Food

Best Quiet Cafés for Productivity, Part Two

Seven reasons why underrated coffee shops are the best kind.
IMAGE INSTAGRAM @antipodean_mnl @beanandyolkph
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There are three things that make up a good café: nice, airy ambience, good food, and coffee that is strong enough to power you through the day. And while cafés have become a dime a dozen in Manila, there are still some hidden gems that require unearthing.

We’re sure you already have a favorite neighborhood place of your own (it might even be on our first list), but we think you need to check out these rather underrated coffee shops. Whether you're working or just hanging out, from brunch to after-dinner drinks (some cafés do serve alcohol, after all), these quiet cafés in Metro Manila are the best places to spend the day.   

(We understand your interests and purposes for going to a café are different, so we're not ranking this list.)

1| Bean and Yolk - Muntinlupa

Nestled in a quiet hub in Alabang, Bean and Yolk is the definition of unassuming and intimate. Its space is bare and white and it has a simple message, “stay hungry, stay humble.” This speaks a lot about Bean and Yolk, which is centered around really good brunch food with the humble egg as its theme. We also appreciate a place that serves cauliflower rice and vegan option desserts.

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Find new, innovative ways to have brunch with the Breakfast Ramen, Oatmeal Champorado, and the crowd-favorite sweet potato fries. For coffee, you can’t go wrong with the classics (Magnum Opus Fine Coffees is its supplier), but the Almond Turmeric Latte and Gianduja Milkshake are also worth a try. 

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Westgate Hub, Westgate Center, Filinvest City, Muntinlupa

2| Antipodean - Makati

Conceptualized by coffee artisan and entrepreneur Alun Evan, Antipodean offers “Kiwi style coffee, food, and a touch of culture to boot.” Your eyes will be drawn to the wall where its entire menu is written. It’s not obvious, but the black, red, and wooden interiors have a deeper meaning, our favorite being that black is a nod to New Zealand’s national rugby team. Manila is Antipodean’s second branch, the first being in Jakarta. It gets its coffee from Merdeka Coffee, Evan’s own company in Indonesia.

 

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Customers are taken by the Nasi Goreng Big Breakfast, which is inspired by traditional Indonesian food. This can be paired with the Savasana Coffee, an iced coffee with lemon and mint, but if you really want to stay close to the antipodes (Antipodean means anything "relating to Australia or New Zealand"), order the classic Avocado Toast with Tomatoes with a cup of Long Black or Flat White.  

111 Paseo de Roxas Building, Paseo de Roxas corner Legazpi Street, Legazpi Village, Makati

 

3| Blocleaf Café - Manila

From Australia and Indonesia, we move to Japan, the inspiration behind Bloleaf Café in Malate. Its clean, white interiors and perfectly symmetrical wooden slats evoke a perfectly balanced Japanese aesthetic amid the wild riot of Manila. Sunlight and potted plants bring a natural element to the carefully designed space. Apart from its Japanese aesthetic, Blocleaf is proud of its local status. A greeting on the door declares: “your neighborhood café serving specialty Philippine coffee.” Kalsada Coffee, a coffee specialist that makes blends from the Cordillera region, fulfills that promise.

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Esquire Recommends:

Go for the Mocha with Bohol-made tablea or any of the Dirty Iced Latte offerings. Blocleaf offers the best of its neighborhood with food that has a significant Filipino touch such as the Tuyo Puttanesca, Avocado Cheesecake, and its newest offering, Sapin-Sapin Cheesecake. 

Hop Inn Hotel, 1850 M.H. Del Pilar Street, Malate, Manila

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4| Jiro Coffee - Quezon City

Jiro Coffee on Mother Ignacia is an underrated favorite. This place feels like the yang to Blocleaf Café’s yin, with hard lines, tables of recycled wood, and gray walls. Inspired by the simplicity and skill of sushi chef Jiro Ono (of Jiro Dreams of Sushi), the café was designed to play host to creatives looking for good coffee and a “straightforward menu.” 

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Esquire Recommends:

The Cocospresso, made with dark espresso and coconut water and served in a coconut shell, is a crowd favorite. Also try the Malagos Mocha, made with Malagos dark chocolate, as well as the Espiritonic, an espresso shot served over tonic water. While they have a selection of food on the menu (fans highly recommend the Frog in a Hole), we gravitate toward the Keto Mamon and Keto Muffins, because it’s always nice to have these options. Other desserts include the new Sure-Bet-Es, a gabi ice cream served with a shot of extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt. 

Crossroad Center, 77 Mother Ignacia Avenue, Paligsahan, Quezon City

5| Ella and the Blackbird - Quezon City

Tucked in the corner of Katipunan, Ella and the Blackbird screams cool. There’s a bike on the wall, burlap couches, outdoor seats near the creek (more gorgeous in the rain), and art pieces by local artists. Created by the same owners of Craft Coffee Revolution, the coffee shop is where students from the nearby schools love to camp out and get work done.

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Esquire Recommends:

The Iced Latte, in our opinion, is one of the best in the city. You can also try the Minty Mocha if you want something sweeter. Fans of the café rave about its Truffle Pasta and Skirt Cheeseburger with an actual skirt of crispy cheese. And don’t leave until you try the Frozen Brazo de Mercedes, a Craft Coffee Revolution staple.

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88 Esteban Abada Street, Loyola Heights, Quezon City

6| The Den Coffee and Contemporary Culture - Manila

Escolta is having a huge revival, and we’re all for it. The Den is the resident café of the HUB: Make Lab, a business incubator found inside the gorgeous First United Building. It calls itself the “space where coffee and culture intersect,” and this becomes obvious in the café's interiors. The walls serve as a gallery space for local artists and currently displays the Doon sa Maynila, an exhibit by Auggie Fontanilla. There’s a sense of community to this space, the kind that engages in the world around them.

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But of course, we’re here for the coffee and the food. The drinks menu, which features Kalsada Coffee’s special blends, is wide and varied, with a selection of craft sodas, teas, and cocktails alongside specialty coffee. Try the Cascara Tea, made from the dried skin of coffee fruits. Instagram is also in love with the limited-edition bottled Cold Brew, which the café creates with exhibit artists. For food, you can't go wrong with the Lemon Mushroom Cream and the Gourmet Tinapa Aglio Olio. 

First United Building, 413 Escolta Street, Binondo, Manila

 

7| The Giving Café - Mandaluyong

Stepping into The Giving Café in Mandaluyong almost feels like walking into a family’s house, because it makes you feel instantly comfortable. But looking past the murals, date-worthy daybed, and mismatched seats, this place takes its coffee seriously. Plus, eating here means supporting a worthy cause, as the café is a social enterprise benefitting the Foundation for Sustainable Coffee Excellence in Benguet. Different coffees support different causes, and all of this is highlighted by its hefty menu.

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Esquire Recommends:

The Giving Café serves a wide variety of Filipino and Taiwanese dishes, with decent pasta to boot. We’re fans of the Popcorn with Rosemary Butter and the Spam Fries. The Beef Pares fits in perfectly with the café’s homey aesthetic, while the Taiwanese Fried Chicken, served with lurufan, is a crowd-pleaser. Make sure you have room for dessert, as its Turon, served with latik, features the biggest chunks of turon we have ever seen. 

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Coffee fans should give its Bloom Coffee line a try, a series of blends made with locally grown coffee. For more discerning taste buds, order the Coffee Flights of the Day, a selection of three local single coffees from all over the world. 

Sheridan Corner Pines Street, Highway Hills, Mandaluyong

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Carla de Guzman
Carla de Guzman (@somemidnights) is the author of Cities, If The Dress and Midnights in Bali (soon with Anvil's Spark Books imprint). She likes watching TV and eating between books while tackling her giant TBR pile.
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