19 August 2015

My fave coffees at Craft Katipunan, still.

Months after my first visit to Craft Katipunan, I enjoyed a series of coffee dates with my friends, meetings, family brunches, and solo time(out) there. Sometime between all that I was assigned to write about the surge of specialty and/or 3rd wave coffee places for a women's fashion and lifestyle monthly glossy magazine. That was a dream assignment for me, but there was a catch: out of the several, I was only given a spread (two full pages) for both the story and photos. I had to choose just three or four. I ended up writing about 5 that I could visit within my deadline, but squeezed in a sidebar for the other shops I couldn't (there have been shops opening almost every month since the "re-birth" of coffee). Naturally, I included Craft Katipunan.

An excerpt of what I wrote:

"You know your business is a hit if it survives in Katipunan, the area where a concept is tried out, tested, and either approved or discarded as “loser” by the snobbery one can ironically get from the open-to-adventure academic communities of the area. Since its opening, and in spite of its relatively high price points, this franchise of Craft in New Manila, owned by Mark Jao, his wife Jennifer, and his sister, has been checked out and apparently given a stamp of approval. Probably because it’s cozy, or because they have a full menu beyond coðee, and even a smoking area outside, butdefinitely because they serve very good cof- fee—the place is almost always filled, even on school holidays and weekends"
note: Check out "Coffee Crawl" in Metro Magazine, June 2014 issue.

Mark Jao, one of Craft Katipunan's owners
My husband's favorite all-day breakfast dish
The place has since proven that it's a good coffee place because it's still around, still gets filled out, and has a lot of followers on instagram. I enjoy their iced Americano when it's sweltering or after a bike ride or long walk, and their pourovers when I go there for a quiet couple of hours with a book.

Craft Katipunan's Americano

Craft's Pourover, I think this was the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe.

I love staying at the bar when I'm alone.

Iced Americano, which I usually have in their al fresco area on cooler evenings.

The way the pallet wall looks now.

Other coffee places have opened in the area, so there's no doubt the group's timing was right to open in the neighborhood.  Others have closed, so there's this other thought that it's not just about coffee, timing and location, but about a certain mix I'm still trying to put a finger on. 

Javajiving with Craft Katipunan's Mark Jao.

Add caption

Craft Coffee Revolution, please stay in Katipunan.

Americanos and Pourovers at Craft Katipunan

Another Throwback.

The mother of the Third Wave specialty coffee in the Philippines (as we know it) spawned another baby. I was told, during one of my visits at Yardstick, that Craft was opening a branch in my neighborhood. What a treat! I was at that time, really tired of the bitter versions of some cafes in the area and the only options at that time - Starbucks and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf.  Craft Katipunan's opening was something I looked forward to. This was over a year ago.

Above street level, along Esteban Abada Street, Loyola Heights,
known as the Katipunan Area.
On that first visit, my sister and I waited for the doors to open one morning - we were that eager. The style of their interiors was a new thing then, but every other coffee or all-day breakfast or comfort food restaurant that opened soon after adapted that 'pinterest-y' vibe. Not that I grew tired of it, because it works. 
We were the first customers that day. This pallet wall now holds a variety of art works by several new or independent artists.

One page of Craft Katipunan's coffee list.

We were so excited to try their coffee, of course (never having been to Craft Revolution yet then. A crime, I know). The list was extensive, but I decided to go for my favorite pourover, and picked the Brazil Yellow Bourbon. Then another after that - the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe (which became a favorite in my successive visits).

Since it was relatively early (like an hour from lunch), we were so relieved to know that they also served food. Not just cakes and pastries, but a selection of hot food.

They have an extensive food menu, too.

On my second cup. Obviously happy with our brunch.
At that time, I decided - I love Craft Katipunan and I had better run to the mothership and check it out.

Coffee Tales and The Curator's Coffee and Cocktails

Tomorrow is a Thursday, and as most of social media will be abuzz with throwbacks, I am reminded of all the drafts I have lined up in this blog, and that they are - essentially - throwbacks. Not one to waste any coffee story, I will once again (ONCE AGAIN!!! Never give up, never surrender!) revive my coffee blog; this time I will intersperse with throwbacks of my own, thus doing something about my photo storage as apple keeps reminding me to.  I will begin where I left of.

Long ago, in my coffee lifetime, I was told of a place called, "Craft". It was generating so much buzz, I should've headed out and tried their specialty brew. In fact, friends who knew I love coffee, wondered why I never rushed over there in the first place. That time, I was in a coffee rut.

I heard that Craft was put up by a group of coffee lovers. It was a fantastic concept place for learning, cupping, experiencing, and enjoying the brew. Unfortunately, that maiden effort supposedly closed, with the group agreeing to disagree on certain issues or concerns, and part ways (as I was told).

Turns out, it didn't close. The partners did part ways (partly), with two staying with the company, and one continuing onward with his own coffee adventure. Well, you can't expect coffee lovers who are able to, to just pack up and sulk in a corner.

This one member opened his own coffee company, which he calls The Curator. And while the main coffee shop was still undergoing renovation, they opened a counter where award-winning baristas prepared and served coffee, imparting helpful information while doing so. My friend C and I couldn't wait for the opening of the bigger place, so we tried out this counter.

It's located along Gamboa Street in Legazpi Village, Makati. You might miss it because it's inside Archives (Homme et Femme).

Once inside, the enticing aroma of coffee will let you know you have arrived and your brain will start doing all sorts of crazy stuff with its circuitry to let you know that you need some of that coffee you smell.

This is the main counter. It's all they need, apparently.

Don't be deceived by the size. You all know about looks that can be deceiving and great things coming in small packages. Be dazzled, instead by the equipment, if you can manage to snap out of the hypnotic smell of coffee (and sight of fabulous shoes lined up for the taking) surrounds you. At The Curator, multi-awarded baristas Kevin and Mikko (pictured here), make your coffee for you. After the standard - what would you want? what are our options? how do you like your coffee? - we decided to try one of each: full-bodied brazilian and the lighter/fruity/tea-like Ethiopian.

Since this first taste of The Curator, I have visited their renovated digs several times: once to do a story for a glossy magazine, and the rest of the times to have coffee and/or cocktails. 

As one of the partners, David Ong, shared, The Curator turns into a bar after 5pm. From that time onward, one can enjoy their unique alcohol-based concoctions, choosing from just about as many options as they offer with coffee. 

The Curator's David Ong at work

The hand-brewed Espresso


The Curator's Menu

David Ong with a fan ;-)

Love the group, love the vibe, and I love how the group's business continued to bloom. And that leads to the story of EDSA - Beverage Design Group. Another entry, but yep, same people. 

30 November 2013

A 5-oz Legaspi at Yardstick Coffee

 The tip came from some insiders among Manila's coffee lovers, those who knew about good coffee, with some making a living from it. Of course my coffee buddy C and I had to check it out. We decided that if we were going to meet up for coffee, since we love the beverage, we should make an expedition of it - in pursuit of the best coffee places in Manila or the Philippines (who knows?)

We put two relatively new places on our list a few afternoons ago and started with the one she hadn't tried out yet - Yardstick Coffee.

No main or lighted signage up yet, but we just knew it was that new coffee place we were looking for when we drove by it. Then we saw this sign that confirmed it and we were all set. 

First impressions: 
The place was huge, clean, and well-lit. Yardstick has mostly white walls, and an expanse of it all bare, opposite the main counter, a change from the usual framed coffee/food/lifestyle illustrations or murals (I couldn't help thinking: does it serve as a canvass for something new and hip, or...? Possibilities were beginning to excite me. What?!) They had several wooden tables, a couple of long high ones, benches, and stools neatly distributed throughout the space, without any particular configuration or "cafe-style" layout. There was also a notable absence of plush upholstery, easy chairs, or dim drop lights, yet it had such an inviting vibe to chill out, work, or just have a day's dose of caffeine in. I saw a conference room-looking area, glassed in from the rest of the place. 

Although the menu board wasn't quite done yet, they had their specialty coffees, hot and cold beverages, and pastries colorfully listed on chalk boards. Before we could even get confused or overwhelmed, one of the young-ish people around the counter, obviously one of the owners, approached us to ask what we would care to have. He listened, asked a few questions, then gave us options. No heavy suggestive selling, no preachy (as one friend would describe it) or condescending tone and jargon. My friend and I decided to each have a black (or were they hand brews?), but in different blends.

The counter with the temporary menu board, a display of coffee paraphernalia,
a toaster, and the ref. To the left is the coffee prep area.

She preferred the sound of a brew with fruity and slight acidic tones, so she got the Project Y. I wanted something with a more full-bodied profile, so I got the Legaspi blend. Another partner (who introduced himself as Kevin), took our orders and told us more about the coffee we chose to have. While watching our coffees being prepared by the barista, we learned that all hot beverages came in standard 5-oz cups. Excited as we were to carry off our coffee with us, we decided to pick our seats first, because there were at least 4 other table groupings occupied. We chose one of the tables positioned at the center.

The same guy who met us when we entered helped bring our cups of coffees, a bottle of water, a couple of glasses, and some almond milk, which we requested for. He introduced himself as Andre (Chanco), one of the partners, who, with Kevin and Jessica, own and run the place. They're coffee lovers with professional training and experience to match, who began planning the business about 2-1/2 years ago, started the Concierge (their portable coffee service) at Apartment 1B in Rockwell last September, and finally opened their Yardstick Coffee doors, "to walk-ins just last Monday or Tuesday (must have been 18th or 19th November 2013)." They knew each other in grade school, then met up and renewed their friendship while at university in Singapore. Although they had help from a barista (and probably other members of the business), they personally handle the roasting, cupping, man the counters, coffee station, and go around to chat with customers, themselves.

The taste test:
And here's my Legaspi (named so as a tribute to the area, i.e., Legaspi Village, and because it's something that's more 'approachable', according to Andre) - a blend of pulpled natural Brazil Cerrado (40%), and 2 wet-hulled coffees from Sumatra - Tobing Estate (30%) and Ratawali Valley (30%). I was so happy with it. Not very bitter, nothing that will make chest hairs sprout, but really full-bodied and cocoa-ish.  It was just 5-oz but it was 5-oz of excellent coffee. No refills necessary.

I got a taste of my friend's Project Y coffee, too. It's basically 50% Ratawali and 30% of semi-washed Ethiopia Yirgacheffe, and 20% of a different Brazil from Alta Mogiana. Although I'm not partial to the acidic profile in coffees, this one I liked just as much as mine Legaspi. It changed my mind about acidic, fruity, etc., characteristics of coffees, which came as a red flag to me before, for "sour with a, uhm, sour aftertaste." I guess if the coffee's roasted right, ground on demand, and done right, there wouldn't be any need for milk or creamer to temper whatever strong characteristic over-dominated the brew.   

We were told that the blends would change once in a while. "The idea behind every blend is that there is a designated taste profile rather than a specific composition. With the Legaspi it will always be chocolate-nutty, more approachable. For Project Y, it's always going to be fruity, (citrusy)," Andre added.

We also learned from Andre that they also bottled, crowned, and sold their own cold coffee, that they are distributors of coveted espresso machines, La Marzocco and Rocket Espresso, and other coffee paraphernalia. Oh, and not to forget - coffee in Yardstick also means they serve beer - made with coffee. As it says in the bottle, "a collaborated brew by Katipunan Craft Ales and Yardstick Coffee."

My friend and I were so pleased to have made the trip to find Yardstick Coffee happy with this visit, we're planning another one soon. We have a list of coffees to try, the beer, and probably attend a cupping session soon. I'm not a coffee snob nor do I pretend to be an expert. I just know I love coffee, I enjoy it when it's good, and I can tell when it's not (many times, I drink it anyway) - and I can confidently say, Yardstick has excellent coffee.

There's definitely more to learn from them, more to write about. Till then, if you want to experience a not-so-usual coffee break or some 'creative' time away from the office desk, look for this sign along the sidewalk of Esteban St. near corner Rufino St., Legaspi Village, Makati. 

29 November 2013

Instagram and Tumblr got Still JavaJiving

Ah, the convenience of advancing technology and the new media. It's awesome on one hand, but on the other - it made posting my coffee pics and short reviews so easy, I just kept pressing the snooze button on this blog till I got such a pile-up of coffee experiences and photos I was planning to share.

I'm going to do a feature on the best ones (promise!), but in the meantime, I'll just let instagram (and tumblr), with my handful of followers, take the rap for my delinquency.

What I can do for now is share some snapshots that I first uploaded via those oh-so-easy sharing apps. Hang on for a bit, because I'll be a better java jiver. I have at least a couple of new coffee places I just can't wait to share with you, plus the rest of the pics that have piled up. Very soon.

Stackers in Eastwood Mall

Gourmet-to-Go inside Rustan's Fresh Supermarkets

Packaging helps a lot. A present from my friend,
from Siem Reap.

French Baker. I love the presentation and the brownie on the side.

RUB Ribs, no other pic, sorry.

Pancake House. Sometimes very strong, sometimes not.

Stacy's in Capitol Golf. Nice country/vintage-y place. 

Their chai tea is fabulous, and so's their coffee. Not bad at all.

Fleur De Lys, Tomas Morato, Q.C. Very strong brew.
You'll need all the powdered creamer that comes with it.

Brewed Coffee from Le Maison, Cebu City, Cebu.
Strong brew, lovely restaurant.
18 Days in Cash & Carry, Manila. More about this stall later.

Solaire Hotel. Hotels should ALWAYS have good coffee.

IHOP's refillable brew. Diner-ish.

Il Padrino in Robinson's Galleria. Very affordable for good coffee.

Good way to end a hearty meal. Batangas Brew
from Corazon, East Wing of Shangri-La Plaza, Mandaluyong.
North Park. Yes, they have coffee. Already with milk,
served with simple syrup on the side.

MoMo, Eastwood Mall. Very strong, full-bodied,
almost cocoa-ish.

Chateau 1771. Sugar and cream needed, added,
and it's still that dark.

Sci-Fi Cafe. The experience of dining in the midst of
all those superheroes was better.

Soy Gingerbread latte, my first Starbucks Holiday2013 coffee.
Nutmeg powder beat the coffee into my mouth.