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The Yardstick By Which Coffee is Judged

posted by in Food Purveyors

A specialty café that sets the standard for Manila’s coffee cognoscenti.

You might be hard-pressed to find it and only those in the know will look for the burnished big letter “Y” situated at the store’s front. Step in and you’ll be taken by how large the interior is, but that’s because it’s a multi-use space, a complete business spanning coffee education workshops, a roasting facility, and the distribution of high-end coffee machines and paraphernalia, among others.

Yardstick-interior1

Yardstick-interior2

Then of course, there’s the coffee bar. Welcome to Yardstick Coffee.

It’s the latest star to shine in Manila’s flourishing Third Wave coffee movement following fellow pioneers, Magnum Opus and The Curator. Proponents of this movement adhere to exacting standards, and are meticulous about each step from the bean to the brew. It’s markedly different from the First Wave that was characterized by instant coffee and the Second Wave that saw explosive expansion of the multinational coffee chains, e.g., Starbucks et al.

At Yardstick, quality coffee and a communal experience are key to enjoyment. It’s coffee as culinary.

Yardstick-menu

Yardstick-black-brew

Don’t be bewildered by the menu. Initially, yes, it seems somewhat cryptic but the appeal here is engaging with the barista: tell him what you want. My usual request is for a “hot and black” brew, and it’s different on every visit depending on the beans and brewing method used. It’s curious excitement on all levels but if you just want a mocha (as my Bin does, see photo below), then they’ll do that too.

At the helm of Yardstick are Kevin Tang, Jessica Lee, and Andre Chanco, coffee professionals and friends from way back. Their reverence for the coffee-making process is evident, every movement is measured and deliberate: it appears meditative for them, mesmerizing for the observant customer. I once watch Andre make me a Gibraltar (double-shot of espresso + hit of milk) and am absolutely transfixed by the utmost care with which he prepares my drink; it was as if the drink was for him. There can be no doubt that every cup made here is faultless.

Yardstick-benches

Third Wave coffee places such as Yardstick thrive on transparency, both in the coffee process (you can see every step taken to make your cup) and in their space. There are no couches at this coffee shop or little nooks where one can brood into one’s brew. It’s wide open and communing is king. The long tables and benches invite endless permutations for every sort of social set up and large glass windows provide opportunities for sunbathing or gawking at passersby. Naturally, the bountiful light makes for beautiful coffee photos too.

Yardstick-cover

Don’t misunderstand me, however. Kevin, Jessica, Andre, and the baristas are well-attuned to a customer’s vibes and adjust accordingly; they are as chatty or as reticent as the customer needs for them to be at that moment. There are times I come here and after thanking Andre for my java, I head to the far end of a bench and tune out.

Yardstick-5ozs
Each cup is only 5 ozs., but it’s an exceptional 5 ounces, and you find it’s all you need.
Yardstick-back
The back is a beehive of activity on weekdays: cuppings, workshops, and everything else to feed the coffee lover’s need to know more.

Yardstick-pastry

Coffee gets pretty lonely when it’s not paired with something. Yardstick offers “Bites”, usually sandwiches and whatever else is on offer in the display. While I effusively praise the brews here, I can’t do the same for the food, the pastries especially. But I won’t quibble since it’s the coffee that’s front and center here, and that’s the way it should be.

~

Yardstick Coffee
G/Floor Universal LMS Bldg., 106 Esteban Street, Legaspi Village, Makati
Open Monday-Saturday 8am-6pm; Sunday 8am-3pm
On Facebook and Instagram: yardstickcoffee
Join their event this Sunday, January 19, 2014: my coffee guru, Zarah Perez, shares her coffee stories.
Click here for details.

13 Responses to “The Yardstick By Which Coffee is Judged”

  • Visited Yardstick for the first time last Sunday and I loved it. The coffee was wonderful and the vibe of the place is inviting although I wish the chairs were a bit more comfortable.

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  • Hello! What camera are you using for these pictures? They look so great!

    Thanks! :D

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    Lori Reply:


    Hi Jonas,
    I used my point and shoot, a Canon Powershot G12.

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  • Love their space! Glad to have stble upon your blog! Visiting Manila soon and glad that their’s specialty coffee now in Makati. Most specialty coffee joints in Sydney & Melbourne often do the same where they have very limited food too so that the coffee gets the spotlight. Some with no food on offer at all. Nice write up :)

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  • Looks like a wonderful place, but a person can’t go there after 6pm because it is closed. Is this common in Manila.. what is the story there?

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  • Thanks for sharing this! :D I love coffee and am hoping to open my own coffee shop one day. :D inspirations~

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  • I finally went there today – THIS post and my Dentist’s rave reviews made me all excited to come and take that much anticipated cup…. Sadly i was disappointed. It took 15 mins (and a follow up) before the lady served our coffee (she was apologetic, said she got confused, and oh she served my friend a white coffee instead of the black she ordered); the much anticipated cup (origin: guatemala) was too acidic for my taste (i enjoyed my espressos in Italy, so maybe it was Gautemala’s fault?); and there was a cute, curly eyelash in our pecan pie…. I really, really wanted to love this place, my Dentist told me it was worth the coffee stains! Still not entirely convinced of the Third Wave yet. Up next in my list is Magnum. In the meantime, it’s back to my favorite local Gourmet Cafe espresso blend c/o our home’s De Longhi machine for me.

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    Lori Reply:


    KhunKC-
    It sounds like you had an experience that was more an exception than the rule. I’ve told Yardstick about it, hopefully they’ll reply. Hoping you can give them another chance.

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    Yardstick Reply:

    Hi KhunKC, thanks for sharing your feedback here.

    First, we’d like to sincerely apologise for what happened yesterday. There was supposed to be 3 staff in the morning but there was someone who took emergency leave yesterday morning hence the hiccups at the shop. No excuse.

    The Guetemala La Flor is indeed a balanced cup – good body with medium acidity. Ideally, most specialty coffees should have acidity and sweetness. As long as it’s not bitter. Having said that, there are coffees with low/low-medium acidity available which you can request for next time. Typically, these coffees are from Sumatra.

    On the pecan pie, oversight on our end. Should not happen again. We are building a better casing for our pastry bar.

    We’re working towards creating the best coffee retail experience for our customers and we take this as a learning point.

    Thanks again.

    Team Yardstick

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    KhunKC Reply:

    I appreciate the time to reply. Will still give Yardstick a chance, hoping the next visit will be a more memorable one!

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  • why do you say they are third wave coffee? do they work directly with farmers? that’s what third wave coffee is, from bean to cup. check out hugh jackman’s the laughing man.

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    Yardstick Reply:

    Hi kapetilista,

    there are many buzz words surrounding all these coffee shops that are sprouting up. in essence, the focus is on quality.

    third wave will be defined differently depending on where in the industry you’re from. or whether you are looking from outside-in or from the consumers stand point.

    you are correct with your description of third wave. bean to cup is not a new concept but is just emphasized in the recent ‘third wave’ because we have now more access to working directly with farmers. and there are carefully steps taken along the way to make sure that the coffee we serve is a true representation of how the coffee was cultivated at origin. bean to cup/direct trade is one aspect of ‘third wave’ shops.

    there are many debates on the word ‘direct trade’. at the end of the day, it’s really about sustainability for the farmers. most of the ‘third wave’ coffee shops are too small to buy directly from a farmer due to the economics of it. however, that doesn’t prevent them from working ‘directly’ with a farmer. I can still go to a farm in costa rica and look at how the farmers are processing the coffee and decide to buy that lot. however, it ships via a importer who can bring down the costs of freight. that is still a form direct trade as the coffee bought is very much traceable and transparent as we can ask how much the farmer is getting per kilo. there are some that pay the farmer directly and bypass the middle man. that is a model that works for the bigger roasters who can afford to ship container loads of greens. for us, direct trade is about a continuous relationship with a farmer/co-op. if we end up buying a coffee from a co-op in ethiopia, we should continue to buy from them every harvest. not just a one-off purchase.

    a good example is our Suke Quto from Sidamo in Ethiopia. I was there last harvest and we managed to buy sacks of green coffee from Tade, the owner of the farm. it’s a beautiful coffee.

    hugh jackman’s project is another good example of focusing on the farmer side of things.

    importers/green coffee buyers will look at ‘third wave’ differently or maybe not at all as that’s the work that they’ve been trying to do all along, improving quality at origin and working with farmers.

    a barista might equate third wave to all the fancy equipment being used at the retail store. looking deeper, this is still a quality focused approach as the newer equipment with the knowledge allows the baristas to bring out the best in the coffee.

    a coffee shop operator/owner will have their own definitions as well. so will the media.

    as more and more of the ‘third wave’ shops appear in the metro, it’s going to be interesting to see how the consumers’ palate adapt to the different roasters and origins. there’s more to coffee than just ‘strong’ and ‘bitter’. we’re just glad to be part of this exciting time and there definitely needs to be a bit more push in terms of education and raising awareness.

    here’s to better coffee! :)

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  • hi! would you happen to know where to source local green coffee beans, particularly the ones from benguet or sagada? one time while i was there, i saw you guys trying to roast local beans using your small roaster. i do hope one of these days, yardstick will also start serving local coffees.

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