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. 

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