The first time I tried Barako coffee, it packed so powerful a wallop that my head involuntarily whipped backwards. Freshly brewed and given to me in a Styrofoam cup, it was ”“ as the Turkish proverb goes ”“ “… black as hell, strong as death…” although there was no way it was “… and sweet as love.” So unprepared was I for the caffeinated shock that I weakly asked my friend who had given me the coffee, “Got any creamer around, by chance?” I never take my coffee black, really, I’m not that macho (yet), but I’m terribly proud of our local coffee and patronize it whenever I can.
There’s a place in Serendra called Kape Isla that honors Philippine coffee. It’s a little coffee shop with a big mission: to uplift the quality of Philippine coffee and to increase awareness about it. A project of the Philippine Coffee Board, the café complements its efforts to promote the finest Philippine coffee and to sustain the growing industry. The choices of beans alternate every two weeks and are featured as the Coffee of the Week. This is the perfect place to take my visiting friend from Canada who wants to buy Filipino coffee.
Very Filipino from its architecture down to its interior design, Kape Isla is swathed in shades of deep brown, its shelves tastefully displaying the locally produced coffee varieties and accompanying merchandise. The vibe of this place is very different from the regular coffee shops that dot Bonifacio High Street, for instance. It’s much more quiet here, tables are more commonly occupied by a single person who’s usually hunched over a laptop, taking advantage of the in-house Wi-Fi.
Though it’s not on the menu that includes light meals and traditional merienda, our server graciously agrees to give my friend a tasting of the available beans: Kape Isla’s Barako Blend, Café Amadeo’s Pahimis Blend, and Gourmet’s Blend. Served in little Styrofoam cups, the coffees arrive -Â smoldering, steaming jewels with a stimulating aroma. Remembering my first Barako experience, I approach each cup timidly and take a tiny sip. My friend, who has no compunctions with strong coffee, takes a big swallow of each. Each coffee is strong (very strong!) possessing varying nuances of earth and floral undertones.
My friend is very impressed. As for me, I abandon the coffee tasting for erm, “friendlier” coffee, so I order a latte. It arrives looking very much like the one I had at Caffe Artigiano in Vancouver. Made from the bean of the week, the MontaÃ±osa, the latte’s milky embrace punctuated with subtle bursts of espresso soothes me. Seeing how much I’m enjoying myself, my friend promptly orders a latte for himself as well.
Though I’ve been to Kape Isla several times for coffee, I don’t actually feel encouraged to eat there. The bibingka and cakes sitting behind the display look tired, to say the least, thus dampening my appetite to try any of their traditional Filipino merienda fare that includes pan de sal with assorted fillings, pastas, and other foods meant to go with the diverse range of coffees offered. Perhaps next time.
As for my now overly-caffeinated friend, so impressed is he with Philippine coffee that we leave the store with P1,000 worth of beans, a king’s (coffee) ransom in any currency.
G/F Serendra (across Market! Market!), Bonifacio Global City, Taguig