I was once again hit with a terrible bout of writer’s block (hence the absence). I ended up looking for inspiration from one of my all time favourite gourmands on the planet: Anthony Bourdain.
With the expectation of yet again capitalizing on another European beverage discovery, I decided to watch Bourdain’s No Reservations episode shot in Burgundy (featuring celebrity chef and Burgundy native, Chef Ludo).
The funny thing was, instead of finding a European inspiration, the overarching theme of the show resonated with me (I’m paraphrasing here): You really have to look to your roots to find inspiration.
I looked back at recent posts and realized that I have been featuring so many foreign beverages. Nothing wrong with that, I suppose… After all, one of the goals of this blog is to provide accessible content for Pinoys who want to learn about beverages in a safe, anti-snob environment.
The thing is, I feel I’ve let go of the other goal: Highlighting our wonderful indigenous products.
Next question was: What do I feature? Where can I find something truly Filipino and new?
I found answers from an unlikely source: A Christmas bazaar. Over the years, Christmas bazaars have exploded and have become part of the Filipino holiday tradition, so much so that many of these have popped up everywhere. St. James Bazaar is legendary for its size; the Noel Bazaar causes a bigger traffic jam than usual in Pasay with shoppers coming from all over… Of course, there’s the Rockwell Bazaar.
Loving the #hashtag!
In Rockwell, I was particularly interested with a group of people who promised good coffee without the acidity (perfect for someone like me who has a tendency to drink copious amounts of wine), packaged in funky looking black bags with, of all things, an owl.
As I talked to Doctor (that’s right) Mitch Villafania, I found out that the owl was conceptualized because hardcore coffee drinkers have a tendency to share nocturnal qualities with an owl (excellent point made). They named the owl “Old Juancho”, which ended up becoming their catchy brand name (and mascot). Old Juancho is a collaboration between family and friends: Doctor Mitch, John (his younger brother), Jessica (his wife), and John’s former schoolmates Steve Cardona and Jan Michael Jose. This close-knit group is very hands-on with the production and sale of the coffee, making sure that each bag maintains impeccable quality.
The wonderful team behind Old Juancho (L-R): John, JM, Jessica, and Doc Mitch (not in photo: Steve)
Before I go any further, a little coffee 101:
- Coffee aficionados are probably familiar with the “big four”: Arabica, Robusta, Liberica, and Excelsia. Old Juancho uses Liberica, the rarest of the four. The beans originated mainly from Libya (which gives an insight to the etymology of the name), and were brought to our shores around the 1800s.
- Liberica is the most resilient of the four (pest resistant, and once upon a time, it outlasted Arabica crops during the “coffee rust epdemic” 0f 1890).
- Proudly Pinoy fact: These beautiful, rare beans are mostly cultivated in Batangas. A familiar Pinoy coffee term is “barako”. Much as barako harkens thoughts of a muscle-bound dude (barako means “tough man”), there is more evidence that the “barako” are the men who climb Liberica trees (which could reach upto 30 feet high).
- Liberica coffee is a dream for people who suffer heartburn because of its naturally low acidity (I can’t stress enough how happy this fact makes me).
Unfortunately, over the years, I’ve had a difficult time trying to find a good, affordable source of these gems in groceries or gourmet shops. Thank goodness for Old Juancho. A guarantee of quality: the coffee is sourced directly, and the process from roasting to grinding does not exceed three days.
Now, the all-important question remains: What is it like? Mitch says the taste is “initially smoky and a bit bold, which later shifts to a more subtle style with rich caramel tones”. I couldn’t agree more. In my opinion, though… It’s like a warm, fuzzy hug in the morning. 😉
Interested in having your own Old Juancho experience? Bags can be bought through:
Mobile: 0919-8014957 (John)
Makes excellent stocking stuffers too. 🙂