It seems as though coffee buzzwords such as “slow brew” and “single-origin” are turning up more and more in casual coffee shop conversation. Heck, even Starbucks is using them. The Third Wave, by the looks of it, is quickly crashing into the mainstream.
This movement is a return to the coffee itself—a stripping-down of all the capitalism and instantaneity that have taken precedence over flavor for years on end. Countless coffee shops have sprouted all over the Metro, waving the bespoke banner, many of which are less than a minute away from school. Now that the Third Wave has finally made landfall in the Philippines, we here at Vantage decided to conduct our very own taste-testing experiment to find out if these new establishments are up to coffee snob standards.
Review of Related Coffee Shops
Prior research had to be done, so Vantage went coffee-hopping—for science. After a couple hours of caffeine-induced palpitations, the researchers managed to type the following data about four nearby coffee shops.
KKK Coffee: Nestled at the middle of Esteban Abada Street, KKK Coffee is hidden and quaint, with a stunning rustic interior (Figure A) to match the authentic Filipino coffee they pride themselves in making. Their prices starts at P33 a cup for coffee made from beans from the finest coffee makers in the archipelago. Coffee centrals like Benguet and Cordillera are now all at the back of Katipunan Avenue.
Third Cup: This rather popular hangout has a wide array of coffee, tea and dessert options (including “dirty chai,” a mix of both coffee and tea for the indecisive). Third Cup gets its name from their rather alluring gimmick: Customers get their third cup for free. They also have a shelf of books open for public consumption (Figure B) that is guaranteed to attract nearby bookworms.
Third District: Unlike the aforementioned coffee shop, one does not get a third cup for free at Third District (Figure C). Rather, the “third” in their name is an indication of their affiliation with the Third Wave movement—a claim they back up with actual training under the people over at EDSA Beverage Development Group (EDSA BDG).
Craft Coffee Revolution: As an established Third Wave coffee shop (that used to host one-day coffee workshops on Broadway Ave.), Craft is all about bringing the artistry back in coffee-making. The café’s interior (Figure D) is just as artsy as their caffeinated concoctions—they display sketches done by customers on their paper placemats.
Design: The researchers have opted to use a quasi-experimental within-subject design—which is a jargon-heavy way of saying that the sole participant will go through multiple trials of different coffee brands. The coffee was administered by means of a blind taste test, so as not to trigger the participant’s existing biases for or against certain establishments. We filled four identical cups with coffee from each of the establishments mentioned, and then added a fifth cup, this one topped up with Nescafe Classic instant coffee from 7-11 (Figure E). This was to provide an accessible benchmark for which to compare the different brews (also, we thought it would be funny).
Participant:Our panelist, Kurt Lee, is an undergraduate from De la Salle University who once studied under Craft Coffee Revolution’s workshops. He is an active frequenter of cafes and an experienced coffee cupper.
The criteria for judging is based on a highly simplified version of the cupping form, the official means of recording coffee’s key characteristics. The more desirable the characteristic, the higher the points it garners.
Table 1: The view from the participant’s side. Truly a single-blind experiment.
Then came the debriefing: The researchers finally made known the contents of each cup, albeit with a little difficulty containing their laughter during the big Nescafe reveal (we realized a little too late that including an instant coffee sample was probably unethical, but whatever).
No hipsters were harmed during the duration of this experiment.
|1. KKK||2. Third District||3. Third Cup||4. Craft||5. Nescafe|
|Aroma (5)||Dark (2)||Spices (4)||Woody (4)||Sweet,Brown sugar (4)||SmokeyBarbecue(4)|
|Taste (5)||Toasted (2)||Citrus, spices (5)||Weak flavorBurnt nutsWatery(1)||Balanced acidity, sweet (5)||Roasted, weak finish (2)|
|Mouthfeel (5)||Heavy (2)||Medium-bold (4)||Too heavy (1)||Syrupy (5)||Clean (3)|
Table 2. The participant’s notes after the five-cup caffeine overload.
After much deliberation and sips of water in between samples, Lee came up with the following rankings:
The unsurprising topnotcher is an already established Third Wave coffee shop. They used Brazil Yellow Bourbon beans: Known for its complex flavors and sweetness, it is advised to enjoy it black and let its natural characteristics kick in.
Their near-perfect score is a product of strictly monitored brewing methods, which are simply standard protocol for these guys. Craft barista Mark Santos explains that even in their training, their focus is truly on the coffee’s natural flavors and the best methods for making them meet their full potential. “‘Yung mga mentor namin, sobrang strikto. Kailangan namin talagang mag-focus sa kape. (Our mentors are very strict. We really have to focus on the coffee).” This is what sets Craft apart from other coffee shops in Katipunan: Their consistently high-quality fair is driven by a genuine passion for their coffee.
The second runner-up did surprisingly well for the newest coffee shop on the block. In our sample, they used Dark Matter Theory, a chocolate-espresso blend from the EDSA BDG. Third District is a young but promising Third Wave coffee shop, with its great stock of specialty coffee beans from 49th Parallel and EDSA BDG. However, their inconsistent and newbie baristas may have had a hand in its lack of oomph in aroma and mouth-feel.
“Amoy barbecue!” Lee exclaimed the first time he took a whiff of the college dorm staple. Even if our research team is divided on the opinion of whether this is even actual coffee, the surprise third-placer of the experiment pulled through with its appealing, smoky aroma. Despite being a relic of First Wave packed coffee, it looks as though its roasted taste and clean feel are timeless—which explains why it is still a popular choice today.
KKK and Third Cup
Both coffee shops are tied in the last place, although understandably so, since they do not claim to be Third Wave at all. These two coffee shops are perfect for the casual coffee drinker with their hip interiors, as well as their wide selections: Philippine-origin beans for the former, and coffee/tea combinations for the latter.
Conclusions and recommendations
The results suggest that the coffee aficionado’s best bets for finding artisanal fare on this side of Katipunan are Craft and Third District. Their beans are topnotch, ranging from Panama Geisha and Ethiopia Sidamo OCR, to Third Wave newcomers like Dark Matter Theory.
In an interview with the victors about Third Wave coffee, Craft acting manager Sean Lee explains that coffee is a complex artisanal beverage that goes way beyond just three clear-cut rubrics. In fact, coffee has around 1,300 more aromatic and flavor components than wine.
“There are really a lot of factors,” he explains in a mix of English and Filipino. He goes on to enumerate: “It starts with the beans, a farm with good conditions. Kailangan din magaling ang processing nila, tapos ang roaster rin. Kailangan din ‘yung barista magaling din (The processing and the roaster also have to be excellent. The barista also has to be good). If one of those is off, you can tell. It really starts with the farmers, roasters, processing, to get the most out of the coffee. That’s Third Wave.”
In spite of all the Third Wave hype, Lee believes that there is no “correct” way of preparing coffee. Because of this, he has the last word: “We can’t say what not to do, because everyone has their own way of doing coffee. It’s just that this is how we do it.” Craft just so happens to be a space where both discriminating coffee artisans and casual coffee lovers can coexist. Although not everyone rides the Third Wave in Katipunan, all these coffee shops share one thing in common: They are all about giving their customers their daily caffeine fix.
- The newly opened Starbucks Reserve is at Tomas Morato, as well as Burgos Circle, Bonifacio Global City.
- KKK can be found at 47 East, Esteban Abada St., Loyola Heights, Quezon City.
- Third Cup can be found at J&R ConCon Centre, Rosa Alvero St., Loyola Heights, Quezon City.
- Third District can be found at Esteban Abada St., Loyola Heights, Quezon City.
- Craft Coffee can be found at Esteban Abada St., Loyola Heights, Quezon City.
- In case for some strange reason, you also need to know, 7-11 has two branches in the area: One at 1F One Burgundy, Katipunan, and another at Esteban Abada beside Third District.