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What: Kapeng barako (“kah-peng bah-rah-koh”) is coffee brewed using the liberica (barako) varietal of beans; it is sometimes called Batangas coffee, after Manila’s neighbor province, which had a good crop growing until the early 19th century when a coffee blight wiped out most of the barako trees. Barako is the term for the male wild boar that is said to eat the coffee leaves and cherries; the word also refers to tough, uber-masculine males. Perhaps the coffee version is named after both, as kapeng barako is the richest and most robust of all coffee varieties, in terms of the actual plant—big tree, big leaves, big beans—as well as the flavor. The aroma of the brewed coffee is distinctly rich, dark, and pungent, setting it apart from the more commercial arabica and robusta varieties. If you like your coffee strong, we suggest you get to know this stuff.
Where: Local coffee chain Figaro (632-523-5662; multiple locations including J. Quintos St. corner MH del Pilar St., Malate, City of Manila, map) is a European-style café that serves light meals and excellent sweet things, all of which pair well with its coffee selection.
When: Mon-Fri, 8am-10pm
Order: A cup of steaming, just-brewed kapeng barako is Php 85, with milk and brown sugar available on the side. This is how most Filipinos drink their coffee—slightly sweet and milky—although some shun the milk but boil the sugar with the coffee grounds. We can’t blame sweet-toothed Filipinos for mixing sugar into their kapeng barako—for the same amount of grounds of the usual coffee variety, it produces a thicker, richer brew. Taken black, the coffee is dark and intense but not acidic—a perfect pick-me-up at any time of day.
Alternatively: Should you ever stuff yourself with modern Filipino cuisine at Kanin Club (632-621-6109; at Ayala Triangle Gardens, Makati, map), end your meal with dessert and an order of kapeng barako. Or, should you ever venture into Tagaytay (a weekend haven for those wanting to escape the big bad city), there are quite a few café-restaurants such as Bag of Beans (Tagaytay-Nasugbu Highway, Mendez Crossing West, Tagaytay City, Cavite Province, map), which serve authentic kapeng barako. If you want to combine souvenir shopping with your coffee experience, keep an eye out for Nature’s Originals Kapeng Barako and Vegetarian Food Shop (0917-7389982; km.53 Aguinaldo Highway, Buho, Silang Cavite). It sells mugs and coffee paraphernalia, as well as a vast assortment of local foodstuff and little sweets that make perfect gifts to take back home.
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