Filipinos are heavy coffee drinkers. However, there are but a few of that population who have embraced specialty coffee shops – and it’s all because of Politicians. Stay with me here.
To be fair, “third wave” continues to see a rise in their following and more specialty coffee shops open within the country (yes, not just in Metro Manila). However, the ratio of those to the instant coffee drinkers (“first wave”) and “second wave” enthusiasts is still relatively small. The main reason, that I myself hear anyway, is that specialty coffee is “too expensive”. This is comical to me since cups at most specialty coffee shops are actually cheaper than what they sell in “second wave” shops. Some of those don’t even have coffee!
So why am I blaming politicians? Time-and-time again, there’s someone who gets a government seat even without any credible public service experience. More often than not, these “politicians” are popular public figures even before they got elected. Movie stars, journalists, sports stars… the list goes on. The operative word there is popular. They got elected, in large part, because of their popularity alone. Couple that with an effective marketing election campaign and they’re a shoe-in to whatever position they ran for.
This may be controversial, but I’m saying lack of education have made most Filipino voters less discerning and just go with the candidates whom they know. I’ve heard a couple of theories as to why even the richest cities in Metro Manila still have a significant percentage of poor, uneducated communities. They count on the votes from these sectors and hedge the votes coming from the discerning voters.
The well-educated, highly experienced, English speaking politician is perceived by most as “elitist” and will never empathize with the masses. The actor who has no coherent agenda, but has made a movie portraying him a man of the masses, gets voted because he is popular. I acknowledge that there are politicians who fall under the former but are still bad for the country. They are dangerous because they are smart, cunning, and manipulative. But for argument’s sake, let’s say that we have a better chance with the actual politicians than a celebrity.
Specialty coffee that’s prepared with so much care and backed by research, is too complicated to understand and therefore must only be for the well-educated, rich persons.
Specialty coffee is expensive, and rightfully so. I plan to do more research about this, but to get from crop to cup is an arduous process. But you know what you’re paying for there: the coffee itself, the salary of the barista whose craftsmanship yielded that perfect cup, and the overhead to keep the shop running. For second wave, there is a portion of that price for a cup based on the popularity of the brand.
As I was saying: Specialty coffee is expensive, but so is second wave coffee. Most Filipinos are just afraid to try specialty coffee shops because, well, they are intimated by them (or can’t find them in some cases). And then, if they do decide to try one, they may be bombarded with so much coffee information that it, again, intimidates them. It also does not help that these shops, especially those located in the major cities, have English as the most commonly used language within them. It’s not because they’re snotty. It just so happens that specialty coffee shops attract expats and Filipinos who grew abroad, those that have had the luxury to enjoy specialty coffee in a grand scale wherever they’re from. Bottom line: We see specialty coffee as something we cannot understand; something intimidating; something not for the masses.
Take a look at how instant coffee is marketed: with a popular public figure. If my idol (lodi) says he/she drinks this, then this is my coffee (even if it has coffee flavor added to it). When they want to upgrade, they want to be able to show the world they can afford expensive coffee. Therefore, they need to get coffee from a popular, second wave brand. They need to get that logo in their gram (or to be more accurate, on Facebook which you can get for Free here). Ironically, there are a lot of popular public figures who frequent the nearest specialty coffee shop near them. But since this does not get publicized (thus, probably why they go there in the first place), the ordinary Filipino will not know about it and assume their idols actually do always drink instant coffee or always set dates with the mermaid.
Specialty coffee scares most Filipinos the same reason highly qualified politicians do: they cannot understand them.
When an activity, on a national level, where everybody is supposed to think about their decisions heavily – weigh every option and think about the long-term effect – is reduced to a popularity contest, what would you expect with other decision making activities? Even with something as seemingly simple as drinking a cup of coffee.
So what do I want to accomplish with this? Make every Filipino flock to all the specialty coffee shops? No. That will also go against what these shops probably want: appreciate the bean. I also don’t want to force specialty, single origin coffee to everyone reading this. That’s the beauty of coffee, it allows you to explore what’s to your liking. I’m just saying, if you can afford a cup of second wave, why not try third wave from time-to-time and help support our local coffee shops? If you really like coffee, don’t be afraid to explore beyond your go-to instant coffee mix.
Disclaimer: I am not poking fun at the plight of the Filipino. We’re still a third-world country. I am part of the middle-class, I live in the province (though just outside of Metro Manila). I too spent a lot of money on second wave as soon as I was making my own money. I like drinking coffee, I like observing, and I like spinning theories. “I drink and I know things” (GOT fans, where you at?!)
P.S. I used stock photos for this one instead of the usual inserting random pictures from the coffee shops I’ve been too. Figured they wouldn’t want to be associated with this particular article.
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Categories: thoughts with kape