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Top 5: Manila's most underrated coffee shops thriving amid lockdown

By PINKY S. ICAMEN Published Oct 01, 2020 6:43 am Updated Oct 06, 2020 11:34 pm

Filipinos do not only enjoy drinking their coffee, they also revel in the fact that they can form relationships with friends, loved ones or with themselves over that cuppa joe.

The welcoming smell of freshly brewed coffee, the customers’ chatter, the whirring of coffee machines, the never-ending search for that sweet corner to people-watch in — all these may still have to be kept at bay as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be in our midst.

But fortunately, here in the metro, which is now under general community quarantine, there are local coffee shops that have slowly (and cautiously) opened up to serve its loyal following by either limited-seating indoor or al fresco dining or via pick-up or delivery service options.

Here are some underrated local coffee shops that are worth keeping on one’s radar.

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The Den

The iconic First United Building on Escolta in the heart of Manila is home to The Den, a café that is part of the HUB: Make Lab creative community and art incubation space.

The Den’s interiors are a welcome respite from the bustling Binondo district. It holds art exhibits in-store (and now online), and was host to several workshops and events before the pandemic.

The café’s loyal followers further grew with the revival of Escolta as an art and culture hub in recent years. A favorite on the menu is Berg’s — a luscious concoction of Philippine specialty coffee espresso shots, coconut milk blend and muscovado syrup that could be enjoyed hot or over ice. Berg’s (whose name was a nod to Berg Department Store that once occupied the lower ground space of the First United Building) was recently bottled and made available for delivery together with the café’s other cold brew offerings.

As the community quarantine starts to ease out, The Den, and the rest of the HUB: Make Lab space, cautiously opens to the public with health and safety protocols in place.

The Den is located at HUB: Make Lab, First United Building, Escolta St., Binondo, Manila

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Exchange Alley Coffee House

South of Metro Manila is known for its laid-back vibe, which is a perfect setting Exchange Alley Coffee House (a.k.a. EACH) at Molito in Alabang.

Exchange Alley, conceptualized by the same group who founded the beloved Magnum Opus in BF, was inspired by a series of alleyways in London of the same name where the first coffee houses set up in the 1600s.

Aside from its specialty coffee, which are roasted and brewed by its roasting and production team, EACH is also known for its Cremia ice cream-inspired soft-serves.

Customers have an option to enjoy their coffee dine-in or al fresco as health safety protocols are still in effect.

Unit 3, Molito Lifestyle Bldg., Madrigal corner Commerce Avenue, Alabang

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Common Folk

Before the pandemic took place, Common Folk was known for its good coffee and its clean, minimalist space that is inviting for a good conversation. If one loves the peace and quiet, one could find a corner and bury oneself in a book or people watch while listening to a podcast.

Today, with safety protocols are in effect, Common Folk is accepting orders for pick-up and takeaways only — so its customers may still enjoy their favorites including Common Folk’s cold brew, flat white, and iced vanilla bean latte (and the hearty dishes and sweet treats, too!).

Common Folk Coffee Bar is located at 79 Katipunan Ave., White Plains, Quezon City

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Picked Café & Gallery

This café/showroom is a gem along Muntinlupa National Highway in Tunasan. It first opened in 2015 as an offshoot of the owner’s family’s coffee distribution business.

Pre-pandemic, the café has drawn a diverse set of customers who swear by Picked’s premium coffee products, which are by Curve Coffee Collaborators. Its open, industrial-style space hosted art and music events, watch parties, and workshops.

During the strict community quarantines when dining establishments were not allowed to open, Picked and Curve Coffee released cold brews (Black Mamba, Mestiza and the well-loved Mocha) that were available for pick up and delivery.

Today, it is open for dine-in customers with safety health protocols in place.

Picked it located at Km. 30, National Road, Tunasan, Muntinlupa City

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YDG Coffee

Your Daily Grind started doing pop-ups in 2015 and had its Chino Roces concept store at the lobby of ID Furniture Center the year after. In 2017, it opened its flagship store at the Mandala Park in Mandaluyong City.

Its storefront, emblazoned with the words “Stay woke, drink coffee,” catches one’s attention. Inside, the café’s approachable and casual vibe endears it to its customers, who enjoy its specialty coffee and signature drinks like Mocha Negra (an espresso shot with milk and 77% dark chocolate).

Like other businesses, YDG had to temporarily close due to the pandemic but as the community quarantines start relax a bit, it was able start with its take-out, pick-up and delivery services, and even partnered with food aggregators.

As YDG starts to get back to the grind, it now accepts dine-in customers as they observe health safety protocols. 

Find YDG at the Mandala Park, Shaw Blvd., Mandaluyong City