Saturday, January 23, 2016

Saturday, January 23, 2016
Stephen Zarate of The Coffee Library
Ca Phe Sua Chua



Just when you thought that Baguio City has become predictable, a new coffee shop recently opened its doors at the city proper, just a stroll away from the busy Session Road. It offers Italian and local Kapangan coffee flavors, but its Vietnamese-style brewed options are the ones attracting attention. Called The Coffee Library, it’s run by Stephen Zarate whose passion for the beverage had already driven him to visit Vietnam just to get everything right. The sanctuary will soon include more options from other Asian countries to fully embody the shop’s name of a library of coffee flavors. With its mix of rustic and study hall details for interiors, the brand is rendered with a fitting head start.

Kapangan Coffee Advocacy

Since the home-roasted coffee beans used for the Kapangan coffee is something that the shop is in advocacy for with the farmers of the Benguet community where they’re sourced, its availability can only rely on its demand. Such was the case during my visit with a friend a few days after New Year’s Eve. It turned out that a lot of customers ordered the flavour both for its traditional taste and affordability, leaving an unexpected gap in the supply delivery. Although that’s not much of a caveat since the town of Kapangan is just less than three hours away from Baguio City. I was assured by the staff that it would be available the next day.

Crispy Suman A La Mode

Ca Phe Sua

Easy-To-Spot Location Behind The Cathedral

I was actually there at the new coffee shop that’s located inside the Rex Residence Hall because a friend who resides in the city invited me to check out his new favorite hangout. I dragged my tour mate from Peredo’s Lodging House to the quaint corner of General Luna Road and Upper Bonifacio Street behind the city cathedral to see what he was raving about.

It was past dinner time and even the cupcakes that my friend segued to me via SMS as a must-taste were already out of stock. I can just imagine how best-selling they must be during the daytime.

Vietnamese-Style Coffee

For my order, I followed the staff’s suggestion of the Vietnamese-style Ca Phe Sua Chua which is iced coffee (with beans sourced from Hanoi) with regular yogurt. Served on a fancy wooden tray, it looked unassuming but a sip was a bittersweet buzz of the good kind. It was anything but forgettable. Those familiar with it enjoy it by stirring the drink to get a desired blend of coffee and yogurt with every sip. After a hefty meal of chicken in another dining destination, it was exactly what my palate needed. Since I randomly have a cuppa at least twice a day, it’s seldom that I’m actually aware that I’m having one. With this specific blend, I certainly had a mouthfeel.

To retreat to a less fancy blend, my friend also had me order the flavour called Ca Phe Sua which is another authentic traditional Vietnamese coffee. It’s simply one with milk instead of the yogurt this time. Traditionally served with a phin (coffee brewer) on top of the cup, it’s supposed to taste sweet and strong with notes of nutty flavors. The coffee is ritually filtered from its chamber and made to drip (not stream through) into the cup that has sweetened condensed milk the way it’s done in Vietnam. When one is ready to enjoy the cuppa, simply stir. Others leave the milk for the end.

To test how my coffee orders tasted with a snack, I paired them off with an order of a Crispy Suman à la mode. I certainly was not expecting to have a table decorated with such orders that night in Baguio City, but such unpredictability paid off in taste. The city can still surprise a resident, a regular tourist, and a tag-along after all.

With Jherson Jaya and friends from Baguio City

The Coffee Library

Address: Rex Hall, Upper Bonifacio St., Baguio City, Benguet, Philippines 2600 
Phone: 0917-503-7962


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