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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Coffee For Peace

Published in You Magazine, Nove-Dec issue

Imagine yourself witnessing an armed war between the Philippine Military and the MILF. They all seem tired, parched and hungry. You watch these men as they run through the forest. They seem to be heading somewhere to take solace. You see them enter a house, leaving their weapons outside. As you peek thru the window, you are amazed. The military men and the MILF soldiers are sitting side by side, talking over a cup of coffee. You wonder who can be so kind as to risk their lives in the middle of war just to help these poor soldiers and rebels. Well, the answer is the peace builders. And this was the start of Coffee for Peace.

Yes. Coffee for Peace (or C4P) is not just another coffee shop. It has a pretty interesting back story behind it. Located along MacArthur Hiway in Matina, right smack in the middle of Davao City, C4P has a lot of different advocacies.

For one, they try to help build peace among Mindanaoans. Their ultimate goal is for the Bangsamoro people, the migrants (basically, most of the Christian community) and the Lumads (indigenous people from Mindanao) to start building a healthier relationship between themselves. They strive for peace, and hope that one day, these three “tribes” may see each other eye to eye and start acknowledging each other’s presence and importance. For this purpose, part of Coffee for Peace’s income goes to PAR (Peace and Reconciliation) Teams who are being trained to be agents of peace in Mindanao.

Coffee for Peace also gets their coffee from B’laans. B’laans are indigenous people from Mount Matutum in South Cotabato. C4P purchases raw coffee from these B’laans at a fair price, that is, at a price that these Lumads want to get in return for their hard work.

Coffee for Peace is also friendly to our environment. They support the natural and traditional way of coffee farming, and they even have a solar-powered air conditioning system.

They also sell products like fudge bars from women who want to earn extra income and beautiful cloths hand-woven by women from Maguindanao. Also, scattered around the shop are products made by different Lumad tribes that are both interesting and useful.

Obviously, C4P, unlike most coffee shops in other key cities in the country, is not main stream. It is unconventional, not commercial. Coffee for Peace is like food for the soul. Their story warms the heart and the ambience feeds the artist in everyone. Their interiors are interesting; they seem to take you back to your native roots while managing to remain current. Their innovative furnishings (a basket for catching fish, repurposed as a lamp? Pure genius!) and wonderful use of native products make the place interesting and quirky.

Their menu is simple, no none-sense. But that does not mean that it’s boring. One of their best sellers, the Cifra ala Mode is a cool mix of citrus, coffee and cool fun. This one-of-a-kind creation by head barista, Ibrahim Balone, won as the best Cold Espresso Concoction in last year’s NCCC Culinary Festival. And it truly deserves the title. It is just simply unique and unexpected.

The best item in their menu, however, is their Civet coffee. You can not visit Coffee for Peace without trying their Civet coffee. Yes. Everybody has heard about this infamous cuppa. Civet coffee is the most expensive coffee in the world, and you can get it here, for just 160 pesos. Now isn’t that a deal! Civet coffee is the coffee drinker’s dream. It is aromatic, has less caffeine, has a full body, and goes down smooth. As an added bonus, they serve their civet coffee in a siphon, a contraption for steeping coffee. Watching the coffee move up and down as the siphon creates a vacuum is an experience by itself. Other must tries are their Beef Shpeherd’s Pie (they do not serve any pork dishes) their flower teas (they literally put flowers in a huge glass pot) and their tuna melt.
The quaint shop feels homey and un-intimidating, the staff is friendly and they just make you feel welcome. And that is what Coffee for Peace does best. Whether you are a student from nearby Ateneo de Davao, a coffee connoisseur, an artist, an ex-pat, a member of the military, the MILF, or maybe even, a budding journalist, you feel welcome in Coffee for Peace.

In this country where main stream coffee shop franchises that lack personality and depth reign supreme, this truly Filipino coffee shop goes against the grain and proves, once again, that the Filipino is the master of hospitality and truly great cuisine.
Did you know?

-Civet Cofee is made from Civet (or Alamid) feces! Yes. Civets eat coffee berries but they do not digest the coffee beans. B’laans look for Civet feces in caves around Mt. Matutum and clean them for roasting.
-Civet Coffee is the most expensive in the world selling between $120 and $600 USD per pound, we can buy it locally for around 11,000 Philippine Pesos.
-Coffee for Peace uses Arabica beans from South Cotabato and other parts of the Philippines
-Arabica beans are the best commercially grown species of coffee, with a very strong aroma and very minimal caffeine content (with 12 milligrams of caffeine per gram of dry coffee)

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