Sure, there are big specialty coffee chains like Starbucks, CBTL, Figaro, Seattles Best, UCC, and Toby's Estate in the Fort. They make decent coffee, provide free wi-fi and newspaper, and a nice place to lounge. On the other hand, they cannot offer something that true coffee artists have.
Coffee artists are people who love coffee madly and truly, and they invest their time and money on it. They brew each cup with great care. When you talk to them, it is like you are talking to surfers, because they will talk about the first, second and third wave of specialty coffee for a long, long time. They are bold, constantly creating new flavors to challenge our taste buds. You can feel their enthusiasm for their craft oozing from their pores. And THAT is their charm.
Where do you find them?
Rent is high in Bonifacio Global City, therefore, you will not find many of them occupying a retail space with tables. Most likely, you will find a coffee artist running his stall in an event. Take Lanz (Lorenzo Casteillo) of Candid Coffee, for example. I met him at a community event held recently in a condominium building in Forbestown Road. He manned a pop-up coffee cart and made simple espresso based coffee from a professional coffee maker. Because of the low overhead, he could sell a decent handcrafted cappuccino for P80. He can also put a roasted marshmallow topping on your coffee.
You can find someone like Lanz probably in a lot of weekend events in Fort Bonifacio, and when you do, do not miss the chance to talk to them. If they are the real deal, you can get a free lesson on coffee beans, a story of their entrepreneurial journey, and a share of their zeal.
El Union Coffee
Recently, a specialty coffee outfit found a way to introduce their coffee to the residents of Fort Bonifacio without incurring an expensive overhead. El Union Coffee from La Union has opened a coffee stall at the ground floor of Kensington Place, Burgos Circle. It shares the retail space with a bar that opens only at night. So coffee is served from 8am to 6pm. Since that place is in my neighborhood, I chanced upon it one morning while going to the supermarket.
Even though the space they occupy is small, they put in a lot of machines, and all of them are metallic, giving the place a surgical feel, as if they were saying that their beverages are precision-made. There are three industrial grade coffee grinders, a 3-head coffee tap (the first of its kind in the Fort), and a two-group automatic espresso machine. There is space left for only two chairs for the customers.
El Union Coffee has all metal gear
The unique coffee tap is actually used for dispensing cold milk and other cold liquid for the beverages that they make. For example, I ordered a cinnamon milk drink on the recommendation of one of the two baristas there. It was made of cinnamon powder, rice milk and cow milk. The rice and cow milk mixture came out of the tap. As for real coffee, even though they have a high grade espresso machine, their preferred way of making coffee is by hand pour.
Indeed, the coffee profession seems to have come full circle, by starting with pour-over coffee in the old days, then went nuts with espresso drinks in the 20th century, now going back to hand poured coffee, albeit with better equipment and technique.
Barista Sylvester standing next to the nitro coffee tap and the price list
While deciding what to order, I asked the baristas, Sylvester and Josh, about the business. Sylvester said that their company came from La Union, and they used coffee beans sourced ethically locally and aboard. He explained everything in so much details that I had to ask if he was an owner of the shop. He said he worked for the company, but the company had a very flat structure, so everyone took pride in being part of the company. I looked up the Facebook page of the company, and found that it does look like a very progressive establishment. An interesting discovery during a stroll in the neighborhood.
In between the specialty coffee big chains and the small new coffee artists on the block, there are semi-independents, such as Single Origin at Bonifacio High Street (BHS), Kuppa at Commercenter Building, 4th Avenue, Luna Coffee at BHS and NAC Tower, 32nd Street, Local Edition at Serendra Piazza, Travel Bean and Coffee Empire at Venice Piazza, McKinley Hill. They are local specialty coffee companies with only a handful of outlets, so they have to really use all the tricks in their book to get enough business to pay for the high overhead of a full size cafe.
One popular way to attract more customers is to have alcohol on the menu. In the old, old days, of course cafes had booze and coffee. Then the first wave specialty coffee shops like Starbucks focus just on coffee. Now the coffee and alcohol combo is back. Single Origin and El Union use it, and also the newest specialty coffee shop in Fort Bonifacio, Slurp, for example.
Slurp is located on the third floor of Venice Grand Canal Mall, next to the cineplex.
It has wine and cheese alongside the coffee offerings on its menu.
Apart from wine, another feature that Slurp highlights in the cafe is the quality of the water used in making the coffee. Serious coffee drinkers know that the taste of water used in making coffee has a big impact on the flavor of the coffee. So the owner of Slurp displays the filters used to make the coffee.
In addition to filters to remove sediments and odor, there is even a filter to reduce scale in the water used to make your coffee
Other than water quality and wine, the owner also emphasizes the gold filter used in making the pour over coffee.
Instead of paper filter, a gold filter will be placed in the filter holder when making pour-over coffee.
A haven for coffee lovers
For coffee lovers, they should be able to celebrate everyday in Fort Bonifacio, as there are so many coffee specialists strutting their expertise to make you a cup of satisfying coffee.