It's that time of the year again when coffee competition season is just about to go on overdrive. On its fifth installment, we cannot be more proud and excited about what the Philippine Coffee Championships has achieved so far - this year's introduction of the Brewers Cup and the Coffee in Good Spirits, an international judging panel, just to name a few. On an international level, Kevin, Aldrin and Sly have done us all proud. To those who decide to go on this rollercoaster ride of our humble version of the Olympics, we understand how crazy it can be, but there is definitely a driving force within. As a wise Mr. Hoffman once said, we should have another reason apart from winning, so here is how we find meaning in the spirit of competition:
With reference to Parkinson's Law, work expands in the time you give it. As much as we try to prepare months ahead, competition prep is like cramming for the year end high school exam. The long hours in the cafe, cheat sheets, visualization, group learning, trial and error - all these are part and parcel of the learning process. If it weren't for the competition season, some of us would not find ourselves in a university laboratory. For some, we have to think outside the box while keeping our message purposeful and concise. In whatever we learn in this short period, we just hope that it trickles down to our everyday work in the cafe and roastery, because our customers always deserve better.
Sharing The World's Best Coffees
To the best of our ability, we strive to source and roast the best coffees for our customers to enjoy. Once in a while, we come across exceptional lots of coffees and these competitions are a way for us to share the stories behind each coffee. Fortunately, we were able to source two great coffees this year - one from Colombia and the other from Panama, from very passionate and forward thinking producers. Even better, we managed to secure enough of each coffee to let brewers and coffee lovers at home try the coffees. Stay tuned in the next couple of days as we share how you can pre-order these tasty lots of very exclusive coffees.
Finding Joy In The Journey
This year was different from previous ones. Our 4-year old roaster was being mischievous. Kind industry friends Jonathan from E.A.C.H. and Sherman from Crema & Cream Coffee Roasters helped us roast our coffees. We accidentally stopped a Geisha roast 2 seconds into crack and it still blew everyone’s minds on a blind cupping. Routines this year are kept simple and subtle. Ex-members of our team sat in as mock judges. We cupped the most amazing coffees ever. Facebook calls were aplenty. We pushed ourselves harder, but we also laughed it out. We worked as a team, but every individual flourished. We’ll be having sleepovers this week. The journey goes on. These are memories that will live longer than coffees and routines we’ll be sharing this week. Thanks for all who were part of our journey.
Don't get us wrong. Winning is indeed beautiful but it's a great feeling to have 'won' even before we call 'time'.
What’s in the name? You guys definitely pushed it a little bit more with naming your brand. Can you tell us more about it?
We extracted the idea for Poison from a much bigger beast: Hydra, the name our design group. As a doughnut shop standing guard at the mouth of Hydra’s quarters, Poison felt like a very apt name. And frankly speaking, doughnuts and coffee taken together aren’t exactly good for you. They can even be dangerous in extreme doses.
What’s your take on the role of coffee shops in society? How does Poison fit in?
Coffee shops are lifeless without the people who visit them. A bustling coffee shop is the perfect distillation of any community: it’s a place for conversations to flow, relationships to flourish, and ideas to take shape. This collective, social energy mixed with the scent of coffee is the kind of potent atmosphere that can drive a community forward.
In that sense, the people you don’t find in your local coffee shop also speaks volumes. It’s difficult to say that coffee shops are truly communal in nature until people from all walks of life can participate in the experience surrounding a good cup.
It’s great that there are a lot of coffee shops around with that potential, but with Poison in the picture, we wanted to offer a contrast. Unlike sunny neighborhood cafés and their wholesome, inviting air, Poison is for folks looking to get away: to be alone with their coffee, maybe a book, or their own thoughts. If you want to marinate in your own internal, far-reaching monologues, Poison’s the place for you. The shop is especially lonesome and brooding on a weekday morning.
There’s a group of design studios residing next to Poison. How do both spaces interact?
Poison is pretty ingrained in the sort of creative exercises we’d like to pursue at Hydra; so much so that their respective logos mirror each other. Since it opened in late 2017, we’ve used Poison as an outlet for collaboration: The Acid House, one of Hydra’s studios, designed the delirious doughnut projections you see inside the shop. Another studio, Plus63 Design Co., takes care of the shop’s menu and identity. Poison is really the result of four distinct creative groups bashing their heads together.
What were your inspirations for Poison?
Dan, one of Hydra’s heads, initially pitched the idea of a doughnut and coffee shop to the group. They’re a very classic pairing, particularly for people working in a swift-moving urban environment. The rest of Hydra was quick to get on board with the thought of giving up an office lobby for a conveniently placed doughnut and coffee dispensary—what that spells for our gut, only time will tell.
From our point of view, we also felt there’s still room to present doughnuts in a different light. Design-wise, we tried to imagine what a doughnut shop in an alternate neon-noir future looked like, which led to the harsh purple glow cast by our neon sign and the cold finish in our interiors. Our menu is also something new for our tastes. The more popular doughnut chains are great for that quick sugar rush, but our attempt with Poison’s creations is to make you think about what else you can do with a common treat. Our pastry chefs, Miko Aspiras and Kristine Lotilla, do an incredible job of translating this into distinctly flavored doughnuts like Garam Masala, Salted Dark Chocolate, and the Eggnog doughnut we offered for a limited time during the holidays.
The setup of the concept seems to be very collaborative. What did you learn along the way?
Our setup as four independent studios with the occasional shared project marks a new challenge in our respective working cultures. Some of us thrive in a more unhurried atmosphere, while others churn out their best ideas against a ticking clock. Seeing these wildly different disciplines produce equally amazing concepts certainly proves there’s no single way to do a good job. Hopefully, it’s this respect for each other’s approach to work that keeps us learning and discovering down the road.
What should we expect from Poison in the coming months?
By the time this story’s out, we’d have launched two new items in our menu: egg sandwiches and cold brews. We’ve been planning the sandwiches for a long time as a way to round out our offerings. We’re pretty much all over the Sriracha & Egg Sandwich.
Also slated this year is a series of talks we’re calling The Twelve Labours. Each session will be loosely themed around the legendary labours of myth and will cover a range of creative and social topics. You can expect news of it in the near future at @poisondoughnuts and @hydradesigngroup on Instagram.
It's not everyday that we are able to make great coffee and engage the community alongside our industry peers. The inaugural La Marzocco Local event in Manila was hosted by Cartel Deli in Salcedo Village. It featured coffees from Melbourne-based Seven Seeds and Manila-based, Yardstick Coffee! Josh Wilson, Head Bar Manager of Seven Seeds, was pulling shots behind the white FB80, serving their Golden Gate Espresso Blend and Yardstick's Golden Ticket. It was a duo of Golden blends indeed!
Apart from that, guests were treated to some avocado toast to stay true to the day's Melbourne-inspired theme. Josh gave an extra treat by showing his latte art skills on the La Marzocco Linea Mini on display!
It was a great day and we cannot be more grateful for everyone that came by. We promise, this will not be the last!
Check out the video recap and photos below!
Let's all welcome 2018 with open arms. Some folks gave feedback that our journal entry yesterday was too serious to end the year so we're making this list of predictions lighthearted and fun, kinda. Some might happen and most will probably fall flat on their face. Let's see how the year goes. Without further ado, here's eighteen of our predictions for Specialty Coffee in 2018:
- Roasters and manufactures will show more interest in the home brewer market.
- There will be lesser of this scenario happening - baristas leaving companies 'to do their own thing.'
- Three new international coffee players will land in the shores of Manila.
- Japan's coffee scene will slowly infiltrate or influence other markets the way Melbourne's cafe model did.
- Local demand for non-dairy alternatives will see a spike. Expect to top-up your already expensive flat white with another P20-P30.
- We will see a dip in consumer interest in Nitro Coffee, but an increase in Nitro (fill in the blank).
- Asia will take back the crown for the World's best barista.
- The World Barista Champion will win using a Geisha, despite everyone's resistance to compete with the said varietal.
- Specialty coffee made at home will be simpler, fuss-free. How? Let's wait and see.
- Another acquisition or merger will shock the Specialty Coffee world.
- Tasting notes on coffee bags will sound less like poetry or maybe even disappear.
- The Cebu scene will see interesting developments in Specialty Coffee but still with a price ceiling that consumers are willing to pay.
- Ordering coffee from different parts of the world will be come increasingly cheaper and more accessible.
- The first winner of the Philippine Coffee in Good Spirits Championship will come from a non-coffee focused company.
- Specialty Coffee bars and cafes to incorporate more syrups and whipped cream into their menu.
- The Barista Hustle education platform will grab some market share from other coffee certification programs and masterclasses by coffee experts/consultants.
- Scales will start to disappear from the bar counter and proprietors will start investing in weight-based machines and grinders.
- Enamel pins will become part of every coffee company's merchandise inventory.
It's that time of the year again when everyone reflects about the highs and the lows of the twelve months that just flew by. Mostly, 2017 has been kind to us but there were also some brick walls that we had to climb over. Here are three thoughts and observations from this year:
1. Next-Gen Coffee Professionals
Looking at the local landscape with several coffee businesses opening up, everyone had to step up as well as develop talent to remain competitive. Companies had to structure a clear and defined career path for baristas, else this would lead to stagnation or higher churn rates. Local wages for baristas will not be able to compete with the likes of the Middle East or Singapore, thus making it imperative for business owners to think creatively to retain high performers. The next generation of coffee professionals are hungry and ambitious and it is up to leadership to pave the way for them. Success is succession.
2. Locally-Grown Coffee
The Philippines has always been proud of the coffee that it has produced and rightly so. Though local coffees have not made it to our inventory, we have seen and tasted the quality improve over the past four years. Efforts are being made in the public and private sectors, though fragmented. Filipino coffees are being recognized overseas and awards are being given but we think it has yet to reach that tipping point. Looking at what has happened in the region with coffees from Chiang Mai, Yunnan and Myanmar, we continue to wonder what is needed for that breakthrough. There will always be political challenges and economic dilemmas. With are not experts in this field and with a formula so complicated, national pride can only get us so far.
3. Slow and Steady Rise of Quality
A jump in quality does not happen overnight and that is something we have to constantly remind ourselves. One of our coffee peers did mention that specialty coffee has passed its cool/trendy phase and it's now slowly finding its bearings within the developing landscape of the Philippines. We agree. It is encouraging to see better coffee equipment in local chains and mainstream establishments like hotels and flagship restaurants. Coffee drinkers are now comparing local roasts with international counterparts. Conversations between hospitality peers have gone beyond 'art' and now focus on extraction, origin and operational requirements. Quality is indeed a group effort and we all just need to find our place to be able to effectively contribute in our common goal.
Thank you to everyone who made 2017 possible. We are truly grateful and we cannot wait to show you what's in store next year. Coffee cheers!
It's that time of the year again. Some of us have gone shopping weeks ago to beat the traffic and the crowded malls. But most of us are probably running around town this week, scrambling for that last minute holiday shopping. So here's a round up for easy, quick gifts for your loved ones.
1. 250g Whole Bean Coffee
A couple of years back, it was quite a challenge to find good coffee whole bean options around town which are freshly roasted. Today, there are a number of roasters doing a great job offerings freshly roasted coffees. We recently launched our holiday blend called Be Good, and it's been ace. It tastes great with milk but also just black. If that's not your thing, then our flagship Legazpi always does wonders.
2. KeepCup Brew
Keep Cups are on the our favorite accessories because not only to they look pretty, they hold up the coffees pretty well. We recently stocked up on the glass version of this reusable cup and they come in several colors. You'd probably find one for everyone in your family. The colors are all here for you to see and we probably have them for you to purchase here. We only stock the 8oz. size.
3. Grounded Pleasure Chocolates
We've been serving these chocolates from day one and we love them like we do our coffee. Not only are they dairy and gluten free, they are super tasty. You can make hot chocolates with them and also mochas by adding a shot of espresso. The chocolates come in pretty 200g boxes and in the following flavors -- African Red, Noir, Cinnamon Spice, French Mint and Sicilian Orange! Shop here.
If gifting something bigger, you can always check out our Christmas bundles which are a steal!
Don't forget our to use the promo code BEHAPPY2017 for free nationwide shipping above P2000.
Looking around online, we cannot seem to find much Black Friday-related deals here in the Philippines. Such discounts are worth considering especially when ordering stuff from Amazon or coffee gear from Espresso Parts.
To encourage others to start their own Black Friday specials, we came up with mouthwatering deals for you to start your Christmas shopping. Here are three of our Black Friday deals to make Christmas smell more like coffee:
Rocket Espresso from Milan is highly regarded for their single-group machines. One of their latest and most popular products is the Appartamento, specially designed for your apartment or home as the name suggests. It has a compact profile to fit any kitchen counter and it is capable of producing cafe-level flat whites.
The Appartamento is currently on sale at ₱80,000.00, saving you a good ₱19,500.
The Specialty Coffee Association recently updated their curriculum and modules after the unification. This Foundation course is designed for interested folks who want to learn how to make basic espresso. In a day, you get to learn how to pull great espressos and make cappuccinos.
Sign yourself up with a friend and learn how to make coffee. The certification course is now ₱20,500 for two pax, instead of ₱31,600.
Golden Ticket is one of our best-selling blends because of it really reminds us of Snickers bars and lava cakes. If you have an automatic coffee machine or manual dripper at home, this is the perfect choice for you.
Serve great tasting coffees over the holidays with our Golden Ticket blend. You get to purchase 3 kilos at ₱4,500, with ₱1,800 in savings.
You can see all of our Black Friday specials here. These deals are only available until November 27.
It's not always that we get an opportunity to travel and experience new things as a team. It's not always that massive coffee events happen in the region. When the idea of traveling to Seoul for the Cafe Show 2017 and the World Barista Championships 2017 occurred, we quickly jumped on it.
Here are our five take-aways from our recent #YSeoulSearching trip.
- You can be small and beautiful at the same time.
Walking around Seoul visiting so many different cafes left us so much more inspired and amazed. There were big warehouse-like spaces such as Cafe Onion, Bean Brothers and Anthracite Coffee Roasters which kept our fingers on our shutter buttons. What stuck with us long after each visit were the more intimate outfits like Center Coffee and General Post Office x Dukes Coffee. Not only were the coffees exceptional, there was just something more beautifully human about those two.
- The Filipino coffee community can do wonders.
With our powers combined, we can all achieve to do better. When our national barista champion Silvester 'Sly' Samonte shared his routine, we were all there to cheer him on. As we roamed around the city, we went in packs rather than by ourselves. If we continue to show this level of camaraderie back at home, the local specialty coffee industry will thrive in the years to come.
- Competition is definitely healthy.
World Barista and AeroPress tournaments aside, the level of competition in Seoul is at its highest. And we are referring to the number of coffee roasters, cafes & retailers trying to get their product out there. The reason why the Cafe Show in Seoul is the benchmark trade event in the world for Specialty Coffee is because of all the innovation and disruption that happens due to everyone's dedication to do their best, in and out of the trade show halls.
- Coffee connects.
Everyone's usually too busy doing work and we normally just touch base with coffee folks over social media or email. So it was great catching up with the humble gentlemen of Rocket Espresso, the passionate personalities behind La Marzocco, and finally meeting the effortlessly cool Jessica Godfrey of ACME & Co after all these years. As we zigzagged across the city, we also managed to form newfound relationships, which in the coffee world is absolutely priceless.
- The learning never stops.
We were fortunate to have gotten the opportunity to attend the World Coffee Leaders Forum which addressed the future of Specialty Coffee a.k.a. "INDUSTRY 4.0" through various speakers such as Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood of Colonna Coffee and the dialogue between Blue Bottle Coffee C.E.O. Bryan Meehan and Director of Training Michael Philips. Their insights into the future of our industry are definitely worth paying close attention to.
Here's a quick recap video of our trip:
After a long work week or a late night out, nothing beats a slow and steady weekend brunch with family and friends. Whip up a mean scrambled eggs and toast or some tapsilog while you ponder upon the week that passed. No brunch is complete without coffee so impress your guests with your own homemade concoctions.
Cafe-level Flat White
What separates a good flat white from the rest is perfectly textured milk poured over some espresso. The powerful steam wand of an espresso machine allows you to heat up the milk while you produce this velvety microfoam. We promise you, your guests will gulp down your flat white because it will be as good or even better than their favorite coffee joint.
Believe it or not, the Americano is one of the simplest beverages to make but it is also often poorly prepared. Home espresso machines allows you to control the deliciousness of your coffee. Adjust the temperature or the extraction time and you’ve won half the battle. Just pull a double shot espresso and tip it over a glass full of ice cold water. Easy peasy.
Coffees Made In a Jiffy
Once your espresso machine and grinder are both setup, making and serving coffee has never been this fast. If you’re hosting a big group at home, you’ll be able to serve everyone’s coffee in the shortest time possible. Espresso machines pack a lot of power and if you have a double-boiler machine, you can even multitask for your cappuccinos and lattes.
Level up your brunch cred with better tasting coffee. Automatic machines do a decent job but nothing tops a semi-auto machine like the Rocket Appartamento. Not only does it make delicious coffee, it also fits perfectly on top of your kitchen counter. It's time to bid farewell to mediocre brunch, and say hello to well-caffeinated weekends!
Last March, the inaugural Spill the Beans session covered the topic 'Handmade'. Four very experienced speakers from various fields took the floor to share their thoughts and answered questions from the audience. We were very fortunate to have Ettore Scagliola, After Sales Specialist of La Marzocco, in town to share more about the brand and what he does.
Below is Ettore's take on 'Handmade'. The full recap can be read here.
We're happily and proudly hosting the Spill the Beans events with PURVEYR.