Thursday, February 2, 2012

More Than Just a Cuppa at Kuppa Roastery & Café

Growing up in the Middle East, I was a coffee drinker at age 7. I don't think I developed high expectations of what coffee should taste like, I just know what good coffee is supposed to taste like. It's an understatement when I say I was sorely disappointed that coffee shops that serve the good stuff are too few and far between. I met with the owners of Kuppa Roastery & Café at noon on a Tuesday to check out the popular Bacolod café's first Manila branch. Situated adjacent to Deutsche Bank Net Quad Building and HSBC at The Fort, getting a good cuppa coffee or tea is now a hop, skip and a stroll away from where I live.

Walking into the coffee shop I found the New Yorker already there, happily chatting away. I was introduced to a bubbly Kerwin, their resident roaster, and a reserved Rommel, their Head Chef. After sitting down, the first thing Kerwin asks me is, "Do you want a cup of coffee?" With the aroma of freshly ground coffee beans permeating the whole space, I had no willpower in me to do the Asian thing and pretend to politely refuse. "Yes, please! What do you have?"

He goes behind the counter and comes back with a Ben's Cappuccino (P80), an Italian-style cappuccino served in a 3oz cup. The New Yorker wanted to add a little bit of sugar to hers, but Kerwin's knee-jerk reaction was, "No! Taste it without the sugar first!" He was right, it was perfect. That little baby packed one hell of a punch! I fell in love with Ben, I tell ya!

I love the look of Kuppa! You see can really appreciate all the thought they had put into the design of the place - the exposed steel and brick, unfinished wood and glass, the tree sculpture wall decorations made out of excess wooden planks - the way the industrial theme was put together made me feel like I was in Brooklyn.

Rommel had gone to culinary school at the CCA in San Francisco, and had taken a masters as well as his residency in Italy. He surprised us by making lunch (not on the menu), and wow, I'm going to bet my non-existent balls ('coz gambling is bad, yo!) that that is the best food I will ever taste in a café. Holy shiz!

The waiters came out with a big plate with a braised rack of lamb proudly looking down on us, Rommel's take on Lamb Caldereta - a thick, red sauce, baby potatoes, roasted whole onions, bell peppers and chili (yes, I went for the chili when it was offered to me), and green and black olives. That lamb was falling off the bone when he took a knife to carve it. Wow. Just, wow. Wow.

But wait, there's more! I was very happy munching on my lamb, baby potatoes, and roasted chili, when the waiter came out with another dish for us to devour - Crispy Pata! And crispy pata done right, mind you! The skin was a perfect shade of brown, crispy, and full of flavor. There was not much fat for me to scrape off with my knife, and the meat was juicy, tender and bursting with flavor. What also made this stand out was the apple sauce. It came with 3 sauces to choose from - a homemade liver sauce, chili and soy sauce, and apple sauce. My jaw fell to the floor and rainbows sprang out of my mouth. And here I was trying to transition into raw living. Fuck.

For dessert, we were served Matt's Chocolate Cake (P190, P130 if you can say no to the gelato), a sinfully decadent cake with a molten center and strawberry coulis. To help wash it down, the New Yorker ordered the Casablanca Mint Tea (P125), a loose leaf tea composed of green tea, peppermint and lemongrass, while I made a beeline for the Darjeeling (P90), my favorite black tea from India. All I needed were some cloves and star anise to flavor the tea some more and it would be perfect.

Rommel, Kerwin and his sister Karen, then proceeded to give us a tour of their coffee shop. We took a peek in the spotless kitchen, all the chefs busy at work, manning their stations in complete uniform, the smoking area, and the second floor, which you could rent out for small gatherings or business meetings.

Karen, a sommelier of the coffee world, was super excited to show us her baby, the espresso maker called a Mirage, and Kerwin showed us the Probat coffee grinder. After the mini tour, Karen was even kind enough to share her personal stash of Panama coffee, which costs an arm and a leg! I was reaching for the brown sugar when Karen had the same knee-jerk reaction Kerwin had, "Noooo! Taste it without the sugar first!" Lol. Magkapatid talaga sila.That stuff wasn't really potent, yet you could really taste the full flavor and the undertones of apple and honey. Wowsa!

I went back again today for dinner with Jay and tried their famous Wimpy's Burger (P190), an open-faced burger slathered with gravy and melted cheese, served with a side of fries, and tried their Rising Sun Herbal Tisane (P115), a blend of lemongrass, peppermint, and hibiscus that just perks you right up. The Wimpy's Burger a fan favorite in their hometown of Bacolod, and even though I was cutting back on meat, curiosity made me want to see what it was all about. Jay tried the French de Luxe (P190), smoked ham, chicken salad and melted cheese, served with a side of fries and a simple Cappuccino (P85) - espresso, steamed milk and froth.

What surprises me about Kuppa are the prices. Everything is very affordable, especially with the quality of the teas and coffees they serve. If you're happy with the crap they serve you at Starbucks, then great. But if you want to know what a real cup of coffee tastes like, then I suggest you get your next cuppa at Kuppa.

Kuppa Roastery & Café
CommerCEnter Building,
31st St. corner 4th Ave.,
Bonifacio Global City, Taguig