Passion for coffee led British national to start plantation in Batangas – Manila Bulletin
Coffee has become an important part of starting the day off right. A cool cup can awaken the senses and help many people get through the day. Apart from that, the drink has a wide range of flavors and aromas that people can change according to their preferences. Still, the taste of pure, quality coffee can speak for itself, even without the sugar, cream, and other additions.
That raw, pure flavor is what makes Steven Ballantyne, TV producer and CEO of a film production branch in Asia known as EPM Asia Ltd., passionate about coffee.
“I was leading an expedition to Papua New Guinea in 2003. Local guides collected green coffee beans from a farmer, roasted them over an open fire in a can of river water. It was my first time tasting pure coffee and I was absolutely addicted! That’s when I knew I needed to grow coffee, ”Ballantyne said.
Originally from the United Kingdom, Ballantyne has explored several countries in search of the perfect place to start a coffee plantation. At the end of 2014, he traveled to the Philippines with his friend, Winifred Articona, an interior designer born and raised in San Pablo, Laguna.
When Articona introduced Ballantyne to the local beer known as’kapeng barako ‘ and Batangas’ natural beauty, the TV producer teamed up with Articona to start the coffee plantation he was eagerly awaiting.
In 2016, they created Hinitan Plantation, a 10 hectare coffee and cocoa plantation, in Lipa, Batangas.
“We are located on the steep shores of Lake Taal, Lipa, Batangas. When we started, the land was pure jungle. Today we have a balanced combination of farmland and jungle areas that we have preserved to support the natural habitats of many species of wildlife living on the farm. This includes troops of Philippine long-tailed macaque monkeys that are also featured on our company logo, ”Ballantyne said.
As for its name, the top of the farm is known as Hinitan Ridge, which also means ‘hot spot’. The television producer and interior designer were the first to set up shop in this neighborhood, adopting the name of the place for their farm.
Preserve and promote the liberica variety
From the start, Ballantyne shared that they chose to dedicate the farm to high quality production. ‘Barako Liberia’ which they thought to preserve and introduce on a world market.
Batangas coffee is another name for barako coffee which is a variety of coffee cultivated in the Philippines, especially in the provinces of Batangas and Cavite. It belongs to the species Coffee released.
Liberica is listed by the Slow Food Movement in the Ark of Taste’s International Catalog of Endangered Heritage Foods.
“Besides wanting to preserve the liberica species, I also wanted to explore how we could bring this local beer to the international market and how we could produce the best quality coffee possible through careful management of not only the plantation and the management. trees, but until processing and roasting, ”said Ballantyne.
The co-owner of Hinitan Plantation comes from a family of farmers in Canada, but it is true that he had absolutely no experience in the business. To compensate for this, he possessed a deep passion for coffee and a desire to create a coffee plantation which he views every day as a learning experience.
“We have a dedicated full-time team who are constantly working across the farm to make sure every tree is carefully managed and kept hydrated. Our farm manager, Joan Fernandez, keeps detailed records on each tree and constantly monitors them for any signs of disease or infestation that could cause long-term damage to the entire farm if it went unnoticed ” , the television producer and co-owner of the café. said plantation.
Due to the size of the farm, Ballantyne and Articona hired a team from Lipa, Batangas and a team from Bugkalo, Sierra-Madre, each person bringing a wealth of agricultural knowledge and experience to manage all aspects of the farm. , from planting to maintenance to design and layout.
Since the Hinitan plantation is based on extremely steep land, its maintenance has been a constant challenge, initially during the main planting period. But with terraces as well as carefully planned paths and walkways, the area has become more accessible to farmers.
“Water, or the lack of it, was also a major problem. This was not resolved until 2019 when we drilled a deep water well, drawing water through volcanic rock, which naturally purifies. As a result, our trees are hydrated with high quality water, which is one more step towards producing high quality beans, ”said Ballantyne.
He added that in running a coffee plantation it is important to plan ahead, expect the unexpected and be ready to seek advice.
“The world of coffee is [like] a very close family and there is always someone who can help; just reach out and ask. But at the end of the day, get to know your hands, get to know your trees and the different areas of the farm, as this can have a huge impact on the level of care and watering required, ”he said. .
A global market for a local beer
From Liberia or kapeng barako is not popular in the world according to Ballantyne, they in the Hinitan plantation want the world market to appreciate the variety and its rich flavor. Currently, the plantation’s coffee products are available in Hong Kong at local prices.
“Under the Hinitan Group, we sell a range of coffee not only from our own farm but from all over the Philippines, which we are extremely proud to promote. We also sell coffee from plantations across Asia including Papua New Guinea, Vietnam and Yunnan in China, ”Ballantyne said.
He added that they had just launched a line of chocolate products and silver jewelry to reflect aspects of the farm, including a silver coffee bean and a silver monkey that is featured on their brand’s logo.
Besides raising awareness of the variety of coffee overseas, the co-owners of the coffee plantation are also keen to promote local coffee in the Philippines to support farmers as well as preserving the quality of coffee.
“By supporting and buying locally, you are not only helping a farmer, but entire families and those around them. And locally produced coffee products are, in my opinion, much better in quality and taste than mass produced ones, ”Ballantyne said.
He and Articona can’t wait to see their products in stores across the Philippines in 2021.
“We look forward to welcoming guests to Hinitan Plantation. In 2021, we will be opening a restaurant that we built on the farm, ”Ballantyne said.
The coffee farm is also set to build guest houses over the next few years so that their guests can fully enjoy the Hinitan experience.
For more information visit Plantation Hinitan on Facebook.
SUBSCRIBE TO THE DAILY NEWSLETTER
CLICK HERE TO JOIN