The last of my kapeng barako

This cup holds the last of my kapeng barako.

A friend who’s partly based in Batangas gave me a kilo of beans when she was in Manila. And now it’s all gone.

Before the quarantine, it was very, very easy to take things for granted.

The beans were from the market, so one can assume that they weren’t the best beans picked or weren’t roasted in the best way. In fact, they may have been over roasted, which is typical of beans you find in the wet market, should you be lucky to find any (I’m a sucker for wet market beans, and Liberica, aka Barako, is my favorite variety. Sorry 3rd wavers).

Before the quarantine, that bag was just regular coffee. It was the coffee I made to wake up, the coffee I made so that I could face the world as a decent human being.

Things changed after the quarantine. I still needed those beans to wake me up so I could face the world as a decent human being, but this time it was accompanied with a sense of ceremony and an air of eventual loss; that each cup I drank meant I had less beans to make coffee with, which meant the uncertainty of where to find my next bag of beans grew stronger.

When you realize that you have a finite amount of something essential but easy to take for granted, your attitude towards it changes. You’re torn between consuming it at the rate you need it or saving it for a rainy day. Each day that passes, each day that your supply dwindles, is a day you curse yourself for not appreciating that thing more.

But don’t worry about me. I may not have barako beans anymore, but I do have other forms of caffeine. If anything, running out of something like coffee and not being able to buy more whenever one wants is a reminder of how frail our system is. We rely on a chain of so many people to get supplies into our communities, especially if we live in a city.

It’s a reminder that every human being in that chain is important, from the farmer who grew the coffee to the person who sells it to my friend who was thoughtful enough to gift it to me (Middlemen are up for debate and are another matter altogether).

I’m running out of supplies I once took for granted and also have to keep track of my expenses. This quarantine is forcing me to live within my means, take stock of what I have going for me, and cherish everything because what were once basic items are now luxuries, including a cup of coffee.


Yvette Natalie U. Tan is a multi-awarded author of horror fiction and the Agriculture section editor of Manila Bulletin.