At this most unique café, tea is the key ingredient in imaginative pairings and infusions.
Joly Poa has an intriguing name – yes, it’s pronounced like the word “jolly”; and the natural follow-up question would be: is she really jolly? In addition, the name of her store, Delicakes by Joly – introduces all sorts of playful conjecture: what does “Deli-“ stand for?
I meet Joly and she seems rather reserved then but as she explains to me in her email later: “I was really overwhelmed and excited [to meet you].” You’re probably one of the bubbliest people I know. “And she enlightens me on the etymology of Delicakes: “[It] was derived from the word ‘delicate’ as we prepare each product in a delicate manner. But it’s come to mean a number of things which are also relevant to us – delicious, delightful, or deli as in gourmet. We just wanted a simple name that people will easily remember.”
In Manila’s vast dessert landscape, I appreciate originality and Joly’s pastries offer just that. She specializes in what she terms as “tea-infused pastries,” sweet creations touched by tea. Her White Choco Matcha Cake is a re-energized take on that majestic pairing of green tea and white chocolate. It reminds me of the most exquisite of sansrivals, hushed crispness against a luxe backdrop of white and green: chocolate and tea.
Chocolate is one of my true loves and I see it with new eyes in the Earl Grey Choco Mousse. It sits there, a tri-hued wonder in browns and I’m tempted to dismiss it. You know how I feel about mousse but hey, no guts, no dessert. Yes, it’s light and mousse-like but executed skillfully so it flits on the tongue and disappears, leaving only lingering memories of chocolate. I begin to wonder where the tea went but then it tiptoes in on waves of orange, bergamot specifically, and the black tea nuances that’s distinctively Earl Grey. Very clever.
Joly credits her mom for the idea of infusing tea into pastries. “She used to make ‘Tea Eggs,’ where whole eggs are boiled in tea,” she explains, “and at the time, we were also thinking of a concept. We felt that it could work in desserts, too. Everything just came together especially since the market started to know more about tea via bubble teas.”
And what good are choice tea-based desserts without choice teas to accompany them? At Delicakes’ Magnolia store, I enjoy the Drip-It Tea in various selections. Much like the drip filters used to brew coffee, the entire contraption is served at table and hot water is poured in. Intoxicating aromas abound and it’s fascinating to watch the amber fluid dripping into the glass cup. I’m visiting Delicakes with my friend, Mahar, a self-proclaimed “tea snob,” and he’s mighty impressed with the teas here. He’s sipping thoughtfully, and we attempt to drink these elegant teas with backs straight and pinkie fingers up as we clutch the cup handles.
While sipping and supping everything tea with Joly and Mahar, I have to laugh when Joly mentions, “I know our place has an identity crisis because of its size.” She grins. “It’s really a kiosk but it can seat 18, so I call it my ‘floating café.’” When you visit the store, you’ll understand why. The café is positioned near some glass railings affording one an excellent view of the mall and perhaps some privacy too.
There’s a Milk Tea Cheesecake on the menu that I just can’t believe. Rather standard graham cracker crust, the batter itself is imbued with some milk tea, don’t ask me to describe it in greater detail because Joly is equally mum on this, but it’s milk tea no doubt. Then, for an absolutely ingenious finish, the cake’s surface is covered with a “salty milk cream” similar to Happy Lemon’s Rock Salt Cheese. You’ve got to taste it to believe it, believe you me.
So far, Joly demonstrates exceeding skill with her pastries. She’s completely self-taught and has competed in several baking competitions. What’s astounding to me is that she runs Delicakes with her boyfriend. “But what is it that people say about never getting into business with friends?” I ask, stupefied. Apparently, they have their respective strengths and it’s working out so far. “Ah well, if he gives you trouble just throw him in the oven, “ I joke. We laugh wildly. Women should be so lucky that they can get into business with their significant other. My Bin and I wouldn’t last a week in business together without one or both of us ending up dead.
While Delicakes shines with its stellar tea-based offerings, there are also sweets sans tea and which are quite savory. Consider the pies in Tuna or Mushroom & Cheese and the intriguingly named Ox Tongue Cookies. Only partly sweet, I enjoy these with hard cheese and fig jam. The Brownies and Polvoron are rather prosaic but whatever you do, don’t pass up on the Macaroons.
These coconut and condensed milk confections have been relegated to the wayside by their more cosmopolitan cousin, the macaron, but Joly’s macaroons make me remember just how good they can be. In various flavors like Coffee, Chocolate, Ube, Green Tea, Original, and my favorite, Cheese, these are never cloying, just a continuum of chewy-soft and sticky-sweet.
Delicakes by Joly Poa
Store: 3/L Robinsons Magnolia Mall (fronting the cinemas)
Aurora Blvd. corner Doña Hemady and N. Domingo,
Take-Away: G/F Asia Crest Mansion
207 M. Paterno St.,
San Juan, M.M.
(02) 622 7118
On Facebook: delicakesby joly