Tidow Gothong and the art of brewing specialty coffee
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.
Photos: Alfred Gregory E. Bartolome
Make-up Artist: Carlo Damolo
Hair Stylist: Jerwin Bastatas
Locale: Fujinoya Philippines