Philippine Coffee Kiosks Series: Koko Kofi Review

Sorry for not posting for a long time – I am trying to get back in the swing of things now! I’ll be honest, I was inspired to write for the blog this time around by the appearance of a new coffee place at my favorite mall, SM Marilao. Hence, I break my hiatus with a Koko Kofi review.

Koko Kofi at SM Marilao distinguishes itself from the other locally-based coffee places in the mall by not being a mere stall, but a full-service open-air cafe. It’s set up at a cozy central location, right under the first staircase to the right (if you’re coming from the main entrance of SM Marilao).

They’re at that sweet spot just between Watsons and Classic Savory. With such high visibility, is it any wonder that a Koko Kofi review would crop up?

And you can’t miss the shop, because it’s spacious: there’s plenty of room to sit. You can enjoy people-watching with your squad from their comfy chairs.

Their coffees are affordable at P59 a “Teddy” (16 oz) and P69 a “Grizzly” (22 oz). I’ve so far gotten around to trying these drinks:

1. Dark Mocha. While not the biggest fan of chocolate (such a travesty, I know!), there are times when I find myself craving the sophisticated flavor of dark chocolate. So I tried this first, and boy am I glad I did! The chocolate flavor is rich without overshadowing the coffee flavor.

2. Java Chip. I tend to be picky with “basic” mixed drinks. In fact, I have this belief that if I don’t like a shop’s signature “basic” drink, like the Java chip is for many coffee places, I probably won’t like the other flavors. But since I liked their Dark Mocha, I dived right in with my favorable impressions in tow.

…I thought it was a bit too sugary for me, but it really wasn’t bad. It made me think, however, that Dark Mocha would stay my favorite flavor for the long haul. At least I thought that way, until I tried…

3. Kreamy Kapuccino. I REALLY like this. It has just the right balance of milkiness and coffee, and has just a hint of sugar, so that it strays from oversweet.

4. Hazelnut. This one is really too sugary for me. It sort of overpowers the hazelnut flavor some.

Notice the typo on the sign?

If your sweet tooth isn’t satisfied with their blended drinks, they also sell fancy signature shakes, such as the one pictured above. They also sell sweet snacks, like brownies, cake, and waffles.

If you’re in the mood for something hot instead, they also offer hot coffee at the very attractive price of P35 a cup. I think I’ll try this soon.

Here’s a fun twist: their coffees are barako-based! Talk about having a uniquely Pinoy flavor! It’s rare for barako coffee to be used in flavored drinks, as it naturally comes with a bitter, earthy flavor…but Koko Kofi makes it work.

To wrap up: I still prefer Foss Coffee’s Java Chip over Koko Kofi’s, but I was quite impressed with the latter’s chocolatier flavors, specifically: Dark Mocha and Kreamy Kapuccino.

Try their blends for yourself! I would love to read your Koko Kofi review! You can drop by their stall on the ground floor of SM Marilao, or browse through their official Facebook page for their other locations and new offerings.

Philippine Coffee Kiosks Series: Java Lava Review

There are now THREE coffee kiosks in my favorite mall (SM Marilao) which is great, because it means more business options for coffee lovers! Now that this new franchise option has been around for a couple of weeks, it’s high time for a Java Lava review!

Java Lava logo

Actually, one may argue that it’s probably too early for a Java Lava review, as I’ve only tried one flavor. However, I’ve been busy and I haven’t actually been dropping by my favorite mall as often as I should. I thought I’d blog about it anyway, as it’s a new franchise that other coffee lovers in the area may want to try.

According to the Franchise Guide website, Java Lava is “a Bulacan-based family business commenced and ran by spouses named Dinver R. Aguilar & Hannah Louise F. Aguilar.” So it makes sense that it would put up a stall in SM Marilao, a favorite hangout place in this province.

It’s also a fairly young franchise, having only been set up in 2015. The Franchise Guide website says there’s only 10 branches of it so far, so if you’re an entrepreneur looking for a fresh new label, there should be plenty of room for it to grow and expand.

The shop’s tagline is “It’s Frappin’ Amazing!” which hits the right note with me. It’s fun and inviting and it makes me smile.

Java Lava SM Marilao storefront

Overall the shop espouses a lively and colorful theme – and so does its official Facebook page – which I find is refreshingly different for a coffee shop. Coffee shops mostly go for a restful, sophisticated look, right? However, you may not need to have such a formal appeal for a kiosk. The dominant yellow and orange (and, of course, the requisite coffee-ish brown) colors evoke thoughts of a carefree summer.

When sampling coffee at a new shop, I usually try the signature blends first. That’s why I got the JaMocha (small – P55).

Java Lava JaMocha

The presentation is very pretty! However, the “small” size leaves a coffee lover wanting more. As we say in the vernacular, “bitin.”

I’ve hinted in an earlier post about Foss Coffee that I have issues with coffee – blended coffee, in particular – being offered in smaller portions, but I do appreciate that sometimes, people simply want to pay less. I also like that the smallest size of a Java Lava drink costs only P55, the same price as a Foss Coffee Grande-size drink was when it started (Foss has since raised its price to P59).

But to be perfectly honest, the JaMocha I got seemed a bit watery. If the smallest size already tastes a bit bland, I must say I don’t hold much hope for the larger sizes.

Java Lava menu

However, I won’t pass judgment on just one flavor – maybe I was just craving for a stronger coffee taste on that day. I haven’t tried the other blends, either, so maybe the Cappuccino or Coffee Almond flavors would be more to my liking?

It’s a good sugar fix for the price, nonetheless, and there are 3 sizes to choose from. The larger sizes would surely be more thirst-quenching and overall less “bitin.”

Feel free to share your own Java Lava review in the comments! I’d love to know which flavor you think I should try next.

Philippine Coffee Kiosks Series: Farron Cafe Review

There are currently two coffee kiosks in SM Marilao: Foss and Farron. I’ve already done a writeup on the first one, so a Farron Cafe review is only fair.

Farron Cafe slogan and logo

(photo from the official Farron Cafe page)

Farron Cafe appears to be an offshoot of Farroncino, a brand started up by young coffee lovers in 2010. Since then they have expanded to many locations all over the country.

Farron Cafe opens at SM Marilao Feb 1 2016

When Farron Cafe opened at SM Marilao on February 1, it was greeted by a long line of people. I was seized with the burning desire to line up as well to give their drinks a try and write up a Farron Cafe review to mark its opening day, but I was in a rush at the time.

On another day, when I had more free time on my hands, I decided to finally give it a go. It was a good thing I had time, because the queue was still pretty long. And it was the middle of the day, on a weekday!

I asked them what their bestseller was. I was told that for coffee-based drinks, it was the Wild Black Forest.

Farron Cafe Wild Black Forest cream topping

It was a little too sweet for me – the coffee taste was overwhelmed by the sugar. However, I really liked the texture, and the fruity taste.

Farron Cafe Wild Black Forest side view

The cream was a little melted already when I took this photo. I wanted to share it anyway because they put a cute little message with a smiley face near my name 🙂

On my next visit, I got what I was told was their next most popular blend – the Choco Burst.

Farron Cafe Choco Burst

Most of the chocolate flavor turned out to be concentrated at the bottom, but I believe that’s common, when the ingredients of blended flavored drinks “settle.” I decided I liked it more than the Wild Black Forest one, though I wished the coffee-ness towered over the chocolatey-ness one just a smidge more.

And on my next visit, I got two flavors. A Mocha

Farron Cafe Mocha

…and a Barack’O. By the way, I bet the name is inspired by two things: 1) the gritty bits in the mixture which are likely made of barako coffee, and 2) the current US president.

Farron Cafe Barack-O

I made the mistake of asking for just half sugar for the two drinks, because I was in the mood for strong coffee flavors on that day. You can customize your drinks with Farron. But I REALLY do not recommend halving the sugar: the flavor suffers. And no thanks to this mistake I made, I cannot pass judgment on these two drinks.

As there are really only two coffee kiosks in SM Marilao, I find myself unable to avoid comparing Farron Cafe and Foss Coffee. Compared to Foss, the texture of Farron coffee appears to be slightly smoother, and the taste somewhat more sugary. The price is also a point of comparison: you can get a drink at Foss for 55 pesos, while a drink of around the same size goes for 60 at Farron.

Drinks at Farron come in 3 sizes: Tall, Grande and Velik, the current prices being 49, 60 and 65 respectively. Velik, Google tells me, is a Serbo-Croatian word meaning “large.” I’ll have to remember to verify this with the Farron staff the next time I drop by.

Farron Cafe kiosk prices

Farron Cafe is open for franchising. You can view the franchise package on their official website. For the latest news about them, follow their Facebook page.

That concludes my Farron Cafe review! Is it very puzzling that most of my reviews are for kiosks in the Bulacan area? It seems coffee kiosks are not all that common in Manila, even if there are a lot of coffee shops there… so if anyone has any recommendations for other kiosks to review, I’d love to have them!

Philippine Coffee Kiosks Series: Foss Coffee Review

I’m kicking off the Philippine coffee kiosks series with a Foss Coffee review.

Foss Coffee is a fairly recent addition to SM Marilao, a small but cozy mall near Manila. Since SM Marilao is a place I frequent, I think it would be reasonable to start my kiosk series with a Foss Coffee review.

As someone who hangs out at that mall a lot, I can say for a fact that the brand arrived at just the right time to fill a void – namely, the void populated by people who’d rather avoid Starbucks…which is, for the record, the ONLY big-name coffee specialty shop currently operating in the entire mall.

Don’t get me wrong – I have massive respect for Starbucks, and other big-name shops. But one has to admit the cost of coffee in such shops is a bit restrictive. If you absolutely MUST have your fix on a daily or near-daily basis, cheaper alternatives are a must.

Foss Coffee SM Marilao is located on the ground floor, near the Event Center and Food Court. A perfect setup, I must say, for people who prefer to have coffee for dessert.

Every day the kiosk gets a fair number of patrons, and even if there are other options, there are loyal fans (such as myself) who keep coming back.

Their bestseller is the Java Chip. It’s the one I often get, too. It’s pretty much their most “basic” blend, but I believe it’s a favorite precisely because of its simplicity.

Curiously, their coffee only comes in one size: Grande, which appears to be roughly the same size as a Starbucks “Tall.”

I want to ask: why would they impose just one size, when other coffee kiosks and shops offer more options? There’s a recent move to market a smaller size (I’m not sure why) but it isn’t being done in SM Marilao yet…and truth be told, I’m not sure it’ll catch on. People generally want MORE coffee, not less, right?

On the up side, it is a simple setup: pay a set fee, get a set product. No need to rack your brains trying to work out how to best enjoy your coffee; what you see is what you get.

And no need to break the bank with add-ons! If you don’t like how they prepare one flavor, simply try another. The low price of P55 per glass should encourage you to try as many flavors as you can.

I distinctly remember asking a long time ago if I can get more chocolate chips for my Java Chip coffee if I pay more, and being told they don’t customize their formula. It’s not a big issue, as too much chocolate chip may in fact ruin the flavor.

(photo from

I don’t have photos of the other coffees, I’m afraid. Someone else I know who likes Foss Coffee says Dark Mocha is also a good flavor. I’ve personally also tried Chocolate Mint and Black Forest, which turned out to be too sweet for me; Java Chip seems to have gotten the flavor just right.

They have cream-based drinks, too – blended drinks that don’t have caffeine in them. I was told that among them, the bestselling flavor is Chocolate Cream Chips.

As with most coffee kiosks in the Philippines, Foss Coffee is open for franchising. You can view the franchise kit online here. You can also visit Foss Coffee’s official website, their Facebook page, or the FB page of their SM Marilao branch, for more information.

And with that, I wrap up my Foss Coffee review!

Got a local coffee kiosk franchise you’d like to read a review of? Leave a comment here!

Philippine Coffee Kiosks Series: Introduction

I’ve decided to start a series called “Philippine coffee kiosks.” By the title alone, you should be able to guess what it’s about.

For clarity’s sake, “kiosks” are stalls that pop up smack in the middle of public areas, usually mall corridors. They are normally not independent businesses, but instead are franchise options.

Franchising is often spoken of as a great way to learn about running a business. It is attractive to small investors especially because, for fees that are usually smaller than what’s needed to start up your own brand, you can already set up a money-making venture. You can even start it up with partners, and in that way get to know the ins and outs of managing a business with other people!

So, if you’re a dedicated coffee lover based in the Philippines, and want to earn from your passion for coffee, why not invest in a kiosk?

I want to write about how to buy and set up a coffee franchise in the Philippines, but that would have to be at a later time. For now, I’d like to do reviews about the different coffee franchises already out in the local market, and what we can expect from them.

But before I post my first review, I wish to address the question of why a small blogger would want to write about coffee kiosks…instead of, say, larger and more established boutiques.

I can understand the confusion. I want more people to read my blog, and brands like Starbucks, Seattle’s Best, Gloria Jean’s, etc, are more familiar names, so people are more likely to want to read about them.

Moreover, people who know me well, know I don’t even like blended coffee much (with a few exceptions, which I’ll get into in another post)…and most coffee kiosks sell nothing BUT cold, blended coffee! I’m very much a piping hot, black coffee person, so why even bother with kiosks?

The simple reason is: I like what coffee kiosks are doing. Which, off the top of my head, are the following things:

1. providing cheaper alternatives to expensive coffee from multinational labels, thereby making coffee accessible to more people;

2. providing business options to entrepreneurs, especially entrepreneurs who love coffee (there’s always room in the market for you wonderful people!); and

3. supporting coffee farmers in the country, as local beans are a ready ingredient for new shops.

I think kiosks need a bigger place in cyberspace, and I’m happy to provide it to them – as an independent consumer, who is – and i wish to emphasize this – NOT PAID or compensated in any way for my reviews.

Now that’s been said, the first review for the “Philippine coffee kiosks” series will be posted soon 🙂