From Ethiopia to the Philippines: a short history of how coffee came to the Philippines

by Michelle Ylaya

Coffee Plant was first discovered in Ethiopia where the leaves of the plant were brewed for medicinal benefits. It reached the Arabian Peninsula where it grew prosperously in Yemen.

The Ottoman Governor of Yemen found a new way of drinking the coffee plant by roasting its beans over the fire. This new knowledge was brought to Istanbul, where coffee was appreciated immensely.


The Venetian merchants, who would later be known as the first Westerners to explore Asia, brought coffee back home with them, inevitably making Europe curious about the ‘Orient.’

When the Age of Discovery came, countries such as Spain, Britain, the Netherlands and France created colonies in Asia and Africa where the temperature allows for the coffee plant to grow.

One of these countries is the Philippines. The first coffee beans planted in the country came from Mexico and were grown in the fertile soil of Lipa, Batangas.
Thus, the coffee industry was established in the Philippines. Coffee was one of the Philippines’ major exports during the Spanish Colonization of the Philippines.


The variant known as Batangas Barako competed with that of the rest of the world.
At the turn of the 19th Century, the Philippines even became the only supplier of coffee in the entire world.

However, Coffee rust would, unfortunately, catch up with the coffee grown in the Philippines. In fact, the industry would never be the same after 1889. Production would decline to merely a sixth of its glory days.

When the Americans came, they introduced a variant that was more resistant as well as instant coffee that resulted as coffee became more in demand.

At present, Batangas Barako is still grown in the Philippines as well as Arabica, Excelsa, and Robusta. Coffee enthusiasts in the Philippines take advantage of the many types of coffee beans that grow in the country as they develop unique blends. As a result, local designer coffee places have become increasingly popular in the Philippines.

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