Finca del Carmen: A Coffee-lover+Birder’s Haven

I don’t remember when my love affair with coffee began, but it’s still going strong ’til this day. I appreciate a good cup of freshly brewed coffee, or a cool and refreshing glass of iced coffee, or the occasional indulgent blended coffee drink complete with a topping  of whipped cream. 3-in-1 coffee also comes in handy every now and then (and when I’m in a rush or too lazy to bring my French press out.)

The invitation for a half-day birding trip to a coffee farm tugged at my coffee-lover’s heart and I could not say no. I left rainy Manila with friends Mike, Adri, and Trinket and drove to the Finca del Carmen Coffee Estate in Lipa, Batangas where, thankfully, the sun was out.

As we drove up to the main house, I marveled at the coffee plants lining the road, green berries lining up their branches. We were welcomed warmly by the very gracious owner, write Ross Harper-Alonso, and we were led inside her beautiful home. Mike shared that Ross actually had the old house transferred to the estate from its original location. It had already survived strong typhoons and had undergone some renovations. We were greeted by fellow birders Willem and Bobby who were already in the breakfast nook. We were served puto and, of course, Finca del Carmen coffee which I loved for its rich, roast-y flavor. Yum!

Gina and Hernan arrived soon after we did and after some cups of coffee and bits of puto, we were off to bird. We walked among the coffee plants to the Pigeonhole. It was a small elevated hut which was decorated so quaintly I could spend a whole day there and not be bored at all! It was screened on almost all sides which gave a good vantage point to spot birds (although the screen affected clarity.) There were also interesting details in the Pigeonhole like a small plant box that held some herbs and the sink which I think was designed for gardening purposes.

We could hear Stripe-headed Rhabdornis and Red-keeled Flowerpecker calling from around the hut. We decided to go down and explore further to see them. We saw Black-naped Oriole, Philippine Bulbul, Yellow-vented Bulbul, and White-breasted Woodswallow. My “insect radar” was up and running that morning and I was able to spot my very first cloud of grasshoppers!!! (Yes, I Googled it and learned that a group of grasshoppers is called a cloud.)

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We walked further into the estate and found ourselves on a small ridge by the side of a small stream. Here we saw Mangrove Blue Flycatcher, flyby White-eared Brown Doves, and Elegant Tits. We also heard Grey-backed Tailorbird and Black-naped Monarch which we hope would show but didn’t. 

We made our way to the main house and soon we were called for lunch. Ross spoiled us with a delicious lunch of garden salad, baked salmon, and vegetarian pasta. For dessert, we had a cake Gina baked which I drenched in her homemade alchermes (an Italian liqueur.) I also got my own bottle to take home! (Thank you, Gina!)

Lunch stretched on, as lunches do when there’s great food and excellent company, but soon it was time go. We said our thank yous and goodbyes to Ross and as we prepared to leave were given packs of Finca del Carmen coffee beans! (Thank you, Ross!)

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Finca del Carmen Robusta coffee comes in three variants: Tuyo sa Araw (dry process), Hinugas sa Tubig (wet process) , and Tuyo sa Puno (left drying on the tree.) Depending on how the coffee beans were processed, each variant produces a different coffee flavor. How interesting! I got the Tuyo sa Puno variant which Ross shared they discovered by accident. They couldn’t harvest some berries fast enough so they picked them already dried on the tree. I’m excited to try it as it is described as having “unique fine body, lively acidity, rich flavor.”

It was another great Saturday having spent it with good friends and also making new ones. Even if we did encounter some bad traffic upon entering Metro Manila and returned to gloomy, rainy weather, nothing was going to spoil that Saturday.

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Happy group photo courtesy of Hernan Mapua =)

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