Cafeño: The Starbucks of the Fifties?

Back for another guest post is our favorite blogger (and person, in general), GeekOut.ph mastermind, Bim(by). He tells us of a Batangas coffeehouse from the fifties (?) called Cafeno. Check out his story below.

When you think of Batangas, you generally tend to think about a few key elements of the province. You’ve got the beaches and nature reserves, the butterfly blades (balisong) and of course, the coffee. Oh my god, the coffee. As most coffee enthusiasts from the Philippines know, it doesn’t get much better than our own home brewed barako blend. If you’re into authentic barako coffee and the quaint feel of small coffee shops, then Cafeño is a must visit for when you make that trip to Batangas.

Located at No. 9 Rizal cor. Gen. Luna St, Poblacion, San Juan, Batangas, it’s literally been there since the 50’s. At least, judging from the pictures hanging on the wall, it certainly stood there in the 50’s. Could’ve been there way before that, though. We found the place because of our pursuit of kapeng barako, actually. We stopped at some souvenir shop for various knick knacks, and we did find some barako beans there, but we wanted some instant gratification. The lady at the counter told us of Cafeño with nary a thought immediately after we asked where we could stop over for some freshly brewed barako java. To our surprise, the café was actually quite a ways from the souvenir shop; I guess Cafeño is just that dang popular around there.

What amazed me upon entering the establishment was the perfect marriage of a modern coffee shop and oldey times Philippines. The  pillars were made of tree trunks. Not just the wood, mind you. They were made from actual trunks that weren’t really all that straight. Some tables were made from super old sewing machines with the pedal still intact and moving. A sign hung on the wall, saying coffee was only ¢5, along with various posters from the American occupation. Various items from the past were strewn across the place like a museum. They even had those charcoal irons that Filipinos used to use in the Spanish era. It was like a time machine, in coffee shop form!

We’ve established that the ambiance was spot on perfect, so it would be a shame if the coffee or the food wouldn’t be up to snuff, right? Thankfully, the noms satisfied beyond expectations. We tried some cassava cake (whose price escapes me at the moment) and I swear to whatever deity you worship, it was soft and sweet and it practically melted your my mouth.

The aforementioned casava cake (> P75, maybe)

There were a number of other drinks there, as well, of course. I honestly believe no coffee shop would be complete without hot chocolate, and Cafeño’s was quite possibly the most childhood-memory inducing of all hot chocolate drinks I’ve ever  had the pleasure of enjoying. Their hot chocolate, called Spanish Cocoa, is served with some pinipig (see image below). Sipping the hot chocolate and munching on semi-mushy pinipig made me feel like a child again – inside our old house in Pasay, enjoying some chocolate while listening to the rain drops hit the roof. Yes, it was a Ratatouille moment.

Spanish Cocoa (p45)

And now we get to the main event – the coffee. The kapeng barako was served in an unassuming maroon mug  with some optional milk, packets of artificial sweetener, sugar and brown sugar. I actually don’t take my coffee without sugar but I figured to fully enjoy the cup, I had to first sip the coffee totally pure and untarnished. Surprisingly, the coffee had the perfect level of bitterness, mixed with the very distinct barako taste and that signature barako kick. At the risk of being scoffed at by real coffee lovers, I will admit to putting some brown sugar in my coffee eventually. I simply enjoy it better that way. And true enough, it was probably best cup of coffee I had in a very, very long time. The kicker? One cup of perfect kapeng barako only costs P35.00.

If you ever find yourself on your way to Laiya, be sure to stop by for a quick joe break. You will not regret it. You can follow them on Facebook.

*photos courtesy of guest post author, Bim.


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Bim is a socially adjusted geek with an unhealthy obsession for burgers. He writes about burgers on BaconTunaMelt and the rest of his geekeries on GeekOut.ph. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter if you like high fives and nonsense.

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