“That’s barako, isn’t it?” Mang Englebert, my Uber driver asked.
The question came after I had opened my thermos full of coffee brewed at home with local arabica beans.
I wasn’t prepared for a conversation. After all, I hadn’t had my coffee yet, and I’m of no use to humankind until I’ve had a dose of java.
“I think so?” I answered (I later found that kapeng barako, the varietal from Batangas and Cavite, is actually liberica). “Why do you ask?”
His voice took on a dreamy edge as he began to wax poetic about coffee and breakfastst in Mindoro, the province where he’s from. “We used to spoon coffee on our rice in the morning and eat it with tuyo (dried fish,” he said. “You made sure to get a lot of tutuong (burnt rice at the bottom of the pot).”
The coffee would be sweetend with sugar, but not diluted with milk. “We used to have coffee trees. We’d wait for the beans to ripen, pick them, roast them, and brew coffee for breakfast. It was great!”
Pouring a cup of sweetened hot coffee onto freshly cooked rice (with as much tutong as you can get) and pairing it with dried fish sounds weird, but the way Mang Englebert talked about it made my mouth water.
“I’m going to try that,” I promised him as I got out of the car. “Thanks for the tip!”
One of the few things better than a cup of coffee first thing in the day is good conversation to go with it.
To Mr. Englebert, Uber driver, five stars!