Text and Photos by Henrylito D. Tacio
Imagine sipping fresh brewed coffee, which was harvested from the farm just a throw stone away from where you are sitting. It may be unthinkable but that’s what you experience when you visit Sir Ped’s Café Mount Apo in sitio Neptune, barangay Balutakay in Bansalan, Davao del Sur.
The coffee beans are taken from the crop which the Pedregosas are growing. After harvesting the cherries, these are placed in a container with water in order to select the finest coffee. They are fermented first before the beans are dried under the heat of the sun.
Once the coffee beans are dried enough – that they become so brittle once you try to bite them – these are ready for processing and grinding. The next thing you know is that you are already drinking the coffee whose aroma is so pleasing to your nose.
The farm is about 6 hectares, of which two hectares (for building and landscaping) is utilized for resort facilities. The remaining four hectares is allotted to crop production, 90% of which is devoted to coffee.
“We started planting coffee in the 1990s yet,” said Atty. Elmer Pedregosa, the owner of the farm and resort. There are several varieties of coffee that can be grown in the foothills of Mount Apo but he preferred the Catimor coffee, a variety that has captivated the world of specialty coffee.
Created through a crossbreeding process, Catimor is now the preferred variety as it can withstand coffee leaf rust, a fungal disease that threatened the livelihoods of coffee farmers in the country.
“Catimor is the preferred coffee variety being planted and propagated in the area since apart from being prolific in producing good quality coffee cherries, the coffee tree does not grow so tall, making harvesting a simple and easy task,” Pedregosa said.
Another good thing about Catimor coffee is that it bears cherries 18 months after planting. In just a matter of more than a year, initial harvesting can already be done.
Aside from Catimor, Pedregosa said they are also planting Arabica coffee in the farm. After all, Arabica is suitable to Balutakay’s elevation (1300-1500 meters above sea level) and to its cool and oft-fog-kissed climate. “The Arabica coffee that is grown from this place has been proven to be one of the best, if not the best coffee in the country, as shown in the results of the annually-held Philippine Coffee Quality Competition,” he said.
He said some trees of the Yellow Bourbon variety can also be found on the farm.
Some workers are maintaining the farm. “We handpick some red ripe cherries around 7 to 8 months from flowering,” Pedregosa said, adding that he gets one to two kilograms of cherries per tree per year.
The newly harvested red cherries are immersed in a container with water to separate the floaters from the sinkers. “We remove all floaters as we consider them as rejects,” Pedregosa said. “Per our practice, the sinkers are allowed to stay wet for a day or two to ferment before they are dried.”
The fermented cherries are placed in what he called a “greenhouse dryer.” As the temperature is higher, the cherries dry faster. “This allows the drying process to be more effective and efficient,” he said. “We don’t have to worry about rain either as they are secured inside the dryer.”
The drying process usually takes several days, depending on the prevailing weather.
“Most of our harvest and what we produce are used in our own coffee shop, Sir Ped’s Coffee,” he said. “We do sell some roasted beans or ground coffee in 200-gram packages if we already have an ample inventory of green beans.”
Visitors and guests of Sir Ped’s Café can have various coffee they want. “My wife, Jielyn, got barista training during the time when the pandemic hit the country,” he said. “From then on, she has come up with our own recipes for a number of espresso drinks.”
Among those available at the café are the following: cappuccino, different kinds of latte, a number of macchiato drinks, mocha, and various coffee-based cold drinks.
Balutakay is now a haven for tourists as it has several destinations. But what Sir Ped’s Café does is the coffee it offers to their guests and visitors. From the farm to the table is now very popular but theirs is different: from coffee tree to coffee cup. “Only because we have that luxury of having a coffee farm in the same area,” Pedregosa said. “We are proud to be offering our customers a true and genuine farm-to-cup-experience, something which very few establishments can claim.”
He believes the high quality taste of their coffee is a God-given resource. “Coupled with our acquired knowledge in concocting the familiar espresso drinks, we immediately got a good response from our early customers,” he continued. “And we are happy to continue to receive good feedback for our espresso and coffee-based drinks. Not to be outdone, our non-coffee drinks, that is, milk teas, fruit tea mixes, and choco latte, among others, also get very good reviews.”
Sir Ped’s Café, however, is not only offering coffee and drinks. “But I should make special mention of Sir Ped’s restaurant food offerings. Modesty aside, we are becoming known for our humba sa tuba, bulalo, kare-kare, lengua, pork sisig, chicken wings specials, our various all-day breakfast meals, and fresh garden salads, among others, Recently, stone-baked pizzas are becoming popular among our guests.”
The coffee shop actually opened in September 2021. “We had simple offerings at first,” he said. “Then we slowly expanded our menu offerings over time. We still continue to do research and development and hope to develop our pastries and pasalubong sections soon.”
Sir Ped’s Café is now one of the most-often visited destinations in Balutakay. “Aside from enjoying our sumptuous food offerings and various drinks, our day trip and guests can go around our gardens and experience our manicured greens and flowers. We also have children’s playground facilities and at present, we are finishing the construction of our lap adult and kiddie pools.”
For those who want to stay for the night, Sir Ped’s Café has two villas for rent. Each villa can accommodate a maximum of 12 persons (at least 8 bedded; the rest in extra mattresses). It also has five deluxe rooms available for rent. “All overnight-staying guests can avail themselves of our bonfire facility at night,” Pedregosa said.
Pedregosa is from Bansalan, where he attended his elementary and high school years. He went to the University of the Philippines at Diliman, where he finished Bachelor of Science in Fisheries. It was also from UP that he took his Bachelor of Laws (Juris Doctor) degree.
His wife, Mary Benjielyn Belmonte Pedregosa, backs whatever endeavor he is engaged in. “She does not just support me in this endeavor,” he said. “She is actively involved in the business of Sir Ped’s Coffee, as owner and executive.”
Although Pedregosa is a lawyer by profession, he loves farming. “Farming has been part of our family ever since I could remember, starting with my paternal grandparents. But my siblings and I basically developed our love for farming from our Tatay Ben and Nanay Virgie. He was a green thumb and an animal enthusiast. She was an avid farming practitioner, on the other hand.”
Aside from coffee, visitors and guests can also find calamansi, some strawberries, sayote and lots of trees. “We planted plenty of forest trees like narra, tinikaran, agoho, red and white lawaan, almaciga, as well as lots of Benguet pine trees,” he said.
If you are wondering why the resort is called Sir Ped’s Café, well it is named after his father, who worked as regional director of National Irrigation Administration (NIA). “Our Tatay Ben was fondly called ‘Sir Ped’ in the NIA regional offices of Cotabato and Davao. When we were conceptualizing the garden café cum restaurant business, we asked for his permission to name the place in his honor. He happily obliged and gave his blessing. He was still able to help us in the construction stages (being a registered civil engineer) and was able to open the café himself and entertained some of its early customers, including some of his ‘batchmates.’ We are extremely happy to have been able to give him such honor before he passed.”
When asked what his future plans are, he said, “We will develop Pedregosa Farms as an agri-tourism facility, a farm resort, at our own comfortable pace. We intend to spend most of our retirement time here.” – ###