Hineleban Coffee was the first endeavor under the Sustainable Disposable Income Crop (SDIC) section of Hineleban Foundation Inc. (HFI).

Eventually, HFI was largely shaped by its experience with the coffee program in partnership with some Indigenous People’s (IP) communities of Bukidnon.

Coffee was the initial crop HFI 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; second, HFI founder John Perrine’s passion for quality coffee had already compiled decades of personal research and development of the Arabica coffee in Tuminugan Farm.

By the time HFI started supplying its partner-farmers with seedlings and inputs to start farming coffee, the dispersed seedlings were varietal hybrids from both Asia and South America established in Tuminugan. 

HIneleban Coffee Nursery (photo by Robert Francisco)

By 2008, Oroy Villara, who had been growing the coffee on Tuminugan Farm for decades, selected cherries from the most successfully fruiting mother plants, propagated thousands of seedlings, and distributed these as the first batch of Hineleban Coffee to our IP partner farmers.

During the same period, Villara trained HFI technicians known as Values Coordinating Officers who in turn trained Hineleban partner farmers, equipping them with production technology to successfully grow the coffee on their own lands. 

However, when the first harvests were made in 2010, the farmers informed HPI they had no buyers for their produce, and did not know how to process the cherries to green beans for storage.  HFI also learned there was no single facility with a complete set of coffee processing equipment to produce quality green or roasted coffee within the region.

The Transformational Business Partnership: Coffee Chapter

At this point, Kalugumanan Agri-Development Corp. (KADC, which had been managing the Tuminugan Farm) financed the building of the first Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved post-harvest facility in Region X with imported machineries acquired through DTI which could convert cherries to green beans and thence as roasted coffee. This enabled HFI to produce high quality packaged specialty coffee, now known as one of the Philippines’ best arabica coffee.

Coffee processing facility in Tuminugan Farm.

HFI saw this as the way to make growing arabica sustainable for its partner farmers. Optimal profits were shared back to the farmer as partners by increasing the buy-back price of cherries 3 times over its prevailing market price.

Since closing the loop from farmer to processor to consumer, HFI with KADC had been able to buy all the IP farmer’s harvests every year, with 2021 being their 11th year as partners.

Thus began the Transformational Business Partnership (TBP): HINELEBAN- KADC-IP Partner Farmer agreement:

  1. Community relations
  2. Production technology
  3. Harvest technology
  4. Buy back cherries
  5. Adding value: quality control through processing
  6. Marketing: branding, packaging, shipping & distributing the final product
  7. Customer service

To date, this has meant that Hineleban partner farmers have been able to earn up to P150,000 per year for growing one hectare of coffee.

Hineleban partner farmer Agrido Sagonlay 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 light truck for trucking purposes. 

This is how HFI defines TBP — a true partnership of equals that elevates the dignity of an average farmer to that of a Proud Provider, Sustainable Farmer, and Businessman.

Achievements

When introducing Hineleban Coffee as a branded product to the public, we realized how hard it was to pronounce and recall the word Hineleban .

To circumvent this, the marketing group launched the Sip and Reforest Campaign through which a forest tree on the foothills of Mount Kitanglad is planted for every pack of Hineleban Coffee purchased.

Hineleban Coffee represented the Philippines along with several other local coffee growers at the 2017 Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) Global Expo in Seattle, Washington, USA.

HFI Co-Founder Renée Perrine and Marty Curtis during the 2017 Coffee Global Expo.

Hineleban Coffee was graded by Marty Curtis as EXCELLENT at 86.25%. Curtis is the co-founder of the SCA and inventor of the SCA Coffee Cupping Scoring Sheet, and the Coffee Flavor Wheel.

Significant Contributors

Hineleban Foundation’s path  to producing excellent coffee was a difficult and challenging one. Our team was mentored by numerous individuals who came from all around the world to help us improve.

Robert Francisco, 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, and how to properly process them to 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.

HIneleban coffee cherries and processed beans (photo by Neal Oshima)

After these training sessions, the first Philippine Cupping Competition was held in 2017, with 11 of the top 12 winners coming from Bukidnon, including Hineleban.

For the past 3 years, Metrobank Foundation has given Hineleban a grant to help other small holder farmers not included in the current partnership. Hineleban transferred the technology and rehabilitated 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 still so much to learn, and the foundation made tireless efforts to learn from the best.

Renée Perrine, Dan Khun from Kona Coffee and Master Roaster Reyno Almonia checking coffee quality.

We were bestowed with a wealth of knowledge by 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; Mario Roberto Fernandez Alduenda, Technical Director for Processing at the SCA; Reyno Almonia for his unrelenting passion to improve the processing and roasting and not the least, Thelonious Trimmle, Director of ACDI/VOCA for pushing Filipino coffee in 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. 

Corporate Partners for Coffee 

When Hineleban Foundation first reached out to Romy Sia, owner of Healthy Options, he quickly flew to Bukidnon with his son and marketing group 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. 

You can now buy Hineleban Coffee at any Healthy Options branch or online

In 2017, we launched an online store www.hinelebanstore.com to make the packs available to consumers nationwide.  Prior to the pandemic, Hineleban Coffee catered to hotels, restaurants, boutiques, delis and cafes in and around Metro Manila. Provincial tourist hubs like Boracay and Siargao have embraced the excellence, 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 favorite stores nationwide.

Thanks too to Claudia Perrine for putting Hineleban in the Manila specialty coffee map when she opened Hineleban Cafe in Makati.

Hineleban Cafe in Makati courtesy of Philippine Primer

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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