#CafeAntonioLB

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Planting a Specialty Coffee Seed in Their Hearts

That's me showing them a photo of coffee cherries
* Last month, my Cafe Antonio team and I were invited to talk about coffee for three days (Oct. 22 to 24) to second year Hotel and Restaurant Management students in the Philippine Women's University in Calamba, Laguna. Still having the momentum from the coffee workshops from the previous 2 weeks, we were excited to try teaching to a much younger crowd.
My crew, Ian and Jason
* We didn't exactly presented to teach about coffee in the university, we're still too shy and insecure to do that. But at the back of our minds, we were hoping and praying that we could get opportunities to talk about coffee to a wider audience. Just like most of our out-of-town gigs and workshops, people just stumble upon us somewhere and eventually end up offering us deals that we couldn't refuse (The Godfather reference).
Ian and Jason setting up before the class
* I remember having a conversation with my barista friend, Vanessa Caceres, last year during a lunch break in an SCAA Workshop organized by Espresso World in Makati. I can't remember what day that was but I do remember that another barista, Byron Pantoja, was with us during that time. We were sharing inspiring barista stories to one another. Mam Vanessa said (everybody calls her that) she taught in schools when she was just starting out as a barista and she advised me to do the same in nearby schools back home. I told her I would but I didn't because I was too afraid and too shy. Almost a year has passed and I stuck to teaching people about coffee in small-scale workshops at the cafe. Eventually, a teacher in PWU, Lixcel Lantican, asked us to conduct a coffee appreciation class to 5 sections with 40 students each. Wow. I gathered courage...then we said, "let's do this!"
Behind the brew rail facing the class
* My coffee appreciation workshop is simple. And I've been developing this curriculum since 2007. Every year it evolves as I learn new things in workshops, books, cafes, and experience. To the coffee-lover this seems too basic but for the general public, every word I say is interesting! I'm used to teaching coffee to people who are already coffee-drinkers and coffee shop regulars but I haven't taught coffee to non-coffee drinking 18 year olds. So I figured out that this would be quite challenging. 
Behind the brew rail facing the class
* The strategy was this: condense and simplify the coffee appreciation workshop with lots of visuals and let them taste and see what they have learned in the end. We have to pull this off in 3 hours. I talk a lot especially when coffee is the topic so I have to restrain myself. 
The class watches a short video about the history of coffee
* My crew consisted of Jason Obrero, a regular customer, coffee addict, and ComSci instructor in UPLB; and Ian Alegre, our newest employee. Jason took care of the laptop and my PowerPoint presentation and videos while Ian helped with the logistics. For three days we took off from LB at around 7:30 am and arrived in Calamba at around 8 am. We would eat breakfast at McDonalds and wait for the start of the class at 9:00 am. One time we arrived too early in PWU, we had to sleep inside the van and wait for the students to come. 
Bawal matulog!
* The experience reminded me of a rock gig when I was still playing guitar for a band. But this time, we were bringing crates of heaters, brewers, filters, cups, and handouts up to the second floor of the school. And like any great rock show, there was a mic and sound sytem...that didn't work in days 2 and 3. So it literally became "coffee unplugged" together with our manual brewers. 
Jason fixing the PowerPoint Slides
* The first session of the first day was a little of a shock but it was okay. The class was manageable. We had a morning and an afternoon session. But after that first session, we knew what we had to do. Even Jason and Ian learned how to use the pourover brew rails just by watching and listening to my lectures.
* So what exactly did I talk about? I told them that there are different kinds of coffee. And that was already a revelation. There are different species, different varieties, roasts, blends, brewing methods, etc. And for an instant coffee-drinking nation like ours, that was already a mouthful of information.  After the lecture, I let them taste 4 kinds of single origin coffees from Luca and Tosh Coffee Lab using the pourover method. Almost all of them haven't tried brewed coffee in their lifetime. Now, people of the coffee industry, this is enough reason for us to pause and reflect. We need to understand that there is still a lot of work to be done in educating people about coffee and what we do. In the words of my friend and roaster, Jaycee Martinez, "[we have to] start from scratch." A few students approached me after the sessions and inquired about further training, coffee beans, and franchising. I was flattered that some students really were interested about the subject matter.

* After three days and five sessions of talking about the same thing again and again (I must admit, it was exhausting! KUDOS TO ALL TEACHERS, HOW DO YOU DO IT???!!!), we celebrated with a meal from Kenny Rogers. The three of us were relieved that it was over and we were thankful that an opportunity like that was given to us. It was truly a blessing. I told my crew that opportunities like these are very important because it enables us to teach the youth about the importance of coffee and the coffee industry in our country. At such an early age, a specialty coffee seed has been planted in their hearts. By the time these kids graduate and have their own cafes or work in cafes as baristas and managers, they'll know how to do it right. 

* Thank you Sir Lixcel for the opportunity! 





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