COFFEE is as much a staple in some Filipino homes as rice. However, the minute a Pinoy steps out of the house, there’s hardly any way to get the taste of home — instead we’re inundated with every other cosmopolitan caffeine fix out there. KapeTayo Coffee then, gets the way a Filipino mom likes her coffee, and offers it to the rest of the country.
KapeTayo Coffee, a café with multiple branches (its flagship is in UP Town Center; the rest are in SM Marikina, Maginhawa, VT Hospital Marikina, the Boracay-Kalibo International Airport, and Ateneo de Manila University) takes a cue from these large, international players and sees if Filipino coffee can be replicated on that scale.
Brian Tenorio, CEO of KapeTayo Coffee, is proud to say that his brand is 100% homegrown. While one may argue that Filipino-owned coffee chains do exist, Mr. Tenorio points to three pillars that identify his brand as Filipino: brand, bean origin, and brew.
For starters, he points out that other coffee chains are not tied to a distinctly Filipino identity: it’s either Italian or generally Western-inspired. This bleeds into their brews: for example, Mr. Tenorio does not use the Italian espresso techniques for his coffee, but instead uses brewed or pour-over techniques, which replicates more closely the Filipino way. Finally, his beans are all from the Philippines, from multiple sources from Abra to Zamboanga. He notes, “There’s no secret to the beans.”
“It’s really about the recipes and the presentation.”
Mr. Tenorio, who opened his first Marikina branch in 2015, recounts how he started. He was doing a venture in tea with some people, then realized that he didn’t even drink tea.
As for the brand’s name, he points to the “tayo” (we), that suggests inclusivity. “I have a very strong affinity for the concept of ‘us.’”
Take for instance, his Kapeng Ginto, sold in three sizes: Puwede, Sakto, and Panalo. Sweetened with Philippine honey and muscovado, it is pale and the scent is familiar. The taste is even more so, bringing me back to a Sunday morning as a nine-year old. Mr. Tenorio said that the recipe comes from his mother, who drank her coffee this way. Mr. Tenorio, who was once better known for his work in design (shoes, jewelry, designer coffins, even — name it), said, “I know it’s just right if it’s a particular color.”
“I think Filipinos naturally; unfortunately, have a certain level of insecurity,” he said about why the concept has not been picked up before. There’s a thought that foreign coffees — or brands of any sort — are better, but he says, “Maybe it’s colonialism; I don’t know… but then again, that doesn’t make it good for a country, in terms of business.”
His goal at the end is to export the brand to the rest of the world: maybe the same way Jollibee has become an unofficial ambassador.
“We export a lot of beans,” he said about the coffee industry. “But the profitability of exporting beans is cents to a kilo; or cents to a gram. But once a country exports brands, then there’s more profitability for the things they export.
“We’ve brewed your beans together with meaning and context,” he said.
While coffee has been used to sweeten deals, and urge a person to rise, can a cup, just by itself, change the world? “I don’t know,” said Mr. Tenorio. “But what I do know is that we try.
“I’m not sure if a cup of coffee can change the world. But I do understand that a cup of culture, heritage, and feelings will make a difference.” — Joseph L. Garcia