Authentic Sagada Coffee and Food at SGD Coffee

I’ve always wanted to make a pilgrimage to SGD Coffee in Quezon City. I finally had my chance when an old, dear friend, who only wishes to be identified as cuportwo @ IG, agreed to meet up with me there, for a full-blown coffee adventure.

It turns out, it wasn’t just a coffee adventure for us – it was a food adventure, too!

sgd coffee rules

Ms. Yvette Tan of has already done an excellent writeup on SGD Coffee, so I’m just going to help spread the word about that. Please read it, because it’s a really great article, comprehensively detailing SGD Coffee’s mission and vision for Philippine coffee – Sagada coffee, in particular.

For now, I’m just going to share my own experience and photos from my visit.

sgd coffee graffiti

The cafe posed a bit of a challenge for us to find, because our Uber driver dropped us off at what seemed like a purely residential area. There didn’t seem to be any business establishments around. However, the graffiti pictured above caught our eye, so we inspected the area around it.

sgd coffee bodega sign

We looked up, and sure enough, there was a sign declaring the presence of the “SGD Coffee Bodega” and the “Coffee Science Center.” We must be in the right place!

sgd coffee storefront

A bit more looking, and we finally found the secret entrance! Just kidding, it wasn’t really secret. The door WAS hidden behind a bunch of tall plants, though.

sgd coffee steps

The steps leading up to the cafe, also behind the plants, are home-y and inviting. It felt like we were just going up to visit friends at their house.

sgd coffee interior 1

The interior of the cafe was spacious, cool and serene. The place was full of patrons when we got in, and many of the patrons were hunched over their laptops or paper notes, concentrating quietly on their work.

sgd coffee minions motif

They had a Minions motif going on, perhaps in time for Halloween. Though the place was calm and quiet, the decor made it cheery.

sgd coffee counter

Halloween buntings hung over the barista counter.

sgd coffee interior 2

There were more seats at the second floor, and they were all filled up when we got there.

sgd coffee stairs

Stairs leading up to the second floor.

sgd coffee science center door

The door to the Coffee Science Center. It appears to be closed off to cafe patrons.

sgd coffee goad sibayan

A tribute to Goad Sibayan of Bana’s Coffee in Sagada. I understand that the founder of SGD Coffee is a good friend of Mr. Sibayan, and they are both Philippine coffee pioneers. I hope to write more about Mr. Sibayan soon.

sgd coffee black

Friend and I couldn’t wait to try out the SGD Black. I liked it a lot, but I realized halfway through my drink that I was craving something stronger. Maybe I should have gone for the Espresso instead?

sgd coffee lemon bar

REALLY good Lemon bar. Reminded me of the lemon pie in Sagada. The half-plate design is novel, but a bit messy, as the crumbs kept falling off it (or maybe my friend and I were just messy eaters?).

sgd coffee dessert case

The dessert case, with prices for the signature drinks displayed behind the counter.

sgd coffee oatmeal orange cookies

Oatmeal orange cookies.

sgd coffee revel bars

Revel bars.

sgd coffee etag carbonara

Etag carbonara – my other reason for being excited to come to SGD Coffee. I am a huge fan of etag – traditionally cured and smoked meat. It was the first time for my friend to try it, and she was blown away by how flavorful it was.

sgd coffee chicken tocino

Chicken tocino with red rice, part of their all-day breakfast menu.

sgd coffee affogato

Affogato. Highly recommended. The coffee flavor goes so well with the ice cream! Photo borrowed from cuportwo @ IG.

sgd coffee sagada beans

Pure Sagada arabica beans for sale, at P600 per 250-gram bag.

sgd coffee bathroom handle

I want to take a moment to talk about their bathroom, which I found unique and quirky. The hardwood door handle is shaped like this, so it sort of feels like you’re taking the hand of a concierge as you’re closing the bathroom door behind you.

sgd coffee bathroom mirror

The mirror has a lovely wooden frame around it, too. I think the wood is locally sourced, and the carving made by local artisans.

sgd coffee grounds

Coffee grounds work great as a deodorant…

sgd coffee diffuser

…but there also appears to be an aromatherapy diffuser beneath the sink with coffee grounds on it, if extra deodorizing powers are needed.

I’m always fascinated by how coffee grounds are recycled, and from what I’ve seen, SGD Coffee does it cleverly. They also use it as part of their decor at every table.

SGD Coffee
Operating Hours: (8 AM to 11 PM, 7 AM to 11 PM on weekends)
No. 45 Maalalahanin St., Teachers Village East, Diliman
Quezon City, Philippines
Tel: 0917 826 9537


Signing off with a recommendation: if you’re looking for authentic Sagada coffee and food, drop by SGD Coffee in Teacher’s Village. You definitely won’t be disappointed.

Coffee Shop Spotlight: Coffee Tonya in Makati City

I’ve been noticing Coffee Tonya in Makati for a while now, but I had the leisure to drop by only recently.

coffee tonya makati logo

It’s quite noticeable, as Coffee Tonya in Makati is right beside the Makati City Hall, and there’s a huge coffee cup statue in the front, to catch the attention of passers-by.

coffee tonya makati cup statue

With a name like “Coffee Tonya,” you would think that it was a Filipino-owned company. It’s not! This is the first branch of this franchise in the Philippines – it actually already has 13 branches in its home country of Japan!

Don’t believe me? Check out their official Japanese-language page.

coffee tonya makati exterior

The owner and manager is a Japanese national, and a friend of the restaurateur behind Uniquease (pronounced “yu-ni-ka-se”). You can see flyers for Uniquease in his shop. And for Japanese food enthusiasts, this particular restaurant is only a short walk from the Makati City Hall and Coffee Tonya.

This has nothing to do with coffee, but I hope you guys will check out Uniquease also. It’s on my to-visit list, because I saw it featured on the NHK documentary “Serving Up a Second Chance”. It helps underprivileged Filipino youths, so enjoy a great Japanese meal for charity!

Back to Coffee Tonya: this place has already been noticed by some dedicated coffee enthusiasts (such as Ken Martin Canuto of #KenCansBaristAdventures!) but I believe it needs more attention.

Why? Because it has a STAGGERING collection of coffee beans from all over the world!

coffee tonya international beans

I admit the cost per 100 grams is sort of pricey…but there are some beans here that are difficult to find locally. If you want small samplers of different and rare beans, this is definitely your stop!

coffee tonya international beans 2

The “coffee of the day” that I tried while I was there was the Peruvian coffee (P120). I was told it had a “mild flavor”, so I was delighted to find that it lived up to my tonya makati menu

I shouldn’t forget to mention: all coffee served in Coffee Tonya is FRESHLY ROASTED AND GROUND. No long-stocked coffee for these folks! It takes a little more time than your usual Starbucks barista would to prepare your cup, but freshness and fullness of flavor is assured.

I’ll have to drop by next time for their home brew, i.e. americano or espresso. I can’t wait to try it!

coffee tonya local coffee beans

They also have a formidable selection of local coffees. I was only able to take a photo of their southern sources, but there are coffees from the northern areas (e.g. Kalinga, Batangas), too!

What else makes this a great stop for coffee-lovers? The GEAR.

coffee tonya brewing equipment 1

coffee tonya brewing equipment 2

coffee tonya brewing equipment 3

coffee tonya brewing equipment 4

coffee tonya brewing equipment 5

coffee tonya brewing equipment 6

coffee tonya brewing equipment 7

coffee tonya brewing equipment 8

JUST LOOK at all these beauties! You’d be hard pressed to find affordable coffee equipment for the home brewer, all in one place.

I’ve inquired about home roasters, and they say they sometimes stock a Korean brand home roaster (Gene Cafe brand, if I remember correctly), but it gets snapped up quickly. I think I’ll be coming back for that!

coffee tonya makati tea

They also have teas and tea brewing equipment, for tea-lovers! It was explained to me that Japanese people are more tea-lovers than coffee-lovers, so having a “tea” section is just reasonable.

coffee tonya makati japanese candies

Plus Japanese sweets! These are two different flavors of konnyaku jellies. They also have small jars of Japanese candies which are sure to treat your sweet tooth well.

If pastries are what you’re after, they also have a limited selection of breads and cakes, but you could also try the pastries offered by the cafe located near the shop (Grappa’s).

Coffee Tonya

1231 Angono Street, Makati City (just beside Makati City Hall)

(02) 750-6200

Opens Monday to Saturday, 10:00AM – 7:00PM

If you want to drop them a line or be in the know about their latest offerings, check out their official Facebook page.

Coffee Tonya in Makati City is a treasure trove for hard-to-find beans and home brewing equipment. I can’t honestly say the wares are cheap, but the people manning their first branch in the Philippines are accommodating and friendly…and best of all, they sure know their coffee!

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!

3 Brands Claiming to be “the Strongest Coffee in the World”

I can easily claim that Filipinos are a ready market for the strongest coffee in the world. Over here, there’s a running joke that we like our coffee strong enough to fight for us – “kapeng matapang, kaya akong ipaglaban.”

We use the word “matapang” for coffee in a way that means either “rich in flavor” or “has a strong kick” (it bears mention that “matapang” is also used in many different ways outside of coffee – sometimes it’s used to mean “brave,” sometimes “fierce,” etc). So if there’s coffee out there that claims to be “matapang” in both flavor and caffeine content – I say bring it over!

Quite a few brands compete for the honor of being called “the strongest coffee in the world,” but I’d like to spotlight four specific brands, which catch attention due to their aggressive online marketing campaigns. If you happen to be both a social media addict AND a coffee lover, you must’ve encountered these brands on your Facebook feed at least once recently.


(image from the Death Wish Coffee Official Website)

1. Death Wish Coffee – The company that manufactures this brand claims that a single bean has 200 percent more caffeine than regular coffee.

A review on Huffington Post says it definitely has a formidable kick: it is Not Kidding when it says the caffeine is strong. However, if flavor is important to you, the review also says this may not be a brand that’ll get you hankering for more.

Also, in terms of caffeine content, it seems that this year Death Wish took a backseat to…


(image from the FORTO Strong Coffee Official Website)

2. FORTO Strong Coffee – One of the benefits of the cold brew process is that the end product usually has higher caffeine content than regularly brewed coffee. So it’s no real surprise that a cold brew was named the strongest coffee in the world earlier this year, beating even Death Wish and Nespresso.

You may want to dilute this reigning caffeine champion in quite a bit of water. Or enjoy it as it is! Just note the manufacturer’s warning: “Limit 2 bottles per day, several hours apart. Not for children, nursing or pregnant women – they will have to wait to experience such joy.”

nespresso sampler

(image from the Nespresso Official Website)

3. Nespresso – If you look through “world’s strongest coffee” lists, such as this one, you may find that Nescafe brewed or brewable products often top those lists. When it comes to amount of caffeine per ounce, Nescafe simply doesn’t scrimp.

Before I end this writeup, I believe one kind of coffee that’s grown here in the Philippines deserves special mention, for its claims to strength of flavor AND kick:

barako coffee

(image from Philippine Herbal Medicine)

Barako Coffee – This coffee is made from liberica beans, which are grown not in the highlands of Northern Luzon – but rather in the fields of Batangas, in warmer Central Luzon. Liberica beans are only grown under special conditions, which makes barako quite rare and hard to find outside of Malaysia or the Philippines.

The name “barako” itself loosely means “stud,” and is a very, very masculine term. Studies on exactly how strong its caffeine content is have been few and hard to find, but sometimes studies are not required: from smell alone, one could tell that it’s Really Strong Coffee. And barako is such a large part of our daily lives, you’d be hard pressed to find a Filipino who claims he or she does not like the taste of barako.

Could it someday be counted among the strongest coffee in the world? A nation can hope!

Barako coffee deserves a post all its own. I’ll be working on that soon.