If there’s anything that I like better than making a cup of coffee, it’s having someone else make my coffee and relaxing with it in a coffee shop. Here, some of my favorite coffees in the metro, great for drink-in or take away.
I can’tt explain why McCafe captivates me. For someone who hardly eats fast food, friends raise eyebrows when I tell them that it’s my favorite coffee in the world. “That good, huh?” they ask, confusion clear on their faces. Granted, the ambience is not as cozy-hip as say, Starbucks, but the ambience that is there is welcoming and comfortable. When traveling, I squeal in delight when I chance upon a McCafe. So far, I’ve enjoyed it in Hong Kong; Geneva, Switzerland; and Paris, France.
I’ve waxed romantic about McCafe’s Cocoa Steamer, a straightforward drink that packs a powerful chocolate punch. It’s exceedingly rich even when made with low fat milk. When it comes to the coffee however, my brew of choice is the cappuccino (small, please). Equal amounts of espresso, steamed milk and foam are layered into squat, wide-mouth cups – cups that I’ve endlessly attempted to buy from the McCafe staff, to no avail. Then the McDonald’s trademark “M” is stenciled on with a shake of cocoa powder, sometimes powdered coffee. The first sip sears down my throat, creamy smoothness followed by the bracing breath of the bean.
Siphon pot coffee
I became aware of Panciteria Lido when I read about it in Kapihan (ArtPostAsia 2007), Nestle’s tome celebrating their 75th anniversary in the Philippines. I’m tantalized by the row of siphon coffee pots lined up on the counter of this old-style coffee house, pots whose amber contents are under pressure: full strength coffee.
Circumstances have made it such that only the original branch in Binondo retains the Panciteria Lido name but the Ortigas and West Avenue branches are now called Han Wok. And to my immense relief, they still serve siphon pot coffee.
Why my fixation on siphon pots and coffee? Aside from my obsession with the midnight liquid, siphon pots (otherwise known as [Cona] vacuum pots) brew coffee in a lower carafe by immersing the coffee grounds in water for a few minutes. When the water boils, it moves to the upper funnel, it’s stirred briefly, and when the temperature has dropped sufficiently, a vacuum is created that sucks the coffee back down into the lower carafe. It’s terribly fascinating even just to watch; a strikingly visual demonstration of the laws of physics in full effect. It’s also how they brew coffee at In Love With Sweets.
And the brew? A potent shot of caffeine fused with a mix of darkness and (depending on how one drinks his coffee) swirled with light. Han Wok uses a special kind of liquid creamer that contributes its own creamy finesse. It’s coffee to savor appreciatively and mull over the morning papers with.
Han Wok (aka Panciteria Lido) is also known for its Chinese cuisine. I recommend the chami special (P185), the fried shrimp balls (P285) and the poached tofu (P98), which shines and shimmies in the light.
Madison Square, Ortigas Avenue, Greenhills
724-4051 / 721-7479
Open Monday-Sunday 6am-9pm.
Charcoal roasted coffee
The Philippine Mountain Coffee Collection is a coffee stall at the Delicacies Village in Tiendesitas. The store is appealingly laid out with several types of coffeemakers and a display of pan de sal available in different fillings. The piece de resistance are the shelves of vacuum-packed coffee blends in attractive green packages. Various coffee blends include the Tagaytay Baraco and Kalinga Gold (my favorite, from Luzon); the Kanlaon Blend (from the Visayas); and the Malaybalay Blend (from Bukidnon in Mindanao). Prominently displayed in the store is a sign declaring, “Charcoal Roasted Coffee”, which is another term for French Roast, or a dark roast that’s almost black in color with a very shiny, oily surface.
I like buying a few bags and grinding the beans myself at home. Whether I make myself a cappuccino or a latte, this is coffee that has an earthiness that speaks of the flavor of local barako coffee and its lingering, low-toned power.
Philippine Mountain Coffee Collection
Delicacies Village, Tiendesitas
633-2058 / 59.
When I was in Vancouver last year, Blenz Coffee was everywhere, it’s like the Canadian Starbucks. I didn’t get to try it there so I’m ecstatic when I spy a Blenz Coffee while driving around the SM Mall of Asia Complex. Located outside the mall, it’s got that characteristic vibe evident in foreign coffee shops: the wood furniture, the pin lights illuminating the counter, the comfy couch seats, and of course, that deeply intoxicating coffee aroma. (Believe me when I say that I’ve been in coffee shops that don’t smell anything like coffee.)
Excited but daunted at the unfamiliar menu of coffee and tea beverages, I cop out and order my usual: a small cappuccino. Blenz small coffees are huge — I think they’re 12-ouncers instead of the usual eight. Their “signature milk foam” is capped thickly onto a brew that stimulates with a slight edge of menace. Needlessly to say, I don’t get much sleep that night. Next time, I want to try Blenz’s famous matcha tea lattes and their chai lattes.
SM One E-Com Center
SM Bay City, Pasay City
Until I get myself to Davao to try Blugre’s durian coffee, I’ll make do with C2’s version of it. A full-bodied liquid that sits thickly on the mouth, it’s a flavor competition between coffee and durian. Though this drink doesn’t stink of the fruit, the durian comes through more as an aftertaste following the more prominent coffee notes. This beverage is also terribly sweet, thanks to the little jigger of condensed milk that comes with it. But then again, that only adds to its richness and likability.
THIS RESTAURANT IS NOW CLOSED.
C2 Classic Cuisine
*6th Level The Ledge, Shangri-la Plaza Mall, Mandaluyong City
636-1509 / 636-1510
*2nd Level Archaeology Area, Rockwell Power Plant Mall, Makati City