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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The back is a beehive of activity on weekdays: cuppings, workshops, and everything else to feed the coffee lover’s need to know more.
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.
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.