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Brewing new ideas: DLSU Chemistry Society ‘Sup Brew

Always need your daily caffeine fix?

Last November 28 and 29, DLSU Chemistry Society held ‘Sup Brew, a two-day seminar and bazaar at the Cory Aquino Democratic Space (CADS). With talks from coffee experts, a walk-in bazaar, and coffee brewing demonstrations, the event aimed to showcase the various complexities of coffee to Lasallians.

A total of six speakers discussed different aspects of the popular beverage, including the quality, taste, elements of a good cup of coffee, as well as their personal journeys in the coffee industry. Each talk was followed by a Q&A session where participants could ask questions live or through Mentimeter.

Learning the lattes

Gio Visitacion, the owner of The Good Cup and two-time Philippine Brewer Champion, began the series of talks by discussing the different elements that contribute to a tasty cup of coffee. He highlighted the main contributors for good coffee—variety, terroir, and processing—and explained different coffee-making techniques that can affect the taste of the beverage. “There are actually hundreds of coffee species that are still not backed up by coffee research, and different varieties require different growing conditions,” he shared.

Next, Mich Sy, the owner of Timemore Philippines and the Reigning Coffee Tasters Champion, spoke about becoming a better coffee taster. She shared how her desire to understand the nuances between different types of coffee sparked her love for the beverage. “To anyone wanting to start, try two different cups of coffee side by side,” she recommended. She emphasized how different factors such as aroma, mouth-feel, and smell are important factors that can contribute to flavor. Sy also held a workshop after her talk to demonstrate different ways to brew coffee. Participants were then instructed to try and describe the different brews.

The first day was concluded by Aaron del Poso, the co-owner of Yellow Turtle Coffee, who briefly discussed the coffee grading system. With a criteria consisting of taste, flavor consistency, and temperature changes, among others, the beverage can be classified into specialty grade, premium grade, and commercial grade or commodity. He also emphasized how coffee quality affects the value chain—higher quality means a higher price for coffee. However, he clarified that a company’s branding also affects the price of the beverage. Del Poso also underlined the importance of sustainable production of the beverage. 

He ended his talk advising coffee marketers to make specialty grade coffee more accessible to be appreciated by the masses. He also encourages people to participate in coffee testing to become aware about the different variations that are available in the market. “Once you [do this], doon papasok ang curiosity nila,he claims.

(Once you do this, their curiosity will begin.)

Bitter reality

The second day of the event opened with a question from Dr. Emmanuel Garcia, the director of the La Salle Food and Water Institute: “How well do you know your coffee?” As one of the world’s most popular commodities, it is also a common target for food fraud—the misrepresentation of food to gain profit.

He cites Kopi Luwak, one of the world’s most expensive coffees, as an example. Costing up to USD100 or P5,587 per cup, it is often a target for fraud, with some producers selling ordinary coffee as Kopi Luwak or adulterating it with cheap beans.

Through chemistry, Garcia has designed a test to track down the foul play lurking in each coffee product. He based his analysis on isotopes—forms of the same element that contain an equal number of protons but different number of neutrons. Because the isotopic makeup of coffee beans worldwide varies, this method can reveal their origins and verify their authenticity.

Following the presentation of his research, Garcia hoped that he inspired his audience in tackling these issues as he introduced the new course of the University: Coffee Science or KEMKOPI. “Coffee is not just a consumer beverage,” he says, “It overlaps with so many disciplines—health, chemistry, business, politics—that I invite you to learn more about it through this course.”

Interested students can begin enrolling in KEMKOPI during the third term of the current academic year. It will be offered as a general education course for science. Apart from the lectures, they may also look forward to visiting the University’s new coffee laboratory.

From seed to cup

During the afternoon session, two more speakers held a seminar on the last day of the event: Raymond So, the owner of El Kapitan Enterprise, and Arnold Malbataan, the chairman of Samahan ng Magkakape ng Lipa and the president of the Batangas Coffee Federation.

For So, a good shot of espresso is an art in itself. In his talk, he defined espresso as both a type of coffee and a brewing method. It can be drunk as it is in small servings or used as the base to other beverages like cappuccinos and Americanos. As a beverage, espresso is a concentrated form of coffee that is brewed with high pressure, hot water, and finely ground coffee beans.

After offering the audience his espresso, So taught them how to create latte art. To make the ‘microfoam,’ he added steam to milk and then heated it. This caused the fats and sugars in the milk to break down into smaller, simpler components. Once the steamed milk was ready, he poured it into a cup of coffee in such a way that the milk drained first and finished with the foam to create the design.

So’s talk was followed by Malbataan’s, which highlighted the state of the coffee industry in Lipa City, Batangas—the birthplace of coffee in the Philippines. He explained that Don Geronimo de los Santos, a captain of Lipa, was the first person to enforce the mass planting of coffee in the city in 1808. 

The industry has long since expanded; at one point in the 1860s, Lipa was called “Villa de Lipa,” a rich town with a P4 million income. Despite this growth, the concerns of coffee farmers have largely been ignored. Many of them struggle to bounce back from the effects of natural disasters. They also have limited access to post-harvest machineries, which can improve the quality of their crops. 

To address these issues, Malbataan and his team at the Samahan ng Magkakape ng Lipa have provided science-based seminars on coffee quality, equipment like pulpers and drum roasters, and opportunities for farmers to join hands with more potential buyers. “Kailangan natin suportahan muna ang mga coffee farmers kasi sila ang isa sa mga pangunahing dahilan kung bakit staple na ang kape sa ating bahay,” he stressed.

(We need to support our coffee farmers because they are one of the main reasons why coffee has become a household staple.)

Have a cuppa

For both days of the event, participants may visit the bazaar, which has transformed the venue into a multi-functional outdoor space for coffee enthusiasts and sellers. CHEMSOC had put up 11 stalls, complete with colorful banners and lighted installations, for each of the event’s exhibitors. 

The exhibitors include the Samahan ng Magkakape ng Lipa, the La Salle Food and Water Institute, Exchange Alley Coffee House, Timemore Philippines, El Kapitan Enterprise, Cappo Coffee, Yellow Turtle Coffee, and Savoroso Coffee Incorporated, Yardstick Coffee, the Good Cup, and the Curator. Participants may drop by their booths where they can get their caffeine fix and interact with local coffee industry leaders.

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