Barako, Liberica, and Excelsa coffee beans from Cuenca Batangas and my first home coffee cupping trial

Barako coffee is not a favorite. I associate it with sourness which I do not prefer in coffee. Hence, I have not tasted one in years.

However, two weeks ago we went to Cuenca, Batangas at the invitation of my cousin. Whenever I would visit a town outside of Metro Manila I like to drop by the public market to see what’s in there.

I thought, I would very much like to sample Batangas coffee (usually barako) again. It is part of my decision to support locally sourced coffee beans.

Janing Kapeng Barako stall at the Cuenca Public Market

We only had time to go directly to the stall that sells coffee beans and I was led to Janing’s.

Janing had three types of beans displayed like this: one is Barako medium dark roast, Premium Liberica, and Excelsa. He also sells Arabica and Robusta but these are prepacked and not displayed. He also said he had a few Barako medium roast.

I got one bag each of the Premium Liberica, Barako medium dark, medium, and Excelsa to try.

About a week later I decided to try all of these via an informal home cupping session.

I did not know how to do it so I just looked up YouTube links. I will not enumerate the procedure for cupping here as I am not an expert, but I will link to the sites I followed at the end.

I placed labels under the cups so I can do a blind testing of sorts
I happened to have these four 7oz ramekins which were perfect!

Here’s what I did:

The whole set up: A notebook and pen for notes, four cups for the beans, two tall glasses one with water for rinsing and the other for placing spoons, two round spoons, four ramekins for the brewed coffee, clean towel for wiping the spoon in between rinses, a scale, oh and a hand grinder and electric kettle (not in photo).
The ground beans with hot water
The ramekins after I had removed the coffee crust that formed on top. I dumped them in the cups as you can see in the picture.
  1. I wanted to do blind testing so I labeled the cups underneath so the names of the beans were hidden, placed the beans in the correct labeled cups and rearranged them so I didn’t remember which was what.
  2. I labeled the ramekins from A to D. I put the first ground coffee on Ramekin A and added letter A on the corresponding cup so I’ll know the coffee in the reveal.
  3. I followed and mimicked the people I see in cupping videos about slurping and trying to identify the notes and flavors. Haha!
Attempted to write notes of what I observed

Here’s a summary of my notes:

  • Smelling the dry ground beans, I wrote: dunno, grass?, Fresh rain, earth, dunno, broth, fresh. I could smell that letters B and D were distinct from A and C.
  • Smelling wet grounds, I wrote: wala ako maamoy. I mean, I smelled something I don’t know what I’m smelling!
  • while tasting, these are what I wrote: kabayo? Gulaman, savory, cigarette, may tama na ako after the 3rd round of sips, has astringency but not maasim or harshness sa dulo, arnibal, bitter caramel, dry finish on palate.
  • What I imagined was I was in a field where horses were around and was enjoying a glass of sago-gulaman!

The reveal:
A is Barako medium dark. Siya yung lasang kabayong gulaman at arnibal na may harshness.
B is Barako medium. Siya si savory bitter caramel that smells like fresh rain on earth
C is Excelsa. I cannot articulate what I’m tasting. Siya si broth smell.
D is Premium Liberica. Siya si fresh cigarette with dry finish on the palate.

What surprised me the most is zero sourness on any of these coffees. I associate barako with sourness. I feel like I am going to like all of these. Like in the sense that I can drink them for every day and not tinitiis lang.

My preference seems to be Barako medium. I can’t believe there’s a wide distinct taste between the medium dark and the medium roast. Second is the premium Liberica, it’s just different. Next is the Excelsa which is kind of like a stable normal coffee, and last is the Barako medium dark. It’s not bad but it’s the one with the harshness at the end.

All of these would be good for milky coffee drinks I think.

I sort of interviewed the guy who was selling, Kuya Dan, son of Janing. I asked the difference between Liberica and Barako as I thought they were the same.

Here was his reply:

Barako is different from Liberica although they come from the same tree. They are processed differently. His Liberica is from the red berries and wet washed (wet processed?). Then after getting the red berries, what’s left daw is what becomes the barako. So in their store, he puts a distinction between premium Liberica and Barako.

I did a test run of these beans with my choosy relatives last Sunday.

Made slow drip iced coffee with the Barako Medium and made ice cubes out of these for kori kohi.
Kori kohi. They enjoyed this jolt of coffee goodness hehe.
Made Japanese-style iced coffee with the Premium Liberica and Barako Medium Dark. Hindi na kinaya yung Excelsa.

In conclusion:

These coffee beans selection from Janing’s in Cuenca Batangas are quite enjoyable both hot and cold, black and with milk. Definitely worth a repeat buy!

List of links for home coffee cupping:

James Hoffmann How to cup coffee at home
James Hoffmann A beginner’s guide to tasting coffee
James Hoffmann World’s largest coffee tasting
Fellow Products A step by step guide to cupping coffee

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