If there is any combination of things to get a Gen Z student through a hectic holiday exam season, it’s coffee and fast Internet. While many cafés deliberately opt against offering free wifi, likely in attempts to discourage those who have been dubbed as café squatters, a café with not only free but decent wifi is a veritable oasis in the city. The Katipunan area, unsurprisingly, is one of those few unique areas with a number of cafés that offer free wifi, likely to appeal to the large concentration of students. Earlier this year we tried (and loved) Tyler’s Café in the same area, but here’s a compilation of other great coffee joints to get your fix.
Owner Miguel Macaalay tells us that the best coffee beans are grown near the equator. “Geographically speaking, this is the area between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn,” he says. And at Equatorial Coffee, they “serve a wide variety of coffee from different origins that grow in the equatorial region.” Macaalay shows a deep understanding of coffee and a desire to share that passion with others as he tells us about the different beans you can find along the equator and what they are best known for. Hang out enough in Equatorial Coffee and you’ll learn quite a bit about the bean from the map of information literally painted on their wall.
We’ve become fans and regular drinkers of what they call the “Angry Black,” a cold coffee concoction that is fizzy, lemony, and refreshing. Inspired by Nitro coffee that he encountered in Osaka, the Angry Black has a different fizz since Equatorial Coffee uses a soda device over a beer tap device—one that is less compounded, with larger bubbles that fill the nostrils. The result is a light summer drink that is perfect for battling the humid and heavy Katipunan air.
ELLA & THE BLACKBIRD
Now-graduated millennials who studied around the Katipunan area may remember a café by the name of Craft. Ella & the Blackbird is actually the same under a different name (albeit with an expanded food and drink menu); the name change occurred to avoid confusion with another café in Quezon City called Craft as well. Owned by Mark Jao, Ella & the Blackbird is named after his daughter and his favorite Beatles song, and the name is as personal to him as the family-run café, which he co-owns with his sister, his wife, and his sister-in-law.
If you’re grabbing a bite, the skirt cheese burger is a lot of fun to eat bite into. With a crispy, thick, and plate-sized disk of crispy cheese (a mix of American and cheddar), and the same cheese gooey on the inside, the burger is packed with crave-worthy flavors. We suggest cracking the “skirt” off and taking a bite off a cheese chip with alternate bites of the burger, or stuffing all that crunch inside.
BROWN PAPER PROJECT café
Keith Shy pulls a manual brew for us at the tiny café of Brown Paper Project, a quaint community café a little further away from the hustle and bustle of Katipunan and its parallel road, Esteban Abada. He runs it with Jake Dionisio, Lianne Lim and Franz Lim, but Shy is the man you’ll see everyday, joking and engaging with the stream of regulars that the modest café attracts. “I used to think coffee was just bitter,” he admits, not an uncommon thought to most people. It was when he discovered Australian craft coffee that he discovered that coffee could be so much more, and as it grew into a hobby, he decided to eventually study it further under the Philippine Barista and Coffee Academy.
The name of the café, Shy tells us, is to reflect their approach to coffee: simple yet versatile; something that is telling in the particular coffee he serves us, made from locally roasted beans from Kalsada. The coffee is a bit sour, a bit sweet, with undertones of melon. Pop into Brown Paper Project to enjoy a simple coffee and good conversation with the friendly folks both behind and in front of the bar.
Replacing the site of the original The Old Spaghetti House which has been there for approximately 15 years, TOSH Café is owned by the same couple Lizzie & Chito Guerrero, who gave it a makeover more suitable for the student-centered area of Katipunan (TOSH actually stands for The Old Spaghetti House). While TOSH Café still offers some of its mother restaurant’s most popular dishes and desserts, Lizzie incorporated more breakfast and “café-friendly” food onto the menu, including cakes to match their coffee that she developed herself.
If you’re stepping in for just a coffee and snack, we recommend the spicy mocha called the Aleva, which Lizzie reveals is really how her husband took his coffee before they even knew it was a thing. Think of it as a mocha for grownups: it has a darker chocolate that takes over your tongue after the opening coffee tastes, and the dash of cayenne pepper helps hold that rich, smooth, chocolatey darkness. It goes well with the key lime cake that has a moist and smooth base almost cheesecake-like in flavor but very much a cake in texture, and an airy and tart lime icing.
A must-try on their menu is the Dutch Baby Pancake, which Lizzie tells us she’s never seen on any menu in Manila (and neither have we) but is a family favorite when they visit the US. “It’s a baked pancake . . . It’s like a combination between a pancake and a soufflé,” she explains. Though it appears flat and crepe-like, a bite into it shows that it is more hefty and lighter than a crepe, with an egg-forward omelette-like flavor and a pinchable puffiness to it. Don’t be deceived by its dimension: it is definitely filling, and comes with a selection of flavorings. Go H.A.M. on that powdered sugar and lemon.