(SPOT.ph) If you have a consistent morning routine, chances are coffee is an irreplaceable part of it. Whether you prefer it black or with some milk and sugar, the beloved drink is almost always available in your average home—especially if you’re Filipino. How exactly did coffee become a staple drink around the globe and in this country? Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about coffee and coffee culture in Manila.
Here's your quick guide to the world of coffee, and standout places to get it in Manila:
All About Coffee
There’s no contesting that Filipinos love their coffee. It’s estimated that every single Filipino is bound to drink 3.78 kg of coffee each year by 2025, which is a marked increase from an earlier estimate of 3.05 kg per capita back in 2020. This is still much lower than one of the leading coffee markets, the United States, with the country’s consumption set to peak at a whopping 5.06 kg per capita by 2025.
The National Coffee Association reveals that 62% of Americans drink coffee every day, with the average coffee drinker consuming over three cups per day. This is remarkable considering that the US is among the last countries to develop its coffee culture, as the drink only truly thrived there in the early 1700s.
The Origins of Coffee
There’s no shortage of fantastical legends about the origins of coffee, with a famous tale centered on a goat herder who accidentally discovered the bean’s potential. When his goats begin to stay awake through the night, the herder brings the berries to the local monastery. This begins coffee’s unstoppable spread throughout the world.
In truth, no one really knows where or how coffee was discovered, but it’s generally accepted that the first use of the plant was likely in the Ethiopian plateau. From there it spread to the Arabian peninsula where coffee houses called qahveh and khaneh made the drink even more well-known. By the time it reached Europe and the rest of the globe, coffee had become a beloved drink often traded in ports and cultivated in various countries (including the Philippines).
Trading is precisely how coffee is thought to have arrived in the Philippines in the 1700s, which soon led to its cultivation in Batangas in the 1800s. By 1886, the country became known as one of the largest coffee exporters in the world until a wave of diseases and rust brought the industry down in 1891. That hasn’t stopped Filipinos from loving the drink and making it a part of their daily lives in one form or another, though.
Types of Coffee Drinks
Given its long history and enduring popularity, countless variations of the humble coffee bean are brewed and served in homes and cafés. That said, the standards will never really change—from plain black coffee to the delightful affogato, here are the most common types of coffee drinks you can get in Metro Manila.
For the purists out there, only black coffee will do. This is the simplest and most straightforward way the drink is served. Coffee beans are brewed and then served hot or cold, with no sugar, flavorings, or milk.
When a simple cup of joe isn’t doing the trick, a shot of espresso may hit the spot. Finely ground beans are brewed with a higher grounds-to-water ratio concentration than an average drink, resulting in a concentrated shot that also serves as the base for several types of coffee.
An iced Americano is a perfect pick-me-up that doesn’t pack too strong a punch. Also great as a hot drink, it’s essentially an espresso shot diluted with water.
One of the trendier drinks from the past decade is cold brew, which is perfect for those who prepare their coffee at home. It’s made by steeping coffee grounds over room-temperature or cool water, which results in a flavorful drink that’s more caffeinated than your average cup.
Typically made using one part espresso and two parts steamed milk, there are countless variations of latte depending on where you order it. The drink is usually topped with foam that serves as a canvas for impressive latte art.
Often served in a smaller cup compared to a latte, cappuccinos are composed of equal parts of espresso, steamed milk, and foam. It’s frothier and can often be topped with cinnamon or even chocolate powder.
A macchiato is just a shot of espresso with a smidge of foam or steamed milk. This helps round out the taste of the drink without taking away its strength.
A common variation of the latte is the mocha latte, which often uses either chocolate powder or syrup to add a chocolatey sweetness to the drink. It’s the ideal choice for those with a sweet tooth or who are looking for a substitute for dessert after a meal.
Skip the foam with a cortado, which contains equal parts of espresso and steamed milk. Originally from Spain, the drink relies on milk to reduce the acidity of the espresso, but without the usual texture from froth or foam.
Just like the latte, a flat white has espresso and steamed milk, but it has more coffee than it does milk. The steamed milk used for a flat white also has a velvety consistency, which helps it support the heavier flavor of the espresso.
Also known as “affogato al caffe (or “drowned in coffee” in Italian), the affogato is more a coffee-based dessert than a drink. It’s traditionally served with a scoop of vanilla gelato topped with espresso. Some cafés have more creative variations of it, with some affogatos featuring different flavors of ice cream or even shots of liqueur to spice things up.
Coffee Bean Types
There are four types of coffee beans that are classified according to their species, which also determine where the plants can be cultivated. Arabica and Robusta are the most commonly consumed beans worldwide, but Liberica is renowned in the Philippines (as it is also called kapeng barako).
Around 60% of the world’s coffee is made using Arabica beans. Labels like “100% Arabica” have become associated with high quality, as the beans produce drinks that have a smooth and complex taste, without unwanted bitterness.
Unfortunately, Arabica beans are more expensive than other types, mostly due to how difficult it is to grow the plants they come from. The small plants are prone to diseases and require extra shade and water, not to mention a high altitude to bear fruit.
Unlike Arabica plants, Robustas are larger and more resistant to diseases. They’re hardier and can grow in lower altitudes, making them the much cheaper alternative. Robusta beans have more caffeine, too, but they also have a harsher and more bitter taste compared to Arabica beans.
Those looking for a stronger, earthier base should consider trying these beans. They get a bad rap, but it’s hard to beat their accessibility and impressive price point.
Often grown in hot and humid climates and very low altitudes, Liberica beans come from large plants (taller than Arabica and Robusta) mostly cultivated in Southeast Asian countries. It’s at the heart of the thriving coffee industry in the Philippines, as Liberica beans are known as “kapeng barako” and are available in almost every market.
While Filipinos are already familiar with the delicious coffee made from Liberica beans, it’s an unusual delicacy in other countries. Its strong, and often nutty flavor can be polarizing for those who aren’t used to it, but those who love it will likely consider it a pantry staple.
Excelsa coffee beans are a variant of Liberica that grow in medium altitudes. They’re almost always cultivated in Southeast Asia and are hard to find anywhere else in the world.
Drinks made from Excelsa beans will often taste incredibly complex. They are usually light on caffeine but are still flavorful. There’s also a mixture of fruity notes and stronger flavors more commonly associated with Liberica beans, making Excelsa beans truly unique and worth trying at least once.
Coffee Brewing Methods
The brewing method you choose for your coffee will affect the time it takes to prepare it, the yield, and the resulting quality and taste. While there are numerous brewing equipment available today, these are all rooted in a few major methods that have been around for centuries.
The old-fashioned and simplest method is boiling. The easiest way to use this method is to fill a kettle or pot with water along with some coarse grounds. After letting it boil for a few minutes, let it sit so the grounds sink to the bottom before you pour a cup.
A popular choice for brewing coffee at home, steeping allows for more flavor and caffeination, as it involves immersing grounds in water for a prolonged period. A French Press is the go-to for this method, but cold brewing or using coffee bags are also great choices.
Anyone who has ever worked in an office is familiar with the drip method, as the auto-drip machine is every employee’s best friend. Percolators and pour-overs also fall under this brewing method, which is foolproof and straightforward.
Pressure-based methods are not exclusively used in cafés and restaurants, while it’s a bit impractical to have an espresso machine at home, tools such as a Moka pot and an AeroPress use pressure to squeeze more flavor out of your coffee.
Coffee Brewing Equipment
For each brewing method, there are usually more than a few brewing types of equipment you can choose from. This depends on your intended use (personal or commercial), the coarseness of your coffee grounds, and your budget.
A convenient, affordable, and common tool used to brew at home is the basic pour-over. There are countless designs and styles out there, but the core dripping method is the same. It’s usually placed on top of a mug and fitted with a filter and medium grounds before being filled with hot water.
Another budget-friendly favorite is the French Press, which is an excellent choice for beginners who want to brew their coffee at home. The simple process involves adding medium-coarse grounds to the press before pouring boiling water and steeping for around four minutes. All that’s left after that is to press the filter and serve. Thanks to the prolonged contact of the grounds with the hot water, the French Press yields more flavorful and aromatic coffee.
It’s possible to make espresso-like coffee at home with the AeroPress, a handheld coffee maker that can yield up to four cups. The brewing process is simple—just add your fine drip or espresso grounds, a filter, and hot water before steeping for three to four minutes. When it’s ready, just push the plunger to quickly extract the coffee.
Chemex produces coffee with a similar texture to pour-overs, but with a higher yield. It also happens to be aesthetically pleasing. To use it, simply place one of the brand’s filter’s on top of the carafe before adding medium grounds, then pour hot water and serve after it drips.
One of the more complicated but rewarding ways to brew coffee is by using a siphon brewer. The device uses a vacuum to pull the water up to the grounds and steep it before brewed coffee is drawn back down to its lower chamber. This can produce delicious coffee, but only when done right and often by a professional or advanced hobbyist.
The Moka Pot is famous for producing espresso-like coffee using a stovetop. Fine drip or espresso grounds and water is added to the brewer, which would then be set on a stovetop and left to heat up for three to four minutes. This process relies on steam to pass through the grounds and condense to become brewed coffee on top of the pot.
Often used in Vietnam to make cà phê sua dá (coffee and condensed milk), the phin is a small metal brewer that drips coffee directly over one cup. Simply place two to three teaspoons of coarse grounds on the phin before covering it with the reusable metal filter, pour hot water, and cover it with the metal lid. Don’t forget to add condensed milk to your cup beforehand for the full experience!
Pulling a great shot from an espresso machine is a not-so-simple feat, which is why these types of brewers are often found in cafes or restaurants. They use pressurized water that runs through the tightly packed grounds to produce rich, concentrated espresso, which then serves as the base for several other coffee drinks (but can be taken on its own, too).
Single-Serve Pod Machine
An efficient and fast way to make coffee at home is by using a single-serve pod machine. There are a variety of brands out there that offer their unique flavors, but the process is generally the same. Just insert the coffee capsule, add some water, and hit start—a cup should be ready in one to two minutes.
Best and Popular Coffee Places in Metro Manila
Known for its wide assortment of coffee beans, The Curator in Makati is the ideal place to shop when looking for high-quality beans to brew at home. While you’re there, grab a bottle of their flavorful cold brew, which will likely keep you coming back for more.
The Curator is at 134 Legazpi Street, Legazpi Village, Makati.
Head over to Rockwell Centre if you have a sweet tooth and a love for coffee because Single Origin has drinks for both. They’ve mastered classics like the flat white and latte, but it’s their unique offerings like the refreshing iced Peruvian mocha and sinful cappuccino lava cake that have made them a crowd favorite.
See a list of Single Origin branches.
The Coffee Academics
With a café in Makati and To-Go nooks in BGC, Robinsons Magnolia, and SM Megamall, The Coffee Academics boasts flavorful and aromatic espresso shots, as well as their original signature blends like Manuka and Okinawa. They also have mouth-watering snacks and breakfast meals to go with their high-quality coffee.
The Coffee Academics Cafe is at 109 C. Palanca Street, Legazpi Village, Makati City. See a list of The Coffee Academics To-Go branches.
Support local artists by visiting The Den in Escolta, a true hidden gem with a delicious selection of drinks. Whether you’re looking for dirty matcha and a chai latte or a cold brew and a mocha latte, they’re bound to have something you’ll like.
The Den is at 413 Escolta Street, Manila.
Brewing in The Podium and BGC, Angkan proudly uses local coffee beans to produce their high-quality drinks. From its logo to its pastries, Angkan showcases Filipino artistry in the tastiest ways.
See a list of Angkan branches.
Poblacion’s go-to coffee spot for remote workers, artists, and even students is Commune. They use 100% locally-sourced coffee and have an impressive selection of drinks, which include their bestselling cold brew called Iced Toddy (starts at P155).
Commune is at 36 Polaris Street, Poblacion, Makati City.
Yardstick Coffee—which made its debut in Legazpi Village, Makati but has since opened nooks in Salcedo Village and The Podium, and a full-fledged branch at the Mall of Asia—promises to help its clients brew better coffee at home. To this end, they sell a wide assortment of tools like pour-overs, filters, scales, and more. It’s also worth visiting their shop to try their Cold Brew No. 1 and Cold 'Naughty Milk' Latte.
See a list of Yardstick branches.