I am upto my head in work lately. Loads of research, meetings, talks, paperwork, and even dinners.
I found the weirdest observation from all the people I have been working with. “Would you like to have coffee?” is a sentence that gets frequently tossed about. It would be used to set up a meeting, offer me something before I start talking, offer as an after dinner option to further prolong a conversation (or taper it off), or jolt myself awake enough by my friendly neighborhood barista, laptop in tow.
That being said, and like the beverage nerd that I am, I decided to find literature to understand why coffee is so ingrained in the Filipino lifestyle. I found “An Introduction to Coffee” (Juan and Francisco, National Book Store) quite an informative read.
By and large, depending on which legend you believe, coffee originated from the Middle East. It was discovered by a person who ate these mysterious berries, thus having experienced the world’s first caffeine rush. The berries were found to be too bitter, so it was roasted and boiled to soften. The first coffee house was opened in Constantinople, today’s Istanbul in Turkey (sing it with me: Istanbul was Constantinople… Nuninuuuu). Turks invaded Vienna but were defeated by the Polish, leaving their coffee behind. The first coffee shop was opened in Marseilles after King Louis XIV received a present of coffee from a Turkish sultan. The word Mocha came from “Al Muka” (Port of Mocha) in Yemen, where the first coffee shipment came from. Further spreading in Europe, the Dutch colonies in the East Indies (Indonesia) started planting them. Indonesia (or Java, in particular) being of close proximity to us… Well, you get the picture. Coffee in the Philippines.
Another theory as to how coffee got here is through the Spanish during their occupation of our wonderful country.
Interesting how coffee was brought to us along with Christianity.
In recent years, it is considered proper for Pinoys to offer coffee to a guest at home or to a person you’re out with (professional or otherwise). Some Pinoys use “going out for coffee” as a nice first date: Affordable and casual, therefore not intimidating.
What can get intimidating is the vast amount of coffee varieties out there. What is important to remember is this: Philippine coffee is REAL. By real I mean it’s an excellent acronym to remember coffee varieties we have in the Philippines:
1) Robusta – Often used for instant coffee, quite strong
2) Excelsa – Used to blend with Robusta and Barako
3) Arabica – More expensive, quite smooth
4) Liberica – Our famous Barako (one of my personal favorites)
In recent years, there has been a steady rise of foreign coffee house franchises in the Philippines. In our neghborhood alone, one cannot go 3 blocks without encountering one. They have not only been used as a haven for study groups, casual meetings or dates, but have been the venue for Christmas drinks (ergo planners) and cutesy mugs for your SO.
I have developed a preference for coffee shops that are not mainstream, so I was delighted when Toby’s Estate opened its doors in Manila. Coffee there is what coffee should be: strong, smooth, and delicious. Even the experience is awesome: Gorgeous interiors and sincerely friendly baristas.
I decided to befriend the manager of the Salcedo branch, Joel. Quite the jolly fellow, he offered me items not found on their standard menu (how very underground, I love it). This is how I stumbled upon the Gibraltar: 2 shots espresso, 2 shots of milk, and a thousand shots of GOODNESS. I love how it’s served like in the French cafes, in a small glass as opposed to a mug. Toby’s is also legendary for their coffee art, and recently they held a coffee art competition.
I am, however, a total grump in the morning. My husband does not advise me to go out of the house (even to a coffee shop) without coffee in my system (I might chew out a barista for being too friendly). My husband and I believe that the first thing you drink in the morning can potentially dictate how your day is going to be. Admittedly, I’m too zonked out in the morning to be bothered to use a proper coffee machine (ducks as my coffee afficionado friends cringe), so I rely on the instant stuff. I am thinking of purchasing a Nesspresso machine in the future though… Stay tuned!
That being said, I normally keep the following items in my pantry:
1) Daily Chef 100% Colombian Instant Coffee (100% Arabica) from Rustan’s – very smooth stuff. I take it black with some sweetener after a friend influenced me to get off sugar and cream as part of a diet.
All this talk about coffee makes me want to make one, stat. Share your coffee discoveries. Cheers!