Once upon a time, former JJ Bean manager Miko Sarmiento and his wife Angeli decided to leave the comforts of Vancouver, Canada, for a life in Manila. Together with their friend Claude Hizon, they founded Current Swell, one of the newer coffee roasters in Metro Manila. Current Swell aims to change all the intimidation and pretentious hoopla surrounding the third wave coffee scene by providing a more relaxed perspective through their passion for coffee, beach, and surf.
Pepper: How did Current Swell come to be? Current Swell: Miko used to manage a local coffee shop chain in Vancover called JJ Bean. We wanted to move back to Manila to start a business, get married, and have a life here, and coffee seemed like a great place to start. Aside from his experience in coffee shop management, we learned roasting and a thing or two about being a barista. We asked each other what we would call ourselves, and we started by making a list of things we didn’t want, what we were like as individuals, and how we wanted our brand to come across our consumer. The name “Current Swell” came to mind because coffee is a current and relevant trend, swell because it’s third wave, but it was also encompassing of our love for surfing.
P: What makes your coffee shop in Baler—Ground Swell—different? CS: We wanted to focus on Baler because being a tourist destination now, there is definitely a market for good coffee. There are some drinks that are exclusively available there but not here. We think the difference between Baler and La Union is that more Manileños go to the latter, so we tried to work with more localized tastes in Ground Swell. An example is our peanut butter coffee where we use the ones made in Baler, as well as some salted caramel, which are both great for hot days in the afternoon. We like infusing a bit of the local flavor into our coffee there, but there is also that market that likes their coffee more straightforward—in the form of an espresso, Americano, or cappuccino. It’s a bit varied, but we make sure that people get to relax and enjoy their drink at the end of the day.
P: Any future plans for Current Swell to open as a coffee shop? Well, we’re thinking of partnering with different companies and businesses that share the same philosophy and aesthetic—maybe clothing or lifestyle brands. We’re all for the concept of shared space, something like that!
P: What has Manila been teaching you lately about coffee? CS: Based on experience, we felt like Metro Manila has a palate geared towards darker roasts. So many people here are so accustomed to Barako, so we work with a medium roast—not too dark, but at the same time, being able to slowly introduce new flavors to the Filipino palate without shocking them. We noticed most Filipinos are averse to the citrusy kind of coffee, so we make use of Brazil, Mexico, and Tanzania beans to come up with a nutty, more balanced roast.
P: What comes into your mind when you think about coffee? CS: Something that relaxes you! There are already so many things in life that are already stressful, and a good cup of coffee should make you feel at ease—it’s the same feeling we get when we go surfing or spend some time at the beach. It’s more of a chill lifestyle that we want to communicate through coffee. That it’s something you savor and not stress about. It’s all no pressure, just an enjoyable experience. Now the industry is a bit tricky—there are so many different opinions, different motives, but the one thing in common is that everyone is simply in the pursuit of churning out a good cup of coffee.