Jonathan Choi of Magnum Opus Fine Coffees Attempts to Make the Ultimate Filipino Coffee Drink

January 29, 2020

With Coffee Shop X rumored to open in the same village as Coffee Shop Y and several more branches of Coffee Shop Z sprouting around busy Metro Manila, it can deduced that the city has definitely picked up this whole third wave coffee kerfuffle. While most are trying to tightly grasp what the hell specialty coffee is and what it has done to convert die-hard and relentless 3-in-1 drinkers into coffee-conscious ‘snobs’, there is still those underlying questions such as a) is Metro Manila really ready to adapt this new way of drinking coffee into their lives b) why is it taking so long for Filipinos to appreciate the more ‘sour’ and ‘acidic’ and ‘citrusy’ coffees, and c) what flavor profiles really appeal to the local coffee consumer.


A handful of countries around the world have their own signature takes on different kinds of coffees. Take Australia’s Flat White for example, which is essentially a latte, but takes its name because of the milk’s consistency. A Spanish Cortado is basically a shot of espresso with milk. So we asked ourselves that if the Philippines would have its own national take on coffee, what would its base be? What would it taste like?


Today on Pepper.ph, we invited Jonathan Choi of Magnum Opus Fine Coffees to take a stab at making the ‘ultimate’ Filipino coffee drink. Based on his experience with specialty coffee and his customers, we asked him what flavors would appeal the most to the Filipino palate the most. Here’s what he came up with: the Tsokolate at Kap-Eh.

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So, what made him decide on this concoction? “The Philippines, in addition to coffee, has a sizeable cacao production. And because of this, we have a lot of native cocoa tablea.” On a personal note, Magnum Opus carries my favorite mochas in town—the Belgian Heartbreaker, a simple mix of a ristretto, cream, and melted Belgian chocolate. The Marocchino, which is a double espresso shot accompanied by a square of very dark Malagos chocolate served on the side. A Bicherin reminds me of a smooth, velvety hot chocolate, with a slight coffee kick. Sure enough, I know Jonathan is dead set and certain when he says that the inspiration for this drink is a mocha—with what he is able to concoct, I am confident about this creation.


“It’s basically something I already serve. It’s based on a proportion I’ve studied, and we just decided to use local ingredients for this version of it. It’s a proportion I like to play with when it comes to an espresso concoction.


What’s in the Tsokolate at Kap-eh? It starts with a ristretto, which is a tight espresso pull that has less water, resulting in an espresso shot that’s thick and intense. In the business of coffee, milk is a very important component—it’s a must to always use it at its freshest, so Jonathan uses carabao milk—creamier-tasting than the usual carton, he tells me that it’s actually a great dairy option as it is mandatory to consume it sooner than the regular cow’s. Lastly, some Malagos tablea, which has a very local and native chocolate flavor, is melted in a double broiler first before being added to the mix.

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“Coffee and chocolate go well together. They make a good pairing, and seeing that this drink uses an espresso for its base, it (the espresso) becomes a canvas for us to add other local homegrown ingredients such as the tablea and carabao’s milk.”

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The result? During our pilot test, we used a double shot, which resulted to an unexpectedly tart aftertaste (more because of the tablea than the coffee), but when reduced to a single shot, it mellowed out better, with the cacao flavors from the tablea melding smoothly and flawlessly with the carabao milk and the coffee. The carabao’s milk had a significant impact on the drink’s mouthfeel, adding more body and thickness to this local mocha. Yup, hats off to this Head Bean. This definitely has a huge fighting chance to be our “local” coffee drink.


You can try to make this at home if you have an espresso machine, but if you’re craving for some great mocha (or specialty coffee, even!) you can always head over to Jonathan’s store located at 2F Prime Building, #115 Aguirre Ave., B.F. Homes, Parañaque. Hey, he might just make you a Tsokolate at Kap-Eh if he has some of the ingredients around.

What do you think about the Tsokolate at Kap-eh! Do you feel that it properly captures the Filipino flavors into a specialty coffee drink? What would you serve if you were put up to this challenge? Tell us with a comment below!

Mikka Wee Mikka Wee

Mikka Wee is former editor of Pepper.ph and was part of the team until she got whisked away to Singapore in 2016 where she worked in advertising and eventually found herself back in the food industry. She currently does marketing work for two popular Singaporean dessert brands and is a weekly columnist for The Philippine Daily Inquirer’s lifestyle brand, Preen.ph. She has always been crazy about travel, food, and her dog Rocket.

2 comments in this post SHOW

2 responses to “Jonathan Choi of Magnum Opus Fine Coffees Attempts to Make the Ultimate Filipino Coffee Drink”

  1. Futabulous says:

    Great pics in your post. It’s almost 1 A.M. and now I’m wanting coffee.

  2. Greg Morales says:

    Magnum Opus is my happy place in the south… 🙂

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