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Home » Philippine Coffee: A Fascinating Origin

Philippine Coffee: A Fascinating Origin

The Philippines is a diverse coffee-growing region. Its coffee variety is enormous, with over 7,000 islands with distinct microclimates. It’s one of the only countries to grow all four major coffee types: Arabica, Robusta, Liberica, and Excelsa. Yet it remains a minor player on the global stage. Why is that?

This article explores present and historical factors influencing Philippine coffee production and predicts where the industry is headed – plus some delicious suggestions for trying Philippine coffee for yourself!

A Complete Guide to Philippine Coffee

The Philippines is an archipelago of over 7,000 islands. This diversity of growing conditions makes it an exciting coffee-growing region, capable of producing some of the best whole bean coffee. Its international claim to fame is that it is one of few countries producing the four varieties of coffee: Robusta, Arabica, Excelsa, and Liberica.

History of Coffee in the Philippines

There is some debate about when the first coffee plants arrived in the Philippines. The most common assertion is that they came with Spanish colonists in the 18th century.

By the late 1800s, Philippine coffee plantations were big business. The end of the American Civil War saw a huge increase in demand for Filipino coffee beans in America. And a few years later, the opening of the Suez Canal increased exports to Europe. The Philippines became the world’s fourth-largest exporter of coffee.

Coffee production declined from this peak with the arrival of coffee rust and insect infestation at the end of the 19th century, and it never fully recovered. Now rust-resistant Robusta beans are the main variety grown in the country – mostly for instant coffee and cheap blends.

The Philippines is ranked 33rd in global coffee production today, producing approximately 26,000 pounds annually, which includes Robusta, Arabica, Liberica, and Excelsa.

The Role of Climate

The Philippines’ climate varies widely, enabling a diversity of coffee to be produced. Generally, there is the right combination of sun, rain, and temperatures to produce premium coffee plants, but each island has its microclimate (or microclimates).

Climate change has had a huge impact on most coffee-growing regions, but the exposed islands of the Philippines are particularly vulnerable.

Recent years have seen an increase in the frequency and severity of typhoons, causing devastation for some coffee farms.

An Exciting Region for Coffee Varieties

The Philippines is one of few countries on Earth that grows all four major varieties of coffee. Filipino coffee (often misspelt Phillipino coffee or Pilipinas coffee) is approximately 85% Robusta, 7% Excelsa, 5% Arabica, and 3% Liberica.

 Coffee grown in the Philippines

Philippine Liberica

Liberica is the smallest fraction of coffee grown in the country, but it is the best known worldwide, as the Philippines is one of few countries growing it commercially. Coffea liberica is known locally as Kapeng Barako or just Barako, which means “stud” or “rooster” in the local language. The name is associated with masculinity and is thought to arise from its strong flavour or the huge size of Liberica coffee trees.

Kapeng Barako has a bold flavour and sharp aroma that many compare to aniseed. It is rarely exported because local demand is so high, but we have a few suggestions for you to try below.

The Struggle for Specialty Coffee

The specialty coffee industry has yet to gain a foothold in the Philippines, where low-quality Robusta still dominates. One reason for this is that it is cheaper to import coffee from Vietnam and Indonesia than to improve local coffee. This has stunted the growth of the coffee industry as a whole, says Philippines National Barista Champion Silvester Dan Samonte (1).

Imported coffee is usually cheaper, more reliable, and tastier than local coffee. Philippine coffee takes commitment, and most small coffee roasters don’t have the business model to do so.

Lack of infrastructure is another problem. There are few warehouses or processing stations, and coffee farmers have limited access to education about improving procedures. There is little quality control, and local farmers have no financial incentive to improve practices due to the cheap imports.

There is hope that this cycle won’t continue forever. The Philippine government and NGOs are working to improve quality through better farmer support. A roadmap was laid out in 2017 with backing from the Philippine Coffee Board, and while progress has been slow due to bad weather and the pandemic, there is cause for optimism.

The Diversity of Growing Regions

The 7,000 islands of the Philippines are home to many coffee-growing regions, each with its own microclimate, soil conditions, coffee varieties, and characteristic flavour profiles. Here are a few of the major players.


Legend has it that the first coffee tree introduced to the Philippines was placed in Lipa, Batangas, and it has been known as the “Coffee Capital of the Philippines” ever since. Batangas is known for growing the Liberica variety, which often has bold flavours and a spicy aroma.

Cordillera Mountain Range

The Cordillera Mountain Range features rich soil and high elevations. This mountainous region is home to the coffee-growing regions of Benguet, Sagada, and Kalinga, which produce some of the best coffee in the Philippines.

Benguet and Sagada produce the country’s top Arabica beans. With flavours of apricot, lemongrass, pomelo, and nuts, these coffees are distinct from the earthy, bittersweet coffee that characterizes most of the country’s crops. Kalinga is best known for the Kalinga brew, a boiled Robusta preparation sweetened with brown sugar.


The Mindanao region is responsible for 70% of Philippine coffee production. It includes the Sulu Archipelago, Sultan Kudarat, Bukidnon, and Davao. The Sulu Archipelago produces primarily Robusta variety, but the other regions have the climate and geography suitable for growing Arabica and Robusta. Some of the best coffee beans from Mindanao have flavour profiles of nuts, ripe berries, and chocolate. However, the region is most famous for the expensive (some would say overpriced) civet coffee from Mount Matatum and Mount Apo.

Coffee Culture in the Philippines

Coffee is a popular drink in the Philippines. While it doesn’t have a long coffee tradition like neighboring Vietnam, coffee consumption is rising, from 75,000 tonnes in 2002 to 170,000 tonnes in 2018. By 2025, Filipinos are expected to consume an average of 3.78 kilos of coffee per person – a US$1.33 billion industry.

Third-wave coffee shops are increasingly visible in urban centres as the younger generation of coffee drinkers demands better brews, though they rarely offer local coffee. However, the Philippine National Barista Championship was won using local coffee for the first time in 2020, a boost for the industry, says local expert Rosario Juan (2).

The buzz will give it more attention and will interest many. There is a small but steadily growing push for Philippine specialty coffee.

The potential for the Philippines to re-emerge on the global coffee stage is clearly there.

Where to Try Philippine Coffee

Despite the fascinating backstory of Philippine coffee production, it’s not readily available for retail sale in the UK. While it is more accessible in the US or Asia, we don’t recommend importing as it won’t be fresh on arrival. If you do order from abroad, opt for green beans to roast at home, which will stay fresh for months.

Alternatively, sample coffees from Indonesia’s Sulawesi region or the best Sumatran coffee for similar flavour profiles.

The Verdict

It’s a shame that the Philippines is struggling to find its footing in the global specialty coffee market because its potential is enormous. With the diversity of growing regions and the increasing interest in rare varietals like Liberica and Excelsa, it could be the next big thing. As support for the industry grows, we are excited to see what the future holds.


Civet coffee is a coffee bean that has been eaten, partially digested, and then excreted by the Asian palm civet. It is produced primarily in Indonesia, known as Kopi Luwak, and the Philippines. It is among the world’s most expensive coffees due to the complicated nature of its production, though there are mixed reviews on its flavour.

Excelsa coffee is a variety of coffee grown primarily in Southeast Asia (3), making up about 7% of the world’s coffee. It has recently been reclassified as a type of Liberica because the two coffee trees share similarities, but the flavour profiles are very different.

Filipinos drink coffee at home mainly in the form of instant 3-in-1 coffee packages, which combine instant coffee, creamer, and sugar. However, the country’s specialty coffee culture is growing, and the younger generation is embracing artisan cafes and high-quality coffee (4). 

  1. Soque, N. (2018, December 19). Understanding Specialty Coffee In The Philippines. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2018/12/understanding-specialty-coffee-in-the-philippines/
  2. Soque, N. (2020, August 3) The Success of Locally Produced Coffee In The Philippines. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2020/08/the-success-of-locally-produced-philippine-coffee-barista-championship-2020-specialty/
  3. Hutson, C. (n.d.). A Definitive Guide to the 4 Main Types of Coffee Beans. Retrieved from https://club.atlascoffeeclub.com/4-main-types-of-coffee-beans/
  4. Marinduque News. (2019, June 20). Everything you need to know about coffee culture in the Philippines. Retrieved from https://marinduquenews.com/2019/06/20/everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-coffee-culture-in-the-philippines/
Julia Bobak
I love trail running, rock climbing, coffee, food, and my tiny dog — and writing about all of them. I start every morning with a fresh Americano from my home espresso machine, or I don’t start it at all.

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