Women In Coffee Series: Ros Juan of Commune ✨
The beginning of my coffee journey
"I started in coffee when I was in college. I would intern for a local coffee company. So my aunt was a founder of one of the local coffee companies in the country and she was also one of the people behind the Philippine Coffee Board, so I would intern with her a lot.
But actually thinking about it, the very first time was when we were in Italy, and my dad said “when you’re in Italy and when you have coffee, watch them.. they all have espresso at the bar because the moment you sit down, you pay for a table charge so it was more expensive.” So everyone just has an espresso by the bar then quickly goes.
So I wanted to try it myself. I had an espresso at the bar at 13 years old and I was like “eww!”. But, thinking about it now it was a very superficial reason because it felt so “adult”!
Later on when I really got immersed in the industry, I was working with my aunt, and finally my first job was with a coffee company, it was my exposure to the local coffee industry. In year 2000, we would already go to coffee farms, meet the coffee farmers, and really see the farm to cup process, and at the same time try to really help these farmers improve the quality and get better prices for their coffees.
To summarize, I got so interested with the entire industry like because of the complexity of it, the people involved, and the many different facets that you can immerse yourself in and learn about. That’s why since then until now, it’s just been coffee. "
A quick switch
"I went into advertising. But even if I was in a coffee company, I was already doing a lot of marketing functions. I had a brief stint in Shanghai for about 4 years where I managed a coffee shop there as well. So it was more operations and marketing, and then in 2009 when I came back home, I was a bit tired of being in Food and Beverage Industry.
I took a break and went to Digital Marketing, so I was a Social Media Strategist and I was also a Social Media Director for one of the integrated digital marketing agencies. This lasted for a couple of years until I started Commune in 2013."
My daily routine
"My normal workday has never been a super rigid schedule. I’m not a morning person, I am going to admit that off the bat (thats why I really need my coffee!) so I can start really working.
Pre-pandemic, I would really hold office in the cafe so I’m pretty much here everyday. We do have an office upstairs so either I’m roaming around, roasting coffee or in the office to do the administrative and managerial tasks.
But since the pandemic, movement has changed. I would still try to drop by Commune as much as I can, and then we would roast once or twice a week. A lot of the work is done remotely like checking out the online store, social media, etc
....and then I sleep late! Hahaha! I don’t know if it’s because of the coffee or that’s just how I’m wired!"
Why I chose coffee
"I think because of my early exposure to the local coffee industry, at the core of everything is really showcasing local coffee and being able to work with our coffee farmers, improving the quality, and show the world that Philippines does have good coffee.
In 2013 when Commune started, people were very skeptical about the fact that we were only serving local coffee. But again, I was very privileged at that time to have the Philippine Coffee Board and know where I could source good coffee. Since then, we’ve been working with the Philippine Coffee Board and the International Womens Coffee Alliance. We used to travel a lot to coffee farms for trainings and learning sessions, but now we do a lot of that on Zoom.
Aside from the fact that I really do enjoy being in a cafe and the perks of having unlimited access to coffee (like literally!). But the biggest purpose is that there’s so much potential in the local coffee industry and that still needs a lot of work, but we’ve all seen the improvements. I’d like to think that we’re taking steps to the right direction. A little more work and we’ll get there."
Struggles & Learning Curves
"One of the struggles is getting some recognition for local Philippine coffee, there was a time that some Filipinos didn’t even know that we grow coffee, when the Philippine Coffee Board started, there was a potential extinction of coffee in the Philippines because farmers were prioritizing other crops and some coffee trees were abandoned or cut but it was a long time ago.
So the initial struggle was really getting some space and recognition for Philippine coffee. But when there are challenges and struggles, a little determination, there will always be some ways around it so now the attention, recognition it deserves is finally getting there.
Another constant learning curve is that there is so much to learn about coffee in every aspect. For example in farming, you are constantly developing techniques, processing, roasting, and brewing. In every aspect of coffee, there’s just so much more to learn. It can be really challenging but that’s what makes it exciting. It never stops. The things you learn about coffee is just endless that keeps us excited everyday."
Women in Coffee
"The coffee industry has always been a male-dominant industry globally. Not just in the coffee industry, but in any industry — having representation for everyone is very important because it’s not just to show diversity. It’s because different people bring different things to the table. I think for you to have a holistic approach, you need different perspectives. Different ways to solve problems, different ways in tackling creative tasks.
In coffee, it’s particularly interesting because women are physiologically better taste testers than men. Because we do have mo receptors in our tongue to distinguish nuances, and this is actually scientifically proven. Aside from that, at the farms, women are actually very instrumental in improving the quality of coffee because women are more meticulous. We have the patience to sort beans and enjoy doing it while even chatting with each other!"
What are you most proud of today?
I’m really proud of the local coffee industry. It has gone through so much.
For centuries of coffee history in the country. Out of all the Southeast Asian nations, almost all, except Singapore, grow coffee. But out of all those countries, the Philippines is actually the highest consumer of coffee. So our coffee industry is really old and really rich, and despite everything we’ve been through, we just made it through it, and now I’m really proud how Filipinos have taken it upon themselves to really promote Philippine coffee, how our coffee producers have taken an active role even online, the home roasters, the micro roasters and even the bigger roasters are doing their part in helping the industry. I think i’m proud of that!
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Women In Coffee Series: Veronica Aguirre of Flair Espresso & Yield 💗
How I fell in love with coffee
"It’s funny because I was anti-coffee half my life. My friends know this! I tried it once and it made me sleepy, so I never bothered having it again. This all changed when I worked for a company that had a coffee vendo machine. Unlimited coffee! Most importantly, it was FREE, so I tried it again, LOVED it, had it daily, until I couldn’t imagine not starting my day without it!
My obsession with specialty coffee began shortly after this. I scoured Metro Manila for specialty cafes and worked there (my job then allowed me to work remotely). The time I spent in the cafés I visited truly opened my eyes to coffee as a craft and an experience, more than just a beverage
It was serendipitous too because one of my favorite specialty coffee shops – Toby’s Estate – hired me to be their Marketing Manager. Being surrounded by coffee enthusiasts and experts daily was and is exciting. It fueled my interest and love for coffee, helped me understand its technicalities, and made me realize that both the process and the end product (my favorite flat white) is something I love equally.
Enter Method Brewers – which I founded with my good friend Elmo during the pandemic. We both noticed the growing home brewing market, and saw it as an opportunity to bring in a product that greatly highlights the enjoyment you get out of the brewing process. Our company motto is “Brew Mindfully” and we made sure all our products reflect this."
How I spend my day
"My day begins after lunch! Not because I wake up late, but because the first 4-5 hours of my day is dedicated to my little one (his breakfast, bath time, etc) haha.
Kidding aside, I do not really have a sets chedule. I’ll brew my first cup of coffee shortly before lunch and answer work emails, messages / inquiries on social media platforms for both Toby’s Estate and Method Brewers. Time for con calls, demos and order fulfillment are normally set after lunch.
However, when an inquiry or an order comes in, my co-founder and I make sure to respond to inquiries and fulfill the orders immediately– which can be any time throughout the day, sometimes even close to and past midnight."
"I’ve always wanted to run a coffee-centric business, initially as a passion project. I’m glad that the opportunity to learn and educate myself about espresso and the coffee industry came my way. I took it as a sign to finally pursue and be serious about it!
I also find the brewing process therapeutic. It allows me to be still, slow down and enjoy what’s unfolding in front of me, like coffee blooming, even just for 3 minutes. My day would normally require a fast pace, so being able to spare a few minutes for slowness is a treat. This is what I hope owners of our products experience as well."
Best part of being in the coffee world
"It is and has always been a fun, relaxing experience.
Sometimes there’s pressure to “know your sh*t” to drink coffee a certain way (e.g. no sugar), to make sure you have it dialed in. But at the end of the day, it’s all about YOUR preference! I learned to just have fun with it! Bad /sink-worthy shot? Add milk + 1 tbsp condensed milk! Haha!"
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Women in Coffee
"We all know that coffee is not created equally.
The process from bean to cup is tedious and a lot of work goes on behind the scenes.
Despite being in a male-dominated industry, women do play a vital role in this. From harvesting, roasting beans to create the flavor profile we know and love, to sales and marketing, to pulling the perfect shot in your favorite cafe.
It’s vital to recognize and acknowledge women’s role in the value chain in order to empower and increase female participation in the industry.
This will give more women confidence to take on bigger, more influential roles."
What are you most proud of today?
Tough one! I’d say successfully juggling and being able to spare time for all my passion projects, work, family and most importantly, myself is what I’m most proud of.
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Women In Coffee Series: Larissa Joson
How it all started
"My interest in coffee really began when my father introduced me to the arabica of the Tboli tribe in T’Boli, South Cotabato. That was back in 2017 and all I knew about coffee then was that I thought it tasted bitter and I knew I liked it black!
In 2018, which was the same year The Dream Coffee officially launched, I tried to learn as much as I could about coffee, from harvest and post-harvest processes to roasting and cupping. I think my first “Coffee can taste like this?!” moment was when I attend a cupping class with Stumptown Roasters in New York City. We cupped at least eight origins from Latin America and Africa, and it was my first time totaste fruits, florals, and spices in coffee. It was a sensory overload and truly unforgettable!
My first coffee-related job is creating The Dream Coffee and working with the farmers behind it."
A typical day in my life
"It’s a lot of coordination and because of our situation now, all of it is done virtually. Since the pandemic kicked in, I think the biggest personal loss for me is not being able to see our farmers physically.
There are a lot of challenges with communicating with them through calls, but some opportunities, too, like having them oversee a harvest season on their own for the first time (this started with the 2020-2021 harvest season, which kicked off in November 2020 and is still ongoing). Like I said, it’s a lot of coordination, from talking to my father who takes the lead in community development, to discussing orders and logistics with our roaster, to presenting The Dream Coffee to other retailers, to creating content with a designer for our online assets, to overseeing deliveries, to generating reports and studying how The Dream Coffee can continue to grow. Somewhere in between of course, I have a cup of coffee. Or two. Or more. Every single day is a mix of all of these things!"
The World of Coffee
"My main motivator for doing what I do is the Tboli tribe, who I am incredibly privileged to work with. It just so happened that arabica coffee became the most viable commodity for us to partner on together.
When we started working with them, they had no practices in place for harvesting and processing arabica, and year on year, we have been able to improve and produce better coffee, largely because they’re really committed to making their tribe and area become synonymous with Philippine coffee. I got into this because of them, and I continue to stay the course because of them."
The Biggest Hurdle
"Not having a single clue as to what I was doing... Haha! But seriously, before starting The Dream Coffee, I was a lifestyle journalist and a marketer in the beauty industry.
My career shift had some heads scratching, myself included. But, like I said, coffee became more than “just coffee” to me. It became an avenue to highlight a culturally-rich, yet marginalized community. It became a small, but definitive way to contribute to nation building.
I think having that sense of purpose is important, because it becomes easier to persevere. To confront the struggle of not knowing anything, I had to embrace being a beginner and starting from scratch. To this day, I still don’t think I know all that I should, but all that means is that there’s more to learn."
Women in Coffee
"Any industry benefits from women representation across its value chain."
In coffee specifically, women, who tend to be more detail-oriented, can improve quality from the production level already through careful and thorough picking and sorting.
In our context in T’Boli, it’s the women who manage the books and records, showing us that women are indispensable for business growth. It’s also through women representation that we can close in the gender gap in coffee.
It’s women who will be able to voice out what women need so that they can play a role across the entire chain."
What are you most proud of today?
"Seeing the farmers of T’Boli believe in their coffee and invest in it for the long haul.
When they embrace this culture of empowerment and entrepreneurship, it makes me proud, because it means they’re taking ownership of what is duly theirs."