In the recent years, Manila’s witnessed the growth of the interest in specialty coffee—where more than just a pick-me-upper, care is given to brewing the best cup of Joe by focusing on quality in all stages from bean to cup. This is especially true for the South of Manila, likely due to its reputation as the “chill” side of the metropolis—making it the ideal breeding ground for cafés offering well-made cups of java amidst a pleasing vibe and beautiful interiors. We braved the toll gates (and its always exorbitant fees) and paid a visit to three burgeoning cafes, each with its own specialties and its own personality—but all serving up great coffee and one-of-a-kind experiences: Need Coffee, L’Usine Elizalde, and Exchange Alley Coffee House.
Sharp lines, wooden surfaces, and a black-and-white color scheme dominate the space of this BF Homes newcomer helmed by Daniel Roque, winner of the 2016 Philippine Aeropress Championships who had also represented the Philippines in the World Aeropress Championships. Though a sizable cafe in itself, Need Coffee cultivates a most intimate community with an eclectic mix of regulars that range from students (from the nearby Southridge school) looking to caffeinate their cramming sessions to the titas (and even lolas) of Alabang (“they’re our market at night . . . they hang out [up to] after ten [p.m.]!,” shares barista JB Landrito).
Sip: Need Coffee covers the essential espresso-based coffee drinks (espressos, cappuccinos, lattes, the works) and cold brews with their Bolt blend, a “very chocolatey” mix of Brazil and Sumatra beans. Try the Rosewater Cold Brew Au Lait, where cold brew and milk combine with a drizzling of rosewater essence (not too much that it takes over though—just enough that it perfumes the coffee mix in a most wonderful way). Pour-overs (done via Aeropress or drip methods) and batch brews, too, are available, with a selection of guest beans from various coffee roasters (as of writing, Crema and Cream) changed up quarterly. We try a Pour Over, at the time using the Costa Rica beans from Plain Sight Coffee Roasters, which takes on a sweet, fruity tinge.
Nosh: A pastry chiller holds an equally quaint but no less ample selection of breads and pastries. You can’t go wrong with their best-selling Salted Egg Brazo de Mercedes, where—more than playing off its trendiness—the salted egg adds a savory contrast to the sweetness of the meringue. More on the unusual (but surprisingly delicious) end is the Tropical Cheesecake, which evokes the ever-nostalgic crema de fruta with its combination of canned fruit cocktail on a dense cheesecake base.
Need Coffee serves up great coffee with their Bolt blend and other guest beans, as well as an assortment of quirky pastries.
ADDRESS: 252-B Aguirre Avenue, BF Homes, Parañaque City
VISIT: 2PM-10PM Mondays to Fridays; 9AM-10PM Saturdays and Sundays
CONTACT: (02) 518-8544 / email@example.com
SPEND: PHP 100-200 for drinks; PHP 50-200 for pastries
FOLLOW: Facebook / Instagram
Along ever-quaint Elizalde street is this unexpected den. Entering L’Usine feels like stepping into an art space crossed with a retreat house in the middle of La Union, with lush, cheery interiors of mostly whites and grays splashed with color from paintings and murals—making for an ambience as laid-back as it is invigorating to the eyes. Inspired by surfer culture and the creative hub in Geneva, Switzerland that goes by the same name, L’Usine Elizalde aims to deliver a similar vibe albeit on a smaller scale, weaving together three elements: coffee, creativity, and community.
Sip: The selection at L’Usine Elizalde is small but succinct: blacks, flat whites, and the like, with specialty-graded beans from YKW Roasters—the Dark Matter Theory blend being their main offering, but occasionally offering seasonal ones including the Milky Way and the Purple Haze (which, they share, tastes like a blueberry cheesecake in a cup)—ground upon order. Single origins, pour-overs, and Aeropress coffee, too, make an appearance on the menu. A refreshing option (both literally and figuratively) is the Black Tonic, or tonic water with espresso on top. Trendy in Australia and Japan, the drink melds the coffee’s bittersweet hum (and notes of chocolate and cherry from the Dark Matter Theory blend in the espresso base, during our visit) with the soda-like fizzle of tonic water. More on the indulgent end however is the Peanut Butter Latte, where peanut butter’s nutty richness works wonders on the espresso base’s roasted depth.
Nosh: L’Usine Elizalde offers a good selection of pastries sourced from home bakers as well as savory meals. Try their Grilled Cheese, which comes in three varieties, among which the Bacon, Mozzarella, Cheddar variant—which comes hefty slices of multigrain bread (from one of their partner home bakers), smoky bacon, a gooey blend of the said cheeses, and the prerequisite tomato soup for dipping—proves to be especially popular. For something as tasty and nourishing as it is admittedly Instagrammable, go for their rice options, which feature black rice and a balanced mix of proteins and vegetables (we went for the Tapa variant, a nod to the Filipino breakfast favorite tapsilog) layered similar to a parfait and served in clear glass jars.
L’usine Elizalde is a surfer culture-inspired cafe-cum-creative space that serves up tasty bites and great brews with beans from YKW Roasters.
ADDRESS: 196 Elizalde Avenue, BF Homes, Parañaque City
VISIT: 5:30AM-11:00PM Mondays to Sundays
SPEND: PHP 100-200 for drinks, PHP 50-100 for pastries, PHP 100-300 for snacks and meals
FOLLOW: Facebook / Instagram / Website
Exchange Alley Coffee House
Jonathan Choi sparked waves for the local specialty coffee scene with BF Homes favorite Magnum Opus back in 2013, and only three years later, he would bring in another special coffee experience—this time, to the Molito Lifestyle Hub, in the form of Exchange Alley Coffee House (EACH). While EACH puts the same degree of care and thought for coffee that Magnum Opus is known for, it is by no means a carbon copy, with a much bigger space that allows them cater to a wider audience of both enthusiasts and casual coffee drinkers. And as opposed to the typically more ‘slow’ ways of the third wave coffee scene, EACH focuses on delivering the same level of quality in a quicker, more efficient manner, patting down consistent methods that also make for consistent results. More notably, EACH does roasting in-house and takes a highly scientific approach to bringing out its best qualities, sourcing beans green and putting them through their roaster which connects to a computer program that analyzes each batch.
Sip: Single origin coffee, which they offer not only straight-up as pour-over but even in other forms (e.g., as a cappuccino). EACH changes up their selection seasonally but always aims to have a diverse range of flavor profiles for customers to choose from. On our visit we try the Ethiopia Chi’re, used by Choi when he competed in the Philippine National Barista Championship (where he would land in third place); distinctly fruity, the said coffee carries a tropical note specifically reminiscent of tamarind or mango. EACH also takes on the nitro coffee trend with no less than three nitrogen-pumped options: Nitro Black (cold brew), Nitro White (cold brew with milk), and—as we try—the more experimental, deep-and-molasses-y Nitro Stout (cold brew combined with porter or stout), inspired by Guinness beer.
Nosh: EACH is all about delivering a full “coffee house” experience, even past the coffee—which is why food is no mere afterthought here. Offerings are mostly inspired by British fare or brunch favorites, but done well—with components either made in-house the old-fashioned way, or sourced from local purveyors who put the same level of care into their products. Come hungry and feast on their Pork and Beans, with a hearty, slow-cooked baked bean mix and huge chunks of homemade pork confit—definitely far from the run-off-the-mill versions you find in the can. A lighter option that both your social media feed and your taste buds will appreciate is their Avocado Toast, which comes crowned with an egg cooked sous-vide, its runny orange yolk waiting to ooze out with the piercing of a fork. For a sweet ending, try their homemade milk Soft Serve, with no less than the pure essence of milk from a local farm in Pampanga imbuing its velvety body. Have it with a shot of espresso in the form their affogato, drizzled with dark chocolate, or—as we recommend—on a buttery langues de chat cone, Cremia-style.
Exchange Alley Coffee House
EACH is a “coffee house” that roasts beans in-house and offers single origin and nitro coffee, homemade soft-serve, hearty eats, and more.