By Art Sta. Ana
It starts with feeling the warmth that envelopes the inside of your palm as you wrap your hands around the warm cup. You breathe in that aroma of fresh toasty beans, and that delightful smell seems to traverse every vein of your body. You slowly take a sip, careful not to let the hot liquid burn your lips, daring enough to see if the temperature is just right. As that beautiful brewed beverage slowly makes its way down you, it feels like you’ve just been given the gift of a thousand comforting hugs, making all your worries go away, even for just those two seconds that you savor your coffee, until you take the next sip.
This is how each cup of coffee should be: an exciting adventure, a savory experience.
Sadly, with the fast-paced lifestyle that has now taken over the Metro, coffee has transformed into a narcotics of sorts for a lot of people, an addiction that fuels one’s day, taken one after the other. Nevermind the beautiful process that it has to go through, Nevermind the quality. Quantity has now become the barometer of coffee success.
Well, that is, not if one well-known coffee brand can do something about it.
ICONIC, PERSONAL, DELICIOUS
Starbucks is definitely the Filipino’s go to coffee house. Iconic, personal, delicious. These have been the hallmarks of the Starbucks experience ever since they opened shop in the Philippines in 1995. Originally opening its doors 1997, Starbucks has become a part of Filipino mornings, especially for the on-the-go office and school goers. The day just isn’t complete without either a Café Americano or Mocha Frappuccino made by the affable baristas of our neighborhood Starbucks store (there’s pretty much one now every couple of houses, isn’t there?). But as some of us want—neigh, need—the quick jolt of a quick served coffee, we may have, sadly, already taken for granted the fact that the path from coffee bean farms to a coffee cup is a sacred journey, one that goes through meticulous processes that’s been perfected over the years.
Enter Starbucks Reserve
There are now a number of Starbucks Reserve stores that are open for those who would like to experience a more meditational coffee experience. These stores separate themselves from the other Starbucks branches by offering a more intimate relationship with the cups of coffees that we sip through the “Reserve Bar.” Yes, folks. It is as magical as it sounds. The bar offers its customers front row seats to a “coffee theater,” a majestic show that puts together the theatrics of vaudeville and caffeine. The “shows” are orchestrated by the highly-trained Global coffee masters, headlined by coffee legends like Thirdy Villaflor, the Philippine Barista Champion of 2013, and Miguel Bautista, Regional Barista Champion in 2017. All the masters have taken intensive courses to perfect the art of coffee making. The Reserve stores’ bar area is like a speakeasy alcohol bar where the bartenders interact and engage with the customers, but with cups of premium coffees instead of glasses of whiskies.
The most recent Starbucks Reserve Store to open its doors is the Power Plant Mall store, which enjoys the distinction as the coffee brand’s 20th Anniversary Store. The interiors are fitted with wooden floors and ceilings in celebration of the mountain slopes of South Cotabato and Benguet where a lot of the Philippines’ coffee cherries are grown. Also on display at The Bar is the “Black Eagle,” a beast of an espresso machine that’s able to create new and exciting coffee flavors and combinations. But the Black Eagle isn’t the only thing that elevates one’s coffee experience at the “Reserve Bar,” as the coffee masters are adept as well with manual brewing methods like the “pour over,” where the masters pour heated water through a grounds-filled filter, and the “siphon” where vapor is used to extract the coffee essence from the grounds. All these, done right in front of the bar goers’ eyes, redefine what it means to have the perfect cup of coffee.
Exciting and Exclusive
While each cup—hot, cold, or blended—from any Starbucks store is a treat, the ones being offered in a Starbucks Reserve Store are just, for lack of a better term, insanely breathtaking.
There’s the Shakerato Bianco Deconstructed, a shot of espresso shaken with ice and demerara syrup which brings out its citrus notes, that’s served with vanilla bean sweet cream. Its sweetness is not too overwhelming, and the fallout is completed with a little black coffee aftertaste. The Shakerato Bianco, a tall iteration of the Deconstructed, is made with more espresso shots and without the demarara syrup. It has a more plateaued flavor than the former, perfect for a more steady coffee experience.
The Vanilla Bean Latte, served hot or iced, is familiar in its creaminess as it is adventurous with its sweetness, a delicious blend of the unknown and the comfortable. Then there are the Reserve Espresso Classics, headlined by the Cortado, an espresso forward classic that’s dubbed as a connoisseur’s drink. The flavor is very subtle at first but it does dive deep into the coffee after, an experience that’s truly brilliant for any legitimate or wannabe coffee expert.
For any of the drinks, and for each new visit, there’s a different coffee experience to be had because of the different beans that’s available and that can be used or that can be bought for purchase. Available for a limited time is the Honduras La Campa, an aged Sumatra crop from 2013, featuring notes of red fruits of currant and plum with the sweetness of caramel, that’s perfect for drinks using the manual brewing methods. Then there’s the ultra-rare Jamaica Blue Mountain, where a mere four to five million pounds are harvested a year (compared to other cherries that averages anywhere from 30 to 130 million pounds per year). These hail from Jamaica’s Amber Estate, certified by the Industry Board of Jamaica, and a mere 20 percent of it is made available outside of Japan. The Amber Estate Blue Mountain’s high elevation perfect balanced climate makes the flavors extraordinary, and is now available through the Starbucks Reserve stores.
So whether it is for a date with a brand new beau or a wanting to get away from the usual coffee routine by yourself, the Starbucks Reserve Stores is where you want to be. Make sure to take it all in, the conversations with the coffee masters, the heart-stopping aromas, the flavors of each cup of coffee. The Reserve experience is really a coffee journey unlike any other.