Two years ago, John Sasuya began contemplating about getting involved in projects where hecan truly help the less privileged. He wanted to be less academic, put social responsibility theories into practice. Sasuya suddenly remembered his passion for coffee, how he grew up watching his grandparents make tableas from cacaos and grow coffee trees in their backyard. After working in the United Nations Conference for Trade and Development for a couple of years, Sasuya decided it was time to put his plans into action. Viverra Specialty Coffee was born.
“Our thrust is to provide high-quality Philippine coffee with social impact to consumers,” says Sasuya.
According to Sasuya, starting Viverra Specialty Coffee proved very challenging –from writing the business plan to promoting the products and winning customers in the European market who are more familiar with coffee beans from Latin America and Africa. He needed to convince them that the Philippines is home to artisanal coffee roasters, too.
Sasuya studied the Philippine coffee industry, identifying the best sources of coffee beans in his home country. He also researched about doing business in Geneva, Switzerland. He finds the process of registering his business there very straightforward: Sasuya simply went to the commercial registry office and submitted all the requirements. In 2012, Sasuya set up his artisanal coffee roaster in Geneva.
Sasuya started penetrating the European market by participating in public exhibitions and trade fairs in Switzerland including the Mustermesse Basel or MUBA in Basel and Les Automnales in Geneva. He went so far as tapping retail shops, holding coffee tasting events with local chocolatiers, and making use of the Internet to promote his company’s premium Philippine-made coffee beans.
Needless to say, his efforts paid off: He is not only getting customers in Switzerland but also from France and Germany. The barako coffee from Batangas, considered a rarity this side of the world, is the bestseller.
Despite his early success, Sasuya says his company still has a long way to go.
“If you have a good business idea, you just have to start doing it and keep that perseverance. Success doesn’t happen overnight.”
He dreams of opening a coffee shop that is exclusively selling Philippine coffee in Europe someday soon. For now, he is launching Viverra’s “3-step coffee” disposable coffee filter system.
“It is an innovative way for coffee drinkers to easily enjoy freshly brewed coffee without the use of a machine. They simply have to pour water into it,” says Sasuya.
For Sasuya, keeping his customers happy and satisfied is always a top priority. He makes sure Viverra maintains the highest quality of coffee beans. “Unlike most commercial coffee companies, we never roast to stock. We only roast what is needed within the week. This way, the flavour of coffee is preserved,” Sasuya explains, adding the pleasant aroma and taste of a freshly roasted coffee normally diminishes over time.
Viverra takes pride in their single-origin coffee products. “Quality is much better and distinct flavors are more evident that way.”
Currently, Viverra offers 100 percent premium coffee from Batangas, Sagada and Benguet.
The kapeng barako of Batangas is considered a Liberica coffee, a rare and distinct variety constituting only one percent of the total world production, due to its exceptionally rich, full-bodied and intense flavors. Meanwhile, the Arabica coffee beans from the Cordillera highlands are organically grown and harvested by the ethnic groups of Benguet and Sagada namely, the Ibaloi, Igorot, and Kankanaey. “Lately, more people are buying coffee from Benguet. It’s milder than Batangas’ but stronger than Sagada’s. But the Sagada coffee has more complex taste because it is grown in high altitudes,” shares Sasuya.
Viverra Specialty Coffee adheres to the principles of equitable, ethical trading. “We buy our green coffee beans directly from the farmers at market price, or even higher at times! So our coffee is more traceable as we avoid middlemen in the supply chain,” assures Sasuya. “Plus, we build a more personal relationship with the farmers and their families.”
THE FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT
The social entrepreneur hopes to do more for the coffee farmers in the Philippines like helping some of them to build their own cooperatives.
“Right now, farmers do not seem to have that much market power. The tendency is that buyers from Manila would negotiate for lower prices which won’t make a good profit for the farmers. Oftentimes, farmers would just agree on such a lower rate so that theycan already have the money right away to support the needs of their families,” explains Sasuya.
He wants to start a scholarship fund for the kids of the coffee farmers, as well.
Viverra Specialty Coffee is located at Rue de Frémis 17, Puplinge 1241 Switzerland. For inquiries, visit www.viverracoffee.com.
This article was first published in the 7th edition of The Filipino Expat Magazine. CLICK to read or download back issues.
John Sasuya has taken the first step in fulfilling his dream to start a coffee shop serving only Philippine coffee in Switzerland. To realize this dream, he turns into crowdfunding, encouraging individuals to support his project through donations of any amount. If you are interested to know more about this project, visit www.100-days.net/en/projekt/viverra-specialty-coffee.
About the author
Perpie Poblador is living in Switzerland with her Belgian husband. A self-confessed information junkie, she loves sharing and blogging about topics that interest her. Most likely, she shares stories about her travels and food adventures; and her peculiar curations that spell coffee, life inspirations, something geeky, or anything in-between. Follow her blogging at coffeechatwithperpie.com.