Welcome to the House of Marocharim 1: Baguio Beans
Baguio Beans Coffee Shop
General Luna Road, Baguio City
Open from 1 PM – 12 MN, Fridays to Saturdays (1 PM – 2 AM)
Contact: Efren Soliman (0916) 580-9237
Disclaimer: As a blogger or reviewer, I believe that I shouldn’t get a free ride – much less a free lunch – for anything I review. I didn’t get a single free item from Baguio Beans. I paid my meal full price.
My fondest recollections of Baguio City include quaint little coffee shops. Coffee here is pretty much necessary to ward off against the chill. Before the days of instant coffee, there was always a steaming cup of Benguet coffee, complete with the flavorful coffee oil floating on top of the coffee. Mixed with a bit of brown sugar, the coffee always gives me a feeling of home.
Of course, this comes with my quirk of drinking coffee cold. Call me bourgeois, but I love frappe.
Whenever I’m home, I always shy away from Starbucks and Seattle’s Best Coffee. I warm myself with brews in places like Kaffeklatsch in Legarda Road, Star Café in Session Road, and Cordillera Coffee at SM City Baguio. Not only does the food come cheap, but they don’t mass-produce coffee. In these places, coffee is almost always certainly about quality.
Baguio Beans: At First Glance
A few friends of mine from college opened up a place called Baguio Beans at General Luna Road. I hope they didn’t name their coffee shop in order to spite my dislike for that vegetable, but that’s just me.
Baguio Beans is the converted garage of the old Casa Generosa inn. The shop is owned and operated by my good friend Efren Soliman, along with Pinky Lim, Ramille San Juan, and Patricia Mencias. For such a small and secluded place, Baguio Beans has got the homey atmosphere you want from a coffee shop. Save for the occasional jeepney or taxi, it’s a perfect, quiet place to have something to drink, and of course, something to eat.
Baguio Beans just opened Monday last week, so there wasn’t a separate menu for customers. It was not a bad idea, considering the size of the place. The first thing that impressed me about Baguio Beans was that it was clean; it’s good proof that just because the place is a free smoking area, cleanliness is not compromised. The place is also well-appointed; while you won’t see giant espresso machines or glass cases in the place, the kitchen counter is designed with food and coffee preparation in mind. You won’t see that in other places where they mean to sell and to advertise. I like the back-to-basics approach of Baguio Beans.
The price was, at best, competitive. Hot coffees, or “Hot Beans,” cost on average P60, while cold coffees/frappes, or “Cold Beans,” will set you back P125 on average. Iced mocha costs 85, while iced tea will set you back P35 a pop. It may sound expensive, but these are prices that can give Starbucks or Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf a run for their money.
Pinky tells me that their beans are sourced from a local supplier, who assures them that all the coffee beans are grown locally. They really pride themselves on not watering down their coffee, or using artificial sweeteners and other substances to make the coffee taste just like the real thing. That’s an interesting thing to test and, of course, to taste.
It’s not the coffee prices that intrigued me as much, but the selection of sandwiches available for the day. I’m not exactly a bread person, but for stuff that come with scalloped potatoes, the sandwiches have a very affordable price and, I was told, made only with the best ingredients. As a point of comparison, I had Panini sandwiches that set you back a couple of hundred over at Makati in mind.
Could this bunch of young, enterprising students running a coffee shop impress a guy whose taste buds have been desensitized by everyday dinners at McDonald’s? Could they impress one of the most difficult to impress friends they ever had? Let’s see…
Caramel Jojonut: P135
For starters, I had a Caramel Jojonut (if I’m not mistaken), which is a take on the caramel-nut frappes you have in any random, typical gourmet coffee shop. At P135 for the tall glass, it kind of felt a bit on the steep side. I must say, though, that even for a cold early evening, the drink was fantastic.
I have to admit that I’m not a big fan of stuff with milk, but the drink was easy going down. I do suggest drinking this one faster than your typical frappe, because the slushy ice has the tendency to water down the interesting flavor of nuts and caramel. Yet it does go down smooth.
I’m told that the drink was named after my good friend Jojo Rosuello; but commercial baptism aside, I like the interesting coffee chemistry going on with the Caramel Jojonut. Compared to other nut-based drinks I have had, the drink strikes a good balance between the nuts, the caramel, and the coffee. Because I tend to drink stuff slower than other people, I do have to admit that the drink tastes a bit watery after a while. I do guarantee that you’ll like this drink.
Roasted Garlic Chicken: P100
I don’t understand deconstructed sandwiches for the life of me, but the Roasted Garlic Chicken sandwich sold me on first bite. Served with a spinach and tomato salad and scalloped potatoes as good as the ones in expensive places in Serendra, the Roasted Garlic Chicken sandwich should find itself a permanent place in the menu.
I’m told that Ramille, a chef-in-training, prepared the sandwich using ingredients and techniques she learned from culinary school. I must say that the chicken is one of the best chicken dishes I have ever had. The meat is tender, but the strong garlic-based sauce does not overpower the flavor of the chicken at all.
What really sold me with this dish are the scalloped potatoes. The idea of “secret recipes” annoys the hell out of me, but it’s fantastic. I bet that a vegetarian could have just the scalloped potatoes and still stay happy. I’m a slow eater, and even if it took me about an hour to finish the meal, the potatoes retained their texture. The dish made me very happy.
I think that the success of a coffee shop – or any business, for that matter – rests on good business sense. I’m not one to assume that Baguio Beans is poised to take over established places like Star Café or Starbucks, but I’m sure that if they are consistent with their recipes and service, they’ll be a booming success. What really interests me is that they applied the practical knowledge of coffee shop chains, learned from their best practices, and applied them in their small little coffee shop. I highly recommend this place, especially when they set up the nice hookah on the bottom shelf.
Of course, I’ll be looking forward to my next vacation, and I see myself grabbing more bites to eat and more glasses to drink here. They told me that they’re going to sell cocktails and alcoholic drinks soon, and I’m sort of expecting – kind of sheepishly, I might add – that they’ll change the name of Tom Collins and name it after me.
If you’re up in Baguio, I suggest you take a short drive to Casa Generosa and have a coffee and a bite to eat at Baguio Beans. I highly recommend it, knowing that a tradition of good coffee is still alive and well in Baguio City: the House of Marocharim.
My thanks go to Efren Soliman, Pinky Lim, Charlie Anne Urcia, Cori Alessa Co, and Rona Dale Ortiz for making my short stay at Baguio Beans a memorable experience. I’ll be coming back soon to have more coffees and eats with you guys.