Many of you may have noticed that, alongside the many new restaurants and bars that have opened in the last few years not only here but in many progressive cities across the archipelago, there are as many new coffee shops that have also cropped up. There are Starbucks outlets in all malls and shopping districts, but alongside the foreign brands, our home grown brands like Bo’s Coffee of Cebu and Figaro cannot be far behind.
Coffee has come of age in the Philippines, a mark of sophistication for many to be sure, but more importantly a shot in the arm for our neglected coffee farmers from Benguet to the far corners of Mindanao. Our local cafes now boast of being proud members of the third wave of coffee, and though this age has been around for some 10 years in the US and in Europe, it is still a big step forward for our local coffee industry. And we have to thank our very active Philippine Coffee Board for this.
We have come across two relatively new cafes in the metro that are among this “third wavers.”
Cow & Chicken
Before this restaurant/café opened, one of its owners, Junco Flores, was a barista extremely passionate about coffee. From this passion stemmed his personal advocacy to support the Filipino coffee farmer. All the coffee they serve at Cow & Chicken are locally sourced, primarily from Benguet farmers. Very soon, they plan to tap the Batangas coffee farms and those from Mt. Apo in Davao which he swears are among the best in the country.
They offer the basics found in most cafes – latte, espresso, cappucino, americano. However, they have come up with something uniquely their own—the panucha macchiato. The panucha of old can be rarely seen in public markets now, but I remember biting into those brown caramel-flavored half moons with immense pleasure when I was a kid. Back then, they were plentiful in the dry section of the wet market, and my mother used them to flavor our champorado (which we enjoyed with tuyo). This restaurant is restoring the old glory of the panucha, and they claim that theirs is the only café to offer the panucha macchiato. The process is meticulous and slow, and Junco has to extract the flavor of the panucha before it is blended with the coffee. The milk is steamed at just the right temperature and the panucha carefully measured for that constant quality.
Another nostalgic blend is the Choc Nut coffee. Choc Nut is another childhood favorite that has seen a resurgence in the local stores, and to be sure it is 100 percent Filipino. The flavor of sweet and salty brings back memories of days when a few coins in the pocket could bring joy.
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Other interesting flavors include popcorn latte where the flavor of popcorn is also extracted before blending and the while rose latte where white chocolate and rose extract are added to the freshly brewed coffee. Cinnamon or nutmeg for that slightly nutty flavor may be sprinkled on top if desired.
This is another café established in 2013, first in Salcedo St. and now relocated to Polaris St., Poblacion, Makati City. One of the co-owners, Rose Juan is a graduate of Business Major in Technology Communication from Ateneo de Manila University. She comes from a family of entrepreneurs, so opening Commune was a natural progression for her. Besides, she worked for 15 years with coffee, living in Shanghai for four years while working for a coffee company. She always dreamed of opening her own café one day, but as fate would have it, she decided to take a break from coffee and spent three years indulging in another passion, digital marketing.
With the opening of Commune, she is indulging in both passions: coffee and her being a social media strategist. She organized Tweet Ups because it was always difficult to bring people face to face, and for want of a special place for these friends’ meet ups, the opportunity to open Commune came at the perfect time.
Commune was so named because it was meant to be a home of communities. Rose remembers that when they opened the café, they were only one of five third wave coffee shops in the country. They are proud to serve 100 percent Filipino coffee sourced directly from the farmers, and she is not a niece of Philippine Coffee Board chair Chit Juan for nothing. She shares the passionate advocacy and translates this to her offerings in the café where not only coffee but also everything else in the menu is 98 – 99 percent Filipino, a testament to her advocacy.
Aside from her coffee, she serves pastries delivered by home bakers, many of whom are start-ups who do not have their own retail space yet. They have calamansi muffins from Manila Bake, apple pie baked fresh daily by a niece using her grandmother’s old recipe, sticky toffee pudding, cookie shot served with Carmen’s Best ice cream.
They serve hot coffee, but they are making a name for their iced lattes. Their iced toddy is an 18-hr cold brew where the coffee grinds are soaked in ice for 18 hours. It is not subjected to any heat, but the result is a less-acidic coffee with more potent caffeine, but with a lighter taste. Very refreshing.
Other best seller include their longganisa pasta, a creation of their Chef Mickey, their beef tapa with “sinangag” and fresh eggs, their croc madam, which is ham and cheese sandwich with béchamel sauce, and their big serving of grilled cheese sandwich.
What is also interesting about this place is it is an events place for art exhibits, plays of upcoming theater actors, benefit concerts/performances or even public workshops.
But coffee seems to be the one factor that binds the diverse groups who have made Commune their home these last few years. Coffee brings people together, and it fuels endless conversations and ideas.
Mabuhay!!! Be proud to be a Filipino.
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