Kape Barako belongs to the species of Coffea Liberica, coffee that is native to western and central Africa from Liberia to Uganda and Angola. The Coffea liberica tree grows up to 20 metres in height, producing larger fruits than those found on Coffea arabica trees. Today, the provinces of Batangas and Cavite in the Philippines are producers of liberica coffee and now locally known as Kape Barako.
The term is also used to refer to all coffee coming from those provinces. Barako is the Filipino term for the male stud of an animal, and has become associated with the image of a tough man.
Barako (Liberica) is not a common coffee variety, accounting today for less than 1% of commercial coffee grown, although it is abundant in Southeast Asia especially in the Philippines.
The first Barako tree was a cutting from Brazil planted in the 1800s in Barangay Pinagtung-Ulan, Lipa City, Batangas by the family of Don H. Macasaet .
In the 1880s, the coffee industry in the Philippines collapsed due to an infestation dubbed as “Coffee rust” as well as tough competition from coffee growers in South America and Vietnam. This has caused Kape Barako growers to shift to other crops, which has threatened the varietal with extinction.
Barako coffee has strong taste, flavor, and has a distinctively pungent aroma. All coffee grown in Batangas is generically called Barako.
The shape of the beans is not symmetric, which is unique among the four remaining commercial species (Arabica, Robusta, Excelsa and Liberica). One side is lower than the other side, creating a distinctive “point” or hook at the bottom. The furrow in the middle is generally jagged rather than straight as in other coffee species.