The Mt. Malarayat Coffee Quest
Follow a trail in a forest inhabited by wild Philippine civet cats in search of Alamid coffee beans.
I love coffee. I usually drink lattes or mochas, but I still find it hard to say no to a good cup of sweet, black coffee. So when my coworker Khat and I were invited by Alamid Café Xpress and R.O.X. to go on their coffee tour, I was so excited that we arrived at R.O.X. at Boni High Street earlier than the call time.
We were introduced to our tour companions and were told that we would be sampling different kinds of coffee throughout the day, including the rare (not to mention expensive) kapeng alamid, or civet coffee. While waiting for everyone from our tour group to arrive, we were each given a hot cup of coffee from Starbucks. This was more than an early morning pick-me-up--it was also so we could compare the usual commercial coffee to the kinds we'd be drinking later on.
Once everyone had arrived, we hopped into our vans and drove off to our first stop--McDonald's--for a quick breakfast and to meet Alamid Café's team, including the owner, Mr. Basil Reyes. When everyone was ready, we set off for Batangas.
We drove down the new and improved SLEX (South Luzon Expressway) and ACTEX (Alabang-Calamba-Sto. Tomas Expressway) and directly to the STAR Tollway (Southern Tagalog Arterial Road). We exited at Lipa, and it wasn't long before we reached the jump-off point at the foot of Mt. Malarayat.
The trail we would be going on was wide enough for only one person, and was classified as a level 0.5 trek, which meant it was a good place to start for those who had never been trekking before (myself included). I had a hard time keeping my balance at times and kept grabbing random tree branches and rocks to keep myself upright--something my companions told me wasn't wise to do so, since some wild plants can cause a very bad reaction in human skin, like the lipa plant that the city of Lipa was named for.
We stopped a few times to rest, rehydrate, take photos, and chat--I rested and rehydrated, Khat took photos, and a few of the others chatted with us and kept us company. Soon, we found ourselves in a clearing with a hut, a campfire, and picnic tables made of kawayan. From here, we walked a little way from the campsite, where our local guides showed us the coffee trees, and the civet cat droppings that civet coffee comes from.
Civet cats are nocturnal animals that use their sense of smell to pick the ripest coffee cherries. They eat the outer shells of the coffee cherries. Their bodies can't fully digest the coffee cherries, but as the beans pass through the civet cat's digestive tract, the enzymes and acids involved in their digestion process affect the beans, giving the coffee beans a distinct new flavor.
After finding a few civet droppings and taking photos of coffee cherries, we headed back to the campsite, where a veritable feast was waiting for us. There was tilapia with a gata-based sauce, ampalaya atchara, adobo, grilled chicken (cooked right there at the campsite), salted eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers, rice, and gabi soup. For dessert, we had ensaymada with strong, sweet barako coffee, brewed right there.
Stuffed and well-rested, we took a few more photos before starting to trek down the mountain. Going down took a lot less time than the trek up, but it was also harder to keep one's balance. Both Khat and I stumbled a few times, but it was well worth the fun we had during the trek.
When everyone in our group had gotten back to the jump-off point, we got back into the vans and went to Brgy. Sto. Niño to see the roasting facilities of the Malarayat Coffee Farmers and Consumer Cooperative, who are currently partnered with Alamid Cafe Xpress.
While we were there, they demonstrated how to roast the coffee beans, and ground about a kilo of beans in the electric coffee grinder. Everyone was given a bag of ground coffee to take home, but Khat and I bought an additional bag each after tasting the coffee they served.
It was four in the afternoon when we headed back to Manila. When we got to Boni High Street an hour and a half later, we hung out at Alamid Café Xpress in R.O.X., where they gave us Alamid coffee. This kind is stronger than regular coffee, and has an earthy undertone. It was good, and it gave me the burst of energy I needed to last me until I got home.
After downing that last cup of coffee for the day, Khat and I said goodbye to our newfound friends and headed home. Though we were both exhausted, I couldn't wait to tell my friends about the experience--and I will definitely go on the tour again when Alamid Café Xpress and R.O.X. start offering coffee tours regularly.
How to Get to Mt. Malarayat:
Take the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) and continue on through the Alabang-Calamba-Sto.Tomas Expressway (ACTEX) and the STAR Tollway (Southern Tagalog Arterial Road). From the STAR Tollway, exit at Lipa. Turn right at Pres. J.P. Laurel Highway and follow the road. You will pass by De La Salle Lipa, Robinson's Place Lipa, McDonald's, Starbucks, and Lipa City Hall. Once you see the Mt. Malarayat Floral Gardens, which is a cemetery, turn right into the Sto. Tomas-Lipa Road, which leads to Brgy. Talisay. You will pass by Fiesta World Mall, Lipa Diamond Lodge, and Nazareth School. The Mt. Malarayat Golf Club is along this road and foothills of Mt. Malarayat are to the right of the road. Turn right at the end of the Sto.Tomas-Lipa Road, and from here the jump-off point is located a few kilometers past a residential area and down an unmarked dirt road. You will need to ask a local guide for directions at this point.
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