Kape (Coffea)

Description and Characteristics

Kape (kâ-pé), famously known as coffee, is a small evergreen tree usually growing up to a height of three to five meters. However, developing coffee in the wild allows the stem to grow up to 10 meters. Coffee plant has shiny green leaves in a shape of elliptic-ovate to elliptic-oblong and pointed at both ends. Moreover, leaves are arranged on both sides of a branch and grow up to 15 centimeters long. In the axil of leaves grows the clusters of white, star-shaped flowers. Each flower is about 1.5 centimeters long and later on, develops into fruit. Fruits are usually in groups and turn from green to red to brown black as it matures. These fruits are what’s being turned into coffee beans and coffee products for the beverage. Furthermore, each ripe fruit produces two seeds that can be harvested and sown for coffee plant propagation. There are more than 75 known coffee species in the world with various names, sizes, and quality. In most cases in the Philippines, the term “Kape” is used to mean different things which can be the tree itself, the fruit, the beans or product for the beverage, or the beverage itself. 

Location and Sources Coffee can be grown between the southernmost and northernmost latitudes of the earth where sun can be directly overhead in areas such as nutrient rich volcanic slopes, vast lush plains, and rich forests. In the Philippines, coffee is said to be introduced by the Spaniards and is currently widely distributed all throughout the country. With its favorable climate and soil condition, the Philippines is one of the few countries in the world that yields the four varieties of commercially-viable coffee: Robusta, Arabica, Excelsa, and Liberica. The largest coffee-production areas in the country are the Southern Tagalog and Northern Mindanao. Though coffee is also grown in other places such as Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Bicol, and the Visayas region. Brands that offer locally-sourced coffee online and on their physical stores include Figures of Beans, Daybreak Coffee, Barako-EH, Everyday Coffee Roasters, Beanhi PH, Yardstick, Original Grounds Coffee Co., Coffeellera, Commune, Stout Coffee, and Mr. Beans Coffee. These brands support the livelihood of farmers from different coffee-producing areas in the country such as Sagada, Benguet, and Mt. Kitanglad.

Application and Product Output

Coffee is highly valued primarily because of its fruits. These fruits are picked at the perfect point of maturity to provide the best flavor once they are processed into drinking products. Once the fruits are picked, they must be processed immediately to prevent spoilage. Fruits are processed in two ways: (1) dry method is simply spreading out on huge surfaces to dry in the sun until the moisture content of the cherries drops to 11% (2) wet method is using pulping machine to separate the skin and pulp from the bean, then beans are group according to their weight and size, and they go for fermentation, and finally, they are dried either by sun or by using machines. After which, the processed beans go through hulling, polishing, grading, and sorting. Usually, the resulting beans are exported to different shops and manufacturers where they are tested for quality depending on the raw flavor and aroma, they are then roasted, grind, and ready for brewing. Philippines produce the four coffee varieties that are considered premium quality as they produce excellent flavor and aroma. Coffee culture will remain a profitable business venture whether in local or international setup as long as there are coffee drinkers around the world. Apart from the fruits/berries, the leaves of coffee are also used for brewing tea. Furthermore, the decoction of roasted coffee leaves serves as a stimulant for the nervous system and the circulation. 

(Left) Graded and sorted dried beans ready for export to shops and manufactures. (Right) Roasted and grinded coffee ready for brewing. Photo and copyright: nca | https://www.ncausa.org/about-coffee/10-steps-from-seed-to-cup

For a long time, people oftentimes just discard the grounds left behind after the coffee is brewed. Through time, a lot of its practical uses have been discovered and since then applied at home, in the garden, for beauty purposes, and more recently, in the textile and fashion industry. Coffee grounds can be used as fertilizer and/or compost in gardens. It can also be used to repel insects and pests in plants or at home since it has compounds such as caffeine and diterpenes that are highly toxic to insects and bugs like mosquitos, fruit flies, and beetles. In some cases, the grounds are rubbed throughout the pet’s fur after shampooing to remove fleas. Coffee grounds can help absorb and eliminate odors that’s why it can be used as an air freshener placed in the fridge/freezer, drawers, cars, or anywhere else that may need deodorizing. Coffee has both antibacterial and antiviral properties, hence coffee grounds are also used as natural cleaning scrub for cook wares, sinks, grill, etc. Its coarse texture also makes it ideal for scrubbing utensils, pots, and pans. When mixed with water or natural oil, coffee grounds work as an exfoliating agent to remove dirt and dead cells from skin, to reduce the appearance of cellulite, and when applied to the scalp, it strips buildup dead skin cells to stimulate hair growth. In cooking, it can be used to tenderize meat. Because it is full of nutrients, it can also serve as substrate for growing mushrooms. Moreover, its high antioxidant and caffeine contents makes it a promising solution for fragile blood vessels, poor circulation, and inadequate skin quality. Thus, cosmetic brands are now incorporating coffee in their beauty products to lessen development of dark circles and puffiness under the eyes. 

With the on-going exploration for sustainable alternatives for fake and animal leather, TômTex Co., a brand established in New York was able to create a new-generation 100% bio-based material known as Tômtex. It is a biomaterial that can be an alternative to faux and animal leather which is created by using seafood shells and coffee grounds which are oftentimes seen as waste and useless. With their tagline: “Today’s Waste, Tomorrow’s Raw Material”, Tomtex gave way for coffee to be utilized in the textile and fashion industry. Tômtex is made into purses, bags, gloves, and other clothing products which are available online. Tômtex is seen as the best innovation of coffee grounds yet, not only because it uses materials that are already considered as waste but also, the process and the product itself is eco-friendly and sustainable. 

The raw ingredients in making the Tômtex leather-like material and the different products that can be made out of it. Photo and copyright: Tomtex Visoco Facebook page and Tomtex website | https://www.tomtex.co/

Production and Sustainable Consumption

The Philippines is regarded for its rich coffee culture which generally involves the locals in the production. Coffee industry is known to provide societal activity and livelihood to many indigenous groups in Luzon and Mindanao. Its production has been passed on from generation to generation. And with the ever-changing development and advancement in the society, locals are taught and trained with the new techniques and methods to better their plantation and harvest with the help of science and technology. With the aim to have a sustainable production, through the help of the Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and other non-government organizations, farmers were aided with technical and financial support, production inputs, and access to institutional market and production linkages.

Coffee is consumed in many parts of the world. And with its continuous demand and use in drinks, coffee grounds are also constantly produced, but with the different work arounds for this material, we can eliminate wastage and allow us to produce eco-friendly products that are of great help for the people and for the environment.

Supported by the Connections Through Culture programme of the British Council, our Materials Library Expansion Project is the first collaboration between UNESCO Creative Cities of Design #Cebu and #Dundee#MATIC #CreativeDundee #BritishCouncilPh #BritishCouncilCTC

Works Cited

“10 Steps from Seed to Cup”. National Coffee Association USA, https://www.ncausa.org/about-coffee/10-steps-from-seed-to-cup. Accessed 19 March 2021.

“About the Coffee Plant”. Motif, https://www.motifcoffee.com/brew-your-best/coffee-fundamentals/about-coffee-plant. Accessed 19 March 2021.

“Coffee Farming and Cultivation”. Pinoy Bisnes Ideas, https://www.pinoybisnes.com/agri-business/coffee-farming-and-cultivation/#:~:text=Southern%20Tagalog%20and%20Northern%20Mindanao,free%20and%20high%2Dyielding%20trees. Accessed 19 March 2021.

Papa, Antonio. “Strengths And Challenges Of Philippine Coffee Production”. Monthly Agriculture, Nov. 2019, https://www.agriculture.com.ph/2019/11/24/strengths-and-challenges-of-philippine-coffee-production/. Accessed 19 March 2021.

“Today’s Waste, Tomorrow’s Raw Material”. Tomtex, https://www.tomtex.co/. Accessed 19 March 2021.

Iseli, Marcel. “Coffee Plant (Coffea Arabica) Care”. Plantophiles, Feb. 2020, https://plantophiles.com/plant-care/coffee-plant-care/. Accessed 19 March 2021.

McDonell, Kayla. “16 Creative Ways to Use Old Coffee Grounds”. Healthline, Apr. 2018, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/uses-for-coffee-grounds. Accessed 19 March 2021.

Stuart, Godofredo Jr. “Kape”. StuartXchange, http://www.stuartxchange.org/Kape.html. Accessed 19 March 2021.

Tan, Yvette. “Pahimis Festival Honors Coffee, Encourages Farmers To Pick Only Red Berries”. Monthly Agriculture, Feb. 2019, https://www.agriculture.com.ph/2019/02/18/pahimis-festival-honors-coffee-encourages-farmers-to-pick-only-red-berries/. Accessed 19 March 2021.


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