A cup­ful of pas­sion

Ti­dow Gothong and the art of brew­ing spe­cialty cof­fee

Sun.Star Cebu Weekend - - Front Page - By Deneb Batucan

FOR most peo­ple, a warm cup of cof­fee is the best pick-me-up one could have in the morn­ing, es­pe­cially when the bed calls for five more min­utes of pre­cious sleep. But for Ti­dow Gothong, it’s not just an en­joy­able drink. It’s a pas­sion that has warmed his heart and has made him dream dreams he is now striv­ing hard to be­come a re­al­ity.

Ti­dow started drink­ing cof­fee at 11. “Ev­ery­one starts with the 3-in-1 cof­fee. I thought it was a good drink. I didn’t un­der­stand why peo­ple only needed to drink cof­fee when they needed to wake up. Hon­estly, the drink is en­joy­able at any time,” he said.

Over the years as he trav­eled to other coun­tries, he al­ways made it a point to visit cof­fee shops — but not the big chains. He would visit the small and quaint shops that served lovely cups of cof­fee.

“We call them the in­de­pen­dent shops. I was re­ally in­ter­ested by the fact that the cof­fee in the in­de­pen­dent shops tasted dif­fer­ent. Nor­mally, you’d think cof­fee is sup­posed to taste a cer­tain way. There’s like one fla­vor of cof­fee. But if you go to dif­fer­ent shops around the world, you’d be able to tell that there are dif­fer­ent fla­vors. At that time, my in­ter­est was piqued al­ready,” Ti­dow shared.

Cof­fee and more

Ti­dow started learn­ing more and more about cof­fee es­pe­cially dur­ing the time he was try­ing to put up Fu­ji­noya Philip­pines, a cof­fee and dessert shop in Wil­son St., Lahug. “I didn’t want to pro­duce cof­fee that was the same as ev­ery­where else here, so I had to train my­self. Af­ter so much re­search, train­ings and tu­to­ri­als, we were able to come up with the dis­tinct fla­vor of Fu­ji­noya now,” he said. “With cof­fee, for some rea­son, you can al­ways learn a lot be­cause ev­ery­one is will­ing to help you learn as you grow.”

Fu­ji­noya started as his the­sis for his busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion course. Ti­dow wanted a busi­ness that he could pur­sue even af­ter col­lege. He wanted a “chill spot” where peo­ple could hang out and en­joy desserts, good food and drinks.

“We have a friend from Ja­pan who has a bakeshop and they’re also called Fu­ji­noya. They’re good friends with my fam­ily. It was seven years ago when we met them. The first time we went to their shop, we said, ‘Wow, we need to bring this to Cebu.’ But no one was will­ing to pick it up yet be­cause it was hard to learn bak­ing and all that,” Ti­dow said. “When I was think­ing of a busi­ness, my dad re­minded me of the idea we had with Fu­ji­noya. So I pur­sued it.”

Hideo Goto, the owner of Fu­ji­noya Ja­pan, trained Ti­dow in the art of bak­ing. With Ja­panese desserts, bal­ance is key. “Our cakes are not overly sweet. You can taste all the in­gre­di­ents in there. It’s a bal­ance. Any­one can bake a cake. But it takes skill to be able to make a cake that’s as de­li­cious, smooth, flavorful and toned down as ours. I dare­say that here in Cebu, our desserts are one of a kind,” he said.

From bean to cup

Other than learn­ing how to bake, Ti­dow dis­cov­ered more and more his inkling to cof­fee. It’s the two skills that he has ac­quired that are very com­ple­men­tary. And he has greatly ap­plied these skills to his shop.

Fu­ji­noya uses a blend of Viet­nam and Brazil beans for their es­presso, which is the base for all their cof­fee drinks. But they will soon be chang­ing things up and will be step­ping into the spe­cialty as­pect of cof­fee.

“When you say spe­cialty cof­fee, it’s from bean to cup. We cof­fee shop own­ers are in­tro­duced to the farm­ers and the roast­ers. We have to make sure that it is in high qual­ity in ev­ery step. What it does is

to make sure that the fla­vor pro­file we want ar­rives to our doorstep. Fla­vor pro­file can go from flo­ral to fruity to choco­latey to malty. There are so many fla­vor pro­files in the world. That’s the kind of cof­fee we want to in­tro­duce to Cebu. As of now, there’s only a hand­ful who are do­ing spe­cialty cof­fee and we want to boost the in­dus­try,” Ti­dow said.

On April 8 and 9, Fu­ji­noya will hold an event to in­tro­duce their spe­cialty cof­fee. They have in­vited 20 dif­fer­ent baris­tas from around the world, all of whom are Filipinos. Pi­noy baris­tas have been very suc­cess­ful abroad in coun­tries like the UAE, Sin­ga­pore, and Malaysia.

“It’s so amaz­ing that all around the world, there are Filipino baris­tas that are win­ning com­pe­ti­tions. They are han­dling en­tire cof­fee shops by them­selves. A lot of for­eign com­pa­nies re­ally rely on their Pi­noy baris­tas. We in­vited them to show­case what they know and to teach us what they know about spe­cialty cof­fee,” he said.

Chang­ing the in­dus­try

Ti­dow stressed the pur­suit for spe­cialty cof­fee is for the long haul. “Spe­cialty cof­fee is not just a fad. It’s some­where that we should all be go­ing. Spe­cialty cof­fee is the end­point. We want to fast track peo­ple to go there. Be­cause it’s such a shame that you’re pay­ing the same price in com­mer­cial cof­fee shops when you’re sup­posed get the same qual­ity from spe­cialty cof­fee. Spe­cialty cof­fee is more on how much tech­nique and pas­sion you pour in your cup and it will taste amaz­ing. It’s so dif­fer­ent from your nor­mal type of cof­fee,” he said.

Ti­dow’s dream is re­ally to push spe­cialty cof­fee so that cof­fee farm­ers would have big­ger in­come by pro­duc­ing great-qual­ity beans. “In any cof­fee in­dus­try, the ones who earn the least is the farm­ers. It’s sad be­cause they’re the ones we rely on the most to pro­duce the cof­fee. In the whole chain of cof­fee, from bean to cup, it would not be pos­si­ble with­out the farm­ers yet they are the ones earn­ing the least. One of the rea­sons is they are be­ing forced to pro­duce low qual­ity beans in or­der to sup­ply the de­mand of the big­ger cof­fee chains, he ex­plained.”

“Hope­fully, once we in­tro­duce the spe­cialty cof­fee, we can con­vince a lot of these farm­ers to farm spe­cialty cof­fee. Yes, it’s go­ing to be ex­pen­sive and it’s harder to farm spe­cialty cof­fee. But at the same time, that’s the rea­son we’re will­ing to pay them more, like you’re paid more for qual­ity,” he said.

Ti­dow is on the cusp of some­thing great for the Philip­pines cof­fee in­dus­try. And with his pas­sion and re­silience, and a great team of peo­ple ready to back him up, his cof­fee as­pi­ra­tions are just sev­eral brews away.

Spe­cialty cof­fee is more on how much tech­nique and pas­sion you pour in your cup and it will taste amaz­ing. It’s so dif­fer­ent from your nor­mal type of cof­fee.”

DREAM. Ti­dow dreams big but with a heart: he is push­ing for spe­cialty cof­fee so that cof­fee farm­ers would have big­ger in­come by pro­duc­ing great-qual­ity beans.

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