An hour after I pick up six coffee buns from Roti Mum, I get into the car and head on home. Somewhere between Boni and Guadalupe, a pleasant coffee aroma begins to permeate inside the car. Initially puzzled, I laugh when I remember that I have coffee buns sitting in the back seat. So concentrated is the essence of coffee in these bread rolls that the next day, even my refrigerator has been imbued with the scent.
It’s this extraordinarily lingering fragrance that Roti Mum owner Emil Sitjar feels is key. “We bought coffee buns of the competition and it did not smell in the car,” he recalls. “It was a one hour travel and no smell. Wala, ordinary bread.” He puts it more eloquently, “It’s the smell which entices the palate of the person. What makes you hungry is not the food that you see but the food that you smell.” Right on, bro.
Emil co-owns Roti Mum with his brother Eduard. Based in Thailand, Eduard became strongly aware of the coffee bun boom in that country brought on by various bakeries such as Roti Mum, Roti Boy, Pappa Roti, etc. With a Roti Mum franchise under his belt in Thailand, the company’s owners encouraged him to open one in Manila. “The Philippines is the last country in Southeast Asia to have a coffee bun,” explains Emil. “It started in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and then us.”
Opened just last February 5, Emil and Eduard are astounded at the reception their buns have received. And this, from a shop that only sells a single product that at its core, is an ultra niche item. “It was so hard to sell the concept [to the malls] of selling just one product, because theoretically, it should not work,” Emil remembers. “But after our first month of operation, it’s so beyond our expectations.” Perhaps a pioneering example that a single product store can indeed succeed in the Philippine market, Emil reasons it as such, “We’re good at what we do because we do it everyday. We don’t serve drinks or anything else.”
These exemplary buns come to the Philippines from Singapore as frozen balls of dough. They’re proofed (set aside in a warm place in order to reactivate the yeast) for a few hours, then that exquisite coffee cream ”“ which also comes from Singapore ready made ”“ is piped on in a spiral fashion. “Our staff is now so adept at piping the cream, they can finish two trays in a matter of minutes, “comments Eduard.
All that’s left now is the baking of the buns. As I take photos, Eduard is kind enough to let me see the change ”“ no, transformation that the rolls undergo the longer they sit in the oven:
Here are the buns after just five minutes of baking. The cream has jelled and is slowly making its way down.
After a few more minutes, the cream totally envelops the entire bun. It’s now on its way to forming that deliciously addicting crust.
Just a few more minutes in the oven to total a baking time of 12-13 minutes.
And here we have the freshly baked buns ready to be sold.
But wait, they’re not quite done. This photo almost seems comical, but here is Eduard and one of the store assistants fanning the newly-baked buns. “We get a lot of inquiries as to why we do this,” Eduard explains, fanning away. “But this is what keeps the buns crispy.” Noticing my eyes dart to the electric fan in the corner, Eduard says as if in reply, “And we can’t use the electric fan because it will make the buns collapse.” Got it.
I consider myself immensely lucky to be able to bite into a Roti Mum coffee bun within two minutes of it emerging from the oven. Redolent with its intoxicating coffee essence, I’m tempted to nibble around the edges at the crust but since I don’t have the luxury of time right now, I take a big bite. I hear a gentle crunch! which gives way to layers of dough perfumed with butter. Instead of a smack-on coffee hit, the flavor stays in the background, making its coffee presence felt with every whiff, and tasted with every bite. The bun possesses a certain degree of flakiness that I find irresistible.
“What makes your buns so good?” I ask Emil. “First rate ingredients,” he affirms. “Flour from Australia, butter from New Zealand, the cream, and in its midst, the coffee aroma. So, it’s there, and that’s not something the other buns have. It’s technically the same bun that you’d get in Singapore since all we do is pipe and bake.”
The brothers are currently looking to expand Roti Mum’s reach within the metropolis. And due to public demand, the partners might come up with a Roti Mum box to accommodate coffee bun orders by the dozen. After all, the more (buns), the merrier.
SM Megamall A,
Edsa Cor DoÃ±a J. Vargas Ave.
Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila
+63 02 6384250
Roti Mum Philippines website
Delifrance’s Coffee Buns
My thanks to Emil and Eduard Sitjar, as well as Paul Syjuco.