[PHOTO AT LEFT - METRO'S  POOR FROLIC IN MANILA BAY: Families frolic in the waters of Manila Bay yesterday. Despite the danger of pollution, people from mostly poor communities in Metro Manila flock to the bay to swim during summer. Photo by ERNIE PEÑAREDONDO]

MANILA, MARCH 24, 2008 (STAR) The Philippines’ love affair with coffee began during the Spanish era, when conquerors from the Iberian peninsula brought coffee to the islands and planted it in the colony’s highlands. Thanks to the perfect mélange of tropical humidity, cool climate, and fertile earth, coffee plantations in the Philippines flourished and transformed the country into one of the largest coffee producers in the world during the 19th century.

Today, increasing global interest in special brews and exotic coffee blends is putting the Philippines back in the spotlight. Travel Café Philippines, the first-ever destination-themed lifestyle café in the country, serves not only world-class cuisine inspired by indigenous flavors, but also celebrates the Filipino coffee heritage and creates real Philippine coffee culture by serving authentic local coffee brands.

Coffee Alamid. Several years ago, Filipino coffee lovers got wind that the old folks who worked in the coffee-growing areas of Batangas had been brewing coffee beans of extraordinary quality. They discovered that the beans actually came from coffee cherries that had been eaten by the Philippine Palm Civet, a cat-like mammal native to Philippine forests.

Eventually this became known as Coffee Alamid or Philippine Civet Coffee, which today is harvested in select areas around the Philippines, and is considered one of the rarest, most coveted and expensive types of coffees in the world, selling for as low as $120 and as high as $600 per pound in countries like Japan and the United States Coffee lovers can sample this very special coffee at Travel Café Philippines for a very reasonable price. Mount Matutum Coffee. Mount Matutum, a dormant volcano that lies in southern Mindanao, is endowed with fertile soil, moderate climate and pristine streams. It’s home to one of the best coffee-growing regions in the country. Arabica coffee from Mount Matutum is shade-grown, creating organically grown coffee cherries with a fuller aroma and a distinctively complex and fruity flavor.

Cordillera Mountain Coffee. Another Philippine coffee that benefits from growing at high, fertile altitudes is the Cordillera Mountain Coffee, the Philippines’ premium Arabica variety grown in the mountain peaks of Sagada, the rich red soil of Benguet and the lush mountains of Kalinga and Ifugao.

Premium Barako Blend. Filipinos are already well aware of Barako coffee, which has the distinctively pungent aroma and strong flavor of the Coffea liberica variety, a very rare and exotic species.

The first Travel Café Philippines, modeled after the franchise business model of the DOT, was launched last December at trendy Greenbelt 5, Ayala Center in Makati City. The Travel Café Philippines at Greenbelt 5 will serve as the prototype TCP, setting quality standards that will be adopted in future TCPs here and overseas.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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