09 March 2017

Shop Talk over Coffee with Baristas from Legaspi Village Cafés

Along the bustling streets of Legaspi Village in Makati are caffeine gems conspicuously tucked in between office buildings, perfectly juxtaposed against the busy vibe and fast pace of life in the city’s business district. The recent resurgence and newfound appreciation for craft coffee paved the way for these third wave cafes to rise. Most notable of those are Local Edition Coffee and Tea, Yardstick Coffee, and Toby’s Estate. While they are well-known for their undeniable quality coffee, they are remembered and loved for the sense of community they foster among their customers. This is what sets them apart from mainstream coffee shops. In here, the baristas engage you in genuine and insightful conversations.

More often than not, it is the baristas who ask questions to their customers – how their days are or how they’re feeling – and take the extra step to get to know them. But what if we do it the other way around? So on one Sunday afternoon, we decided that it was fitting that we get to know them as well. After all, everyone has stories worth sharing. Here are theirs.

Photos by Zaldine Alvaro

Imari June Emia, Senior Barista
Why did you become a barista?
Actually, I didn't really start out as a barista. I was initially a cook, and that's how I applied in Local Edition. But once I got in, I learned to be an all-around employee, because here we all take turns in doing different tasks – we get to serve the customers, man the register, and make coffee. So because of that, I eventually learned how to make coffee. Now, I'm really happy to be a barista.

What's your most interesting experience in the café so far?
There are a lot, but for me it's the day-to-day task of being friendly to the customers because it's very important especially since we're a neighborhood café. The best thing is that all of our regular customers have become our friends. And within the store itself, every few months we change the art installations which means new artists to work with. These artists become our new friends as well.

A particular instance would be when I formed a good relationship with a group of people from Lazada who have been our regular customers for the longest time. We also meet up and hang out with each other even outside of Local Edition.

What do you think is key to make customers keep coming back?
It's the attitude of the baristas. It's very important that you are attentive to their needs and mood, and being friendly – that's what the customers really notice. If they like the coffee but don't like the attitude of the barista, I don't think they will come back to the café.

What do you want to achieve as a barista and what makes this job fulfilling?
The coffee shop industry is already booming, and it has really grown, and it’s nice that people begin to appreciate you even more. For example, if you are a barista people already know that you are knowledgeable and skilled in a lot of things related to coffee. To be honest, because of this we feel pressured to practice our skills even more because nowadays the competition in this industry can get really tight. But once we do get to learn and apply what we learned in the store, that’s when it gets really fulfilling.

As for my goals as a barista, I really would like to someday be able to learn how to mix coffee and cocktails, or make something different and experimental with coffee.

What's your recommendation from the Local Edition menu?
Two of our best-sellers which are Azucarado, which uses sweetened milk as the whipped cream, and Tablocha which uses Tablea chocolate instead of the regular chocolate mixed together with coffee.

Aldrin Lumaban, Senior Barista

Why did you become a barista?
It’s actually an interesting story. I started out when I was in second year college. My cousin asked me to join the Barista Guild of the Philippines. Back then, I had zero knowledge about coffee. In fact, I didn’t want to learn about coffee because I was a culinary student, so I wanted to be a cook. But when I started learning about coffee, I fell in love with it. So come third year college, I pursued being a barista while studying, and it went on from there. Now I’m working here for two years already.

What's your most favorite part about being one?
I really love serving coffee to the customers and talking to them because you can discuss the tastes, sources, and variety of coffee. The most special thing about it is you can connect to the guests and tell them why their coffee tastes a certain way. You also get to understand the different connections – from the farmers of the beans to the roasters down to the customers. That’s basically my favorite part about being a barista.

What's your most interesting experience in the café so far?
I just noticed something interesting about people’s orders recently. Back then, almost everyone who walked in here ordered iced mocha, but now majority of them order latte, espresso, pour-overs. So if you compare it two or three years ago, the orders then had a lot of syrup in it, but now it’s more coffee-based already. And I think that’s a good thing.

What do you think is key to make customers keep coming back?
Good service, consistent product, and customer interaction. I think those three are the key things for a customer because we’ve had a lot who kept coming back because of the way we serve and interact with them. If we have time to spare, we really try our best to talk to them.

What do you want to achieve as a barista?
I want to someday have my own coffee shop – to be in the wave when people are becoming aware and appreciative of good coffee. I envision a rustic coffee shop, similar to Cartel, with minimal food and just really focused on coffee. I want it to be more of a happy place than a work place. If someone wants to explore more about coffee, then he or she can go to my café.

What's your recommendation from the Yardstick menu?
Be Good, our Christmas blend, available only until March.

Jayson Montoya, Senior Barista

Why did you become a barista?
I trained for free in TESDA initially just for fun, and it went from there. I enjoyed making coffee, and my passion for it developed over time.

What’s your most and least favorite parts about being a barista?
My favorite part is customer relations. The day-to-day interactions with our guests feel so natural. We even joke around with our regular customers, and they are just as friendly as well. As for my least favorite part about being a barista, it would have to be the paperwork (laughs).

What do you think is key to make customers keep coming back?
Number one key to make them come back is of course, the coffee. Another is how we treat the customers. Basically, it comes down to quality product and customer satisfaction.

What makes this job fulfilling?
The fact that I am working and at the same time doing something that I love is really something else. Being here doesn’t feel like work at all because I enjoy what I do.

What's your recommendation from the Toby's Estate menu?
Our Flat White and something off the menu called, Gibraltar.

More than the coffee, the playlist, or the store’s aesthetic, it is the baristas who pour their heart and energies out into their craft that make our café trips worthwhile. Maybe the next time they ask for our story, we can, in return, ask them about theirs too.


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