Royal Sulu Civet Coffee Shoot

Posted on June 2, 2012


My childhood summers were mostly spent in a big island south of the Philippines called Mindanao.  Slow and comfortable way of life, where people stop and greet each other in the streets, children playfully climb on trees and the beach was a hop and skip away.  With this simple everyday life, I do remember my paternal grandmother drinking coffee first thing in the morning.  She drank it in a simple old slim glass as she prepared breakfast for the day.

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When I was back in Manila last November, my mom and me have caught up with each other, with her telling me little details on how she keeps herself busy.  One of her pet projects was to give a marketing vehicle for a civet coffee producer from Mindanao, Royal Sulu’s Civet Coffee. Civet coffee happened to be a Filipino delicacy and its production was labor-intensive.  This coffee does not go through the usual harvest, drying and roasting process.  Coffee beans came from the refuse of a wild civet cat.  Civet cats are nocturnal animals that have the uncanny ability to choose the ripest and best coffee cherries and only consumes the flesh of the cherry. Enzymes in the civet’s digestive tract somehow remove the bitterness of the coffee and enhance the flavor of the beans.  Once excreted, the beans are laboriously harvested, hygienically cleaned, washed thoroughly, dried and roasted.  The resulting coffee bean has a complex flavor with notes of chocolate and caramel to its full-bodied brew.

Having been addicted to coffee for a several years now, I am amazed about the taste of this coffee and having the luxury to have an ample supply from my mom.  My mom told me that she and her business partner, Tausug princess Princess Kumalah Sug-Elardo were in the process of exporting it out of the Philippines to Asian and the European markets.  She then asked me if I wanted to start to be the North American arm and who could resist such an offer?   I always believed that if the product were good, with proper organization and marketing, the selling of Royal Sulu Coffee would be seamless.  I offered to photograph their product for their promotional materials and that has been on my agenda for a while now.

Drawing from memories of my childhood, EyeCandyTO food stylist, Abraham Wornovitzky and I started planning for how to represent the product.  We went for depicting an Asian inspired tonality.  Lighting and propping were playing with colors of rich browns and sienna and deep hues of blues.  As we were planning, my brain went on overdrive, excited for the possibility of creating a beautiful image that would speak of my heritage and my love for coffee.

The shoot finally happened this week.  I wanted to share the images that have given me such an adrenalin rush, from its conception to the resultant image that Abe and I created.  Is Toronto ready for really good civet coffee? Drop me a message and tell me what you think.  I have been trying to source out ways to how to ship it here to cut down on the costs.  Follow me the next few months and within that time, I would have sorted it out where I would be distributing this authentic organic civet coffee for everyone to get a chance to enjoy it.