Hineleban Coffee was the first endeavor under the Sustainable Disposable Income Crop (SDIC) section of the foundation. In fact, Hineleban Foundation Inc. (HFI), as it stands today, was largely shaped by the experiences beginning and expanding the coffee program in partnership with certain Indigenous People’s (IP) communities of Bukidnon.
Coffee was the initial crop that the foundation decided to grow with the IP’s for two main reasons: first, Arabica coffee had been proven to grow well in the region since the 1800’s when Spanish colonists introduced coffee to the Philippines, some of these coffee trees have still survived a century later; second, HFI founder John Perrine’s passion for quality coffee had resulted in decades of personal research and development of the Arabica coffee in Tuminugan Farm. By the time the foundation started supplying its partner-farmers with seedlings and inputs required to start farming coffee, the dispersed seedlings were varietal hybrids from both Asia and South America established in Tuminigan .
By 2008, Oroy Villara, who had been growing the coffee on Tuminugan Farm for decades (managed by KADC – Kalugumanan Agri-Development Corp), selected cherries from the most successfully fruiting mother plants, propagated thousands of seedlings, and distributed these as the first batch of Hineleban Coffee to the IP partner farmers. In the same period, Villara trained HFI technicians called “Values Coordinating Officers” which then in turn trained Hineleban partner farmers, equipping them with production technology to successfully grow the coffee on their own land.
By the time the first harvests came around in 2010, the farmers informed the foundation that there were no buyers for their harvest and they were also not privy in converting the cherries to green beans to store before selling. Considering the time, labor and land that the IP’s used to grow these coffee trees, it was not worth it for them to sell the cherries nor did they have the water and time to process it– if there were no buyers, they said they would rather just cut their coffee trees down and plant something else that had a market. HFI then took steps to learn how to process the cherries to green beans and add value plus ensure quality to present to the very discerning coffee market. This became an obstacle — at the time, as there was no single facility housing a complete set of coffee processing equipment required to produce quality green or roasted coffee within the region.
The Transformational Business Partnership: Coffee Chapter
At this point, KADC financed the building of the first FDA approved post-harvest facility in Region X with complete imported machineries from Brazil and those available in the Philippines through DTI to process coffee, which would take care of converting the cherries to green beans and then as roasted coffee. Ensuring high quality packaged specialty coffee, currently known as one of the Philippines’ best arabica coffee.
The foundation saw this as the only way to make growing arabica sustainable for the partner farmers — the margins of an added value quality product and the story behind it, was well received in the market. Maximum profits were shared back to the farmer as partners by increasing the buy back price of the cherries 3 times more compared to the prevailing price. Since closing the loop from farmer to processor to consumer, HFI together with KADC were able to fulfil the promise of purchasing all the IP farmer’s harvests every year. 2021 marks the 11th year as partners.
Thus began the Transformational Business Partnership (TBP): HINELEBAN- KADC-IP Partner Farmer agreement:
- Community relation
- Production technology – with sustainable farming practices that double the average yield
- Harvest technology
- Buy back cherries
- Adding value: quality control through processing
- Marketing: branding, packaging, shipping & distributing the final product
- Customer service
To date, this has meant that our partner farmers have been able to earn up to PHP150,000 per year for growing one hectare of coffee. Hineleban partner farmer Agrido Sagonlay, has shared how, through this partnership, he was able to upgrade his hut to a cemented two story home, sent his children to school, and financed five motorcycles (for his habal-habal business), a jeepney (for public transportation) and a bongo for trucking purposes. This is how we define TBP — a true partnership of equals that elevates the dignity of an average farmer into a proud provider, sustainable farmer and businessman.
When introducing the Hineleban Coffee as a branded product to the public, we were aware of the word “Hineleban” as one hard to pronounce and recall. To circumvent this, the marketing group launched the “Sip and Reforest” Campaign whereby for every pack of Hineleban coffee purchased, a forest tree is planted on the foothills of Mount Kitanglad. A GPS coordinate of the area where the trees were planted could be seen by registering the tree code (situated at the back of each coffee pack) online at www.hineleban.org/reforest-with-us . It was the first Filipino product and since then has been the product directly making a difference in reforesting the Philippines. Consequently raising awareness and familiarity to the brand “Hineleban” as a household name almost in several circles.
Hineleban Coffee represented the Philippines alongside several other local coffee growers in the 2017 Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) Global Expo in Seattle, Washington, USA. Hineleban coffee was graded by Marty Curtis, co-founder of the SCA and inventor of the SCA Coffee Cupping Scoring Sheet as well as the Coffee Flavor Wheel. Marty Curtis gave Hineleban Coffee a grade of EXCELLENT at 86.25%.
The path that led Hineleban Foundation to producing excellent coffee was a difficult and challenging one. Our team was given guidance by our creator and numerous individuals who came from all around the world to help us improve. Below are some of these individuals.
Robert Francisco, the then owner of Boyd’s Coffee Roasting company, was the first to roast the green beans of Hineleban Coffee, pegging his cupping notes as, “caramel, nutty, slight acidity with bitter cacao aftertaste.”
Karen Lo Tsai, the Philippines’ only Q-grader in 2010, was the first to officially grade Hineleban as the “Best Arabica of the Philippines.” She has since been an esteemed proponent in pushing excellent local coffee, especially Hineleban.
In 2016, the foundation joined efforts with ACDI/VOCA to educate other coffee producers in Bukidnon, both small holders and COOPs on how to improve their production, as well as how to properly process them at international standards. Hineleban’s processing facility was used as the venue to educate them on the proper methods of processing coffee 4 ways: natural, fully-washed, semi-washed and honey processes.
After these training sessions, the first Philippine Cupping Competition was held in 2017, 11 out of the first 12 winners were largely dominated by coffee producers from Bukidnon including Hineleban.
For the past 3 years, Metrobank Foundation has granted Hineleban a budget to help other small holder farmers not included in the partnership. Hineleban transferred the technology and rehabilitated with them their coffee trees by sharing production standards and harvest technology, subsequently increasing their market opportunities by selling their own packs or adding their harvests to the Hineleban roster.
In farming, there is just so much to learn, and the foundation made tireless efforts to learn from the best. We were bestowed with a wealth of knowledge from Dr. Rafael Creencia, a Filipino that led Vietnam to being the second-largest coffee producer of the world; Joji Pantojas from Coffee for Peace for sharing the same vision of Peace through Coffee; Daniel Mulu Asfaw, Coffee Value Training Expert from Coffee Quality Institute; the late Dr. Chinapra, Coffee Expert from India; the late Dan Khun from Kona Coffee Hawaii; Joel Schuler, Lead Consultant for the Coffee Quality Institute from the US; and Mario Roberto Fernandez Alduenda, Technical Director for Processing at the SCA; Reyno Almonia for his unrelenting passion to improve the processing and roasting and last but not the least, Thelonious Trimmle, Director of ACDI/VOCA for pushing Filipino coffee to the world wide arena. Underlying the foundation’s journey to coffee excellence are founders John and Renée Perrine’s passion for the product, as well as John’s own agricultural expertise and guidance.
When Hineleban Foundation first reached out to Romy Sia, owner of Healthy Options, he quickly flew to Bukidnon with his son and marketing group. He came to learn the story behind the coffee. His subsequent seal of approval linked Hineleban to a long term relationship supplying their 30 plus stores. Hineleban Coffee was the first Filipino product and only local coffee to land all Healthy Options shelves nationwide.
In 2017, we launched an online store www.hinelebanstore.com to make the packs available to all consumers nationwide. Prior to the pandemic, Hineleban Coffee catered to hotels, restaurants, boutiques, delis and cafes in and around the Metro. Provincial tourist hubs like Boracay and Siargao have embraced the excellent, quality and consistency of Hineleban Coffee as well.
We would also like to add a special thank you to the wonderful team of Healthy Inside and Out in taking care of getting the product professionally to your doorstep or making it available in your favourite stores nationwide. As well as Claudia Perrine for putting Hineleban in the Manila specialty coffee map when she opened Hineleban Cafe in Makati.
To reorder or to try your first Hineleban Coffee, click on this link: www.hinelebanstore.com Sip and Reforest with us!
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