If there’s one drink that has so radically evolved from my childhood, it has to be coffee. Like most Filipinos, I only knew instant coffee as a child, but as I grew older, I eventually figured out that brewed coffee is infinitely better. At home, I may have started with a coffee machine using pre-ground beans in paper cone filters, moved on to grinding my own and using a more refined French press, then to the super convenient automated espresso maker with coffee capsules. Just recently, my husband has been playing barista with a snazzy all-manual espresso machine at home.
When you let yourself into the fairly obsessive world of craft coffee—dabbling in the origin of beans, roasting styles, bean grinding levels, coffee-to-water ratios, water temperature or pressure—you realize the minute calculations and infinite adjustments that are required to make that perfect cup. You read coffee books and comb the Internet for coffee tutorials and videos to learn all you can, only to realize that nothing beats actual hands-on instruction with experienced teachers.
That’s where the just-opened UCC Coffee Academy at Uptown Parade in Bonifacio Global City comes in. This modern facility is the newest venture of the UCC Group which brought the UCC café franchise from Japan in 2000. While the group runs 40 UCC branches in the country, many don’t know that it has also expanded to manufacturing, roasting, and exportation of coffee through its partnership with UCC Japan. So it was an obvious next step for UCC’s Hubert Young to partner with veterans in the Philippine coffee industry to share their collective coffee expertise.
The Academy’s resident “coffee guru” is none other than the well-known and much-respected Robert Francisco, who has gained deep coffee knowledge from his 20-plus years in the industry. He is ably assisted by six experienced former UCC baristas who received additional training in Japan. Together, they offer courses open to anyone with an interest in coffee, from coffee enthusiasts and entrepreneurs planning to open a coffee shop, to professionals looking to expand their skills.
The UCC Academy facility is clearly impressive. Housed in a spacious sunny floor with large bay windows, it is divided into the Cappuccino and Espresso areas, and stocked with all the right equipment—a large coffee roaster, several state-of-the-art espresso machines, and more than enough brewing paraphernalia for students to use and learn from. Francisco explains, “Our classrooms are designed to promote an interactive experience, where students have an enriching exchange of knowledge with instructors and practice with the tools they need to master their craft.” The more students get to practice on the equipment, the faster they’ll learn—a hands-on approach influenced by the UCC Coffee Academy in Japan.
Beginners can start with the one-day Fundamentals of Coffee: Crop to Cup class that introduces the entire bean-to-brew process, including an intro to simple to complex methods of brewing. After completing this course, students can then move on to more specialized classes.
Coffee aficionados will enjoy the two-day Alternative Methods of Brewing class which goes through popular “third wave” brewing methods like the siphon, Aeropress, hand drip, percolator.
Novice baristas can refine their skills with the three-day Intermediate Barista Skills and Advance Barista Skills courses.
Even more specialized courses include a one-day Introduction to Cupping which explores the essentials in sensory evaluation of bean quality by taste and aroma. It’s held in the Academy’s custom-designed cupping room that controls conditions like temperature, light, humidity that affect evaluation.
For those with an artistic bent, the Academy offers a one-day Latte Art class which covers how to properly steam and pour milk, and create designs on the milk’s surface.
Robert Francisco promises to add more courses in the future to cover all aspects of the coffee profession. He sees no limits to what can be learned in the Academy. And he assures that the facility is a separate entity from the UCC cafés, focused solely on education, not on the marketing of the UCC brand.
The total coffee experience has indeed come a long way from those early days of instant coffee. And once you catch that “coffee bug,” whether for home enjoyment or as the start of a new business, this fascinating craft certainly deserves the time and proper instruction to get it right one cup at a time.
UCC Coffee Academy, 3/F Uptown Parade, 9th Avenue between 36th and 37th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, FB: UCC Coffee Academy Philippines, IG: @ucccoffeeacademyph for the schedule of classes