extra moisture. This maintains the quality of beans and also prevents weevils.
  • Sorting. Local farmers carefully choose and pick good coffee beans and segregate the damaged ones.
  • Roasting. It’s good if you have your own coffee for this process. The other option is to roast manually the coffee beans under 120 to 160 Celsius.
  • Grinding. Common for coffee brewers is to ground the roasted beans into an extra-fine grind
  • Packaging and Labeling. You can use cut-to-size or roll stickers in labeling the coffee variants. Later you can try customized made or maybe thermal transfer printing which is more ideal for precision requirements.
  • Make it your passion. Starting a business with rigor entails your personal commitment and desire to carry out the challenges no matter what. Keep in mind that your business is not only gaining profit but you are helping other local coffee farmers sustain their livelihood.

Direction 5 years after

Although SCG is still in the process of experimentation and trials, Guelbert believes that carrying a business needs a heart that desires quality and excellence. “You need to have a clear direction.”

After 5 years or more, Guelbert and SCG team aims to purchase equipment for the coffee process and acquire amenities for drying and storage. Maybe, we have our own post-harvest facility to cater to more coffee farmers in Upi, Maguindanao,” he explained.

In the long run, Guelbert’s SCG business will help generate an additional workforce, especially from South Upi and help encourage more farmers to improve their practices and increase their coffee production.

He also added that SCG will access more customers not only within the province but also in other areas of the country while increasing its social media [Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and youtube] visibility and has established its own website that highlights the by-products of coffee.

“In the future, I think SCG will be one of leading suppliers of coffee in leading supermarkets and grocery stores in major cities and municipalities of the country with its own name in the industry,” he optimistically shared.#  –bilib.com.ph

If you wish to get in touch and try their coffee, please check their fb account:

South Coffee Gems

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