A Shangri-la Saturday: Starbucks’ Coffee Appreciation Festival in PH!

Hi everyone! Ken here. This time’s I went to Shangri-la in Ortigas to visit Starbucks’ Coffee Appreciation Festival. This one’s really awesome, so do enjoy! 🙂

[April 2, 2016]

I’ve only actually been in Shang a handful of times since coming here to the metro. Shangri-la or “Shang” for short is a well-known mall in the Philippines and even has stores that cater to the more…posh customers. You know what I mean.

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Yes, you do.

After a few minutes of walking around, I was able to spot the festival from above. Target sighted. I immediately went down, lined up, and registered to get inside.

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Not too crowded. I came at a good time.

This year’s Starbucks Coffee Appreciation Festival is the first of its kind in the Philippines, and it seems to be well-received. So many are already waiting in line in the first few hours! Hope they’ll be able to do this next year.

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This is so excitiiiiiiing!

The festival venue had several stations and exhibits that we needed to explore in order to complete our stamps and become certified coffee explorers (it said so on the map they gave us!). I snapped some photos some exhibits first before I followed the crowd and started the whole excursion.

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I went to the first exhibit on the list which was about the history of coffee. The baristas there explained how coffee was discovered by man. They told the story of Kaldi the goat-herder, who was said to have discovered the effects of coffee after seeing his goats being hyper after eating the cherries of a certain tree there. Kaldi tried the cherries himself, and the rest was history.

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Here you can see all the people lining up to listen to their stories.

The next exhibit was regarding the two most commercially grown beans in the world: Coffeea Arabica and Coffea Robusta! They highlighted their main differences, as well as where they’re primarily made. They asked us questions to test our knowledge, and I ended up being the active kid in class and answered their questions. :3

Barista: In what kinds of coffee is Robusta used?

Me: …in instant coffees, right?

Barista: That’s correct!

Fun Fact #1: The Philippines’ produces mainly robusta and liberica beans, specifically the kapeng barako beans that are made in the Batangas and Cavite plains.

Fun Fact #2: Arabica is the bean type used by Starbucks and most high quality coffee shops, while Robusta is mainly used in instant coffee.

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Now you know.

On display were sample of dried coffee cherries, as well as examples of arabica and robusta coffee beans. Yes, you can touch them. Actually touching and feeling the texture of very fruit that coffee comes from is pretty cool in itself.

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Dried Coffee Cherries. The beans are inside.
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Samples of green (not yet roasted) Arabica and Robusta beans.

Moving on, the next exhibit’s about the processing of coffee. They explained how coffee is harvested and extracted from beans all around the globe, as well as the kinds of beans produced from the three main coffee-growing regions: Latin America, Africa/Arabia, and Asia Pacific.

Fun Fact #3:

  1. Latin American beans tend to be more acidic,
  2. African/Arabian beans have a more exotic flavor,
  3. while Asia Pacific beans have more body.

This is because they utilize different methods of processing the coffee cherries, which are enumerated here:

Fun Fact #4:

  1. Latin American beans use the wet processing, which increases the acidity of the coffee.
  2. African/Arabian beans use the older dry processing method, which involves sun-drying coffee cherries.
  3. Asia Pacific beans use the semi-dry processing, which is said to increase the body of the coffee.
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One of the baristas showing off their exhibits.
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Beans from the three coffee-growing regions.

I then went to the next station, which was all about coffee roasting. I hurried into the front of the crowd because I was eager to listen to the lecture, as well as to get a good spot for taking pictures.

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The barista introduced to us the three different roasts of coffee there is: Light-roasted coffee or the Starbucks-named “Blonde Roast”, Medium Roast, and Dark Roast.

Fun Fact #5:

  1. Light roasts retain most of the original beans’ flavor characteristics, which can translate to more acidic coffee and a light body.
  2. Medium-roasted coffee is a balance between the original flavor and the darker, fuller-bodied flavors. If Goldilocks ever wanted coffee, she’d probably pick this one.
  3. Dark roast is when the roast fully eclipses the beans’ natural flavor, making it full-bodied and strong. I can picture burly lumberjacks drinking this black with one hand while chopping a tree on the other.
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The three different roasts. Note their color.
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The barista shown here explaining all you need to know about coffee roasting.

Fun Fact #6: There is no such thing as an “espresso bean” – espresso is made from coffee beans roasted to an espresso roast. As shown below.

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Again, now you know.

They also showed their roast spectrum, which is basically the roast levels of the range of beans they were selling. After the crowd dispersed, I stayed behind a little and asked the barista this:

Me: So does it mean that a darker roast translates directly to a fuller-bodied coffee?

Barista: Yes, it does.

Me: No exceptions?

Barista: None. 🙂

There you have it. 😀

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So many roast profiles, so little time.

The next part of the festival which caught my eye was the series of brewing demonstrations. They had demos for both the pour-over application and French press methods of making coffee, and they also invited us participants to join them. And taste the coffee we made. Awesome.

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Here’s the French Press stall.

Since I only had enough time to visit just one (too many people at the exhibit at this point), I went straight for the pour-over stall. I already know how to make coffee with a French press anyway, so I wanted to try something new.

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Here was the batch before us, just as they were finishing up.

The baristas there started with an introduction to the fundamentals of brewing good coffee, which they enumerated as WATER, PROPORTION, GRIND, and FRESHNESS. Here’s why they’re so important.

Fun Fact #7: The four fundamentals of brewing coffee (according to Starbucks but I think all coffee shops worth a dime follow this strictly):

  1. Water – start with fresh, filtered water. Because coffee drinks are mostly water, the quality of the water directly influences the quality of the coffee.
  2. Proportion – the amount of coffee in proportion to the water is essential to making good coffee. More coffee translates to a stronger cup, and vice versa.
  3. Grind – specifically, the grind size. It depends on the brew method you’re performing, but for a French press you’d need a coarse grind. Make a wrong grind and your coffee might either become under-extracted or bitter.
  4. Freshness – coffee tends to deteriorate rapidly once it’s ground. Thus, it’s always a good practice to grind your whole beans just before brewing, in order to ensure a consistently good cup every time.
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Mr. Hero explaining the fundamentals of brewing coffee.

After the introduction, it was time to make our own pour-over coffee. The barista did a demo first before letting us try it out so that we wouldn’t be too lost in making our own.

And now it was our turn to try it out. Mimicking the barista’s actions, I experienced some difficulty with adjusting the filter, but ended up finishing up with good time.

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I did a good job, I think.

After that awesome brewing excursion, I went to the next exhibit, which was about the flavors of coffee. The baristas there had explained the different flavor profiles that we should look out for in coffee, and they also had us taste black coffee to help us identify them. They also made us eat nuts to enjoy the coffee even more.

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The baristas here are distributing freshly-pressed coffee to the participants.

Fun Fact #8: COFFEE CUPPING is the practice of observing and determining the taste and aromas of coffee. Anyone can do it! You’ll need a lot of practice to do so if you’re a beginner, though.

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Really good! Goes well with almonds.
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Here’s a barista explaining the different flavor profiles to an attentive participant.

The next one’s my favorite: the Latte Art section! Saw one of the participants being taught how to make a heart, so I fell in line and waited for my turn.

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The baristas are very helpful in teaching you what you need to know.

One of the participants gave it a try and ended up with either a dot, spilled milk or weird shapes. Latte art is hard to do, indeed. And very intimidating to watch.

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The one at the left was made by a participant; the other two were demos from the barista. Scary.

Right before my turn came, the barista went ahead and redid her demonstration of the latte art. I watched attentively as she poured the milk and tilted the cup.

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I was quivering with anticipation while I watched at this point.

Fun Fact #9: A cafe latte is made using espresso and milk. It’s different from cappuccino in that it has more steamed milk and it originated from America. Cappuccino on the other hand originates from Italy. You can also do latte art on a cappuccino. Fascinating!

Thankfully, the barista guided my hand when my turn came. She guided my hand throughout the whole ordeal. A tilt, pour, rise, drop, rise and swish later over what felt like forever, all the while hearing suspenseful opera music, I finally ended up with a cup of…

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…THIS. WAIT, WHAT?!

…I’m not gonna lie here, that right there is my first ever try at latte art. Ever. Okay, so a professional guided my hand the whole time but I /did/ follow her instructions. They even commented like this:

Barista: Wow, you’re really good at this! You could actually be a barista!

Audience: *cheers*

Me: Nah, she guided my hand the whole time though. *jokes* I wasn’t actually you know…moving and all.

Audience: *laughs*

Me: *internally feeling flattered and blissful hahaha*

*clears throat* Moving on.

The last station was about Starbucks’ Third Wave variant, Starbucks Reserve (which was mentioned in my earlier blog post here). They discussed one of their imported variants of coffee beans, which was their Nicaragua Maracaturra beans, which come from South America. They showed us bean samples which are about twice the size of most other beans. We also got a taste of the coffee they made. Delicious!

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Here’s a barista brewing their third-wave coffee beans.
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Nicaragua Maracaturra beans on display.
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That’s a single coffee bean, on top of my hand for scale.
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Starbucks Reserve’s commitment to quality.

Since I was able to go to all the stations on our map, I was finally able to get a certification. I was a Certified Coffee Explorer! Which is just a formality at this point, but at least it’s official now in some way. Kind of like getting your diploma 2 or more years after you’ve actually graduated. I’m looking at you, QC-based State University.

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Totally just a formality.

Along with the certification came a bag full of goodies: a notepad where you can write flavor profiles in detail, a pen, some pamphlets about coffee, and a leather Starbucks card holder! Considering that this is totally free, I was really pleased by these freebies.

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Feeling that sense of fulfillment right now.

Now that I was able to get myself certified, it was time to check out all the other exhibits on display. Like these sweet sculptures made of coffee beans, courtesy of Ms. Ella Hipolito:

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Oh, I most definitely will, thank you.
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You gotta admit, this is pretty good.

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Using coffee beans, huh. Brilliant! Ms. Hipolito knows her stuff.

I’m assuming these were made using different roasts of coffee beans for the color. Wow. Also featured is a Live Chalk Art Demo by Mr. JayR Eusebio, who happens to be a Starbucks Store Manager! Talk about being talented. 🙂

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I went on a Saturday, so I couldn’t see Ms. Hipolito though. Shame.
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Went in for a closer look. He’s really good.

Participants can also write on the other parts on the blackboard. Knowing that, I took the time to take advantage of the situation by advertising this very blog. So if you’re one of those who are following my blog because of that ad you saw last April 2, then you have my heartfelt thanks. Hahaha!

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Free advertising is good advertising, I tell you.

And finally before I left, I was able to catch a groovy musical treat. What a way to cap off my visit!

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Very soothing~

And that was it. I actually went someplace else after this, but I’ll save it for my next post. Think of it as a surprise. 🙂 Anyway, I hope you were able to attend this year’s Starbucks Coffee Appreciation Festival, and if not, there’s always next year! Probably. We should ask them about that. Adios! 🙂

-Ken

 

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