By Fidel Feria

A coffee farming advocacy is looking to make a slogging Metro Rail Transit (MRT) commute much more meaningful.

Non-profit organization Foundation for Sustainable Coffee Excellence (FSCE) recently unveiled its new platform, The Giving Cart. It’s a pop-up selling local specialty coffees and Filipino delicacies. Through this initiative, the FSCE aims to rally support from the commuting “masses” for its advocacy of total coffee sustainability. The Giving Cart will direct its proceeds to fund programs by the FSCE. These are geared to make living situations easier for its primary beneficiaries, the coffee farmers in La Trinidad, Benguet.

The Cart launched at the MRT Cubao station last September 15.

FSCE director Michael Harris Conlin was quick to note the risk of trying to harness support from a busy, commuting public. “Everybody was saying hindi magbebenta iyan,” Conlin recounts. “Coffee, espresso? Nobody’s gonna drink that.”

Coffee with a Purpose – FSCE Director and Henry & Sons CEO Michael Harris Conlin unveils The Giving Cart, the latest Giving platform under the Foundation for Sustainable Coffee Excellence’s social enterprise called TGC.

The FSCE Director is also incumbent President and CEO of coffee roasting company, Henry & Sons.

Luckily, Conlin and his team would remain unfazed. “I wanted to challenge the status quo. If I’m commuting to work and I’m still sleepy, and I see espresso at the MRT, that’s a nice jumpstart to my day,” the social entrepreneur says.

The Giving Cart is set to feature Filipino delicacies like Taytay’s signature Budbod; its beverage options include Espresso, Americano, Latte, Timplado, and Hot Choco, among others. With each item costing P80, a chunk of the proceeds will support programs that benefit the coffee farming communities in La Trinidad, Benguet.

A Vision for Assistance

One other FSCE platform is The Giving Café. Launched as an “experiment” in July 2017, It’s a homey café’-restaurant situated in Mandaluyong. 

Happines to Go – The Giving Cart will let commuters savor the taste of honest-to goodness home-cooked meals that capture the flavor of the city’s locale, starting with Taytay’s signature Budbod.

Conlin, in assessing La Trinidad, Benguet as a “test-market” for FSCE’s initiative, sent a team of “brainiacs” to pinpoint which of the community’s problems needed addressing. According to Henry & Sons marketing manager Carlo Tuazon, the primary issues were discovered to be a need for potable water, education, health, and market reach and equipment for coffee farmers. To address these five key issues, Conlin created five different variants of the coffee line Bloom, the proceeds of which will be used to find resolutions for each one.

Apart from Bloom Coffees, The Giving Café serves specialty coffee from Ethiopia, Colombia, and Panama; alongside these offerings are select Filipino coffees from Benguet and Bukidnon.

“What happens is when a consumer tries these specialties from abroad alongside specialties from the Philippines, they start to realize na meron ding quality sa Philippines. You’re starting to change consumer perception,” Conlin shares.

“The Giving Café came out of trying to be sustainable as a foundation,” Conlin says. The FSCE and Henry & Sons found that waiting for donations was unproductive. “We wanted to see if in a café’-restaurant environment, we can make that generation of funds and funding faster. It’s one big experiment, and it’s been a year.”

Steps Toward Sustainability

Stop, Sip and Savor – The average commuter’s go-to spot for feel-good indulgences, the Giving Cart will start delighting those who will pass by the MRT Cubao sation this September 15.

Through his foundation’s initiatives, Conlins’ priority is the flourishing of our local coffee farmers. 

“I want our country to make an impact, to be recognized,” the FSCE Director says. “Being the largest exporter is not so important anymore eh. If we aim to be the biggest exporter in the world, quantity yun eh. Hindi yayaman ang mga farmers.” 

 

A “totally sustainable” specialty coffee country, says Conlin, is a country where farmers produce specialty coffee that roasters buy, and locals consume heartily. 

“When you focus on that, and that eco-system works, sustainable ka na eh. I believe that will become the same dream other countries will strive to do. Let’s not be the biggest, let’s be the best, most sustainable instead. How? Let’s not rely on other countries; let’s do it ourselves and drink our own coffee.”

For more information on the Foundation for Sustainable Coffee Excellence and The Giving Cafe, please follow the FSCE Facebook page at (facebook.com/fsceph) and the The TGC Facebook page at (facebook.com/tgcsocialentrep). You may also send them an email at (info@fsce.ph) or at (info@tgc.ph).