August is the start of what students here in the Philippines call ‘Buwan ng Wika’, or the Filipino Language Month. When I was in high school, this month meant tons of activities that would require speaking in formal Filipino. It was during this time I developed an appreciation for using the language in its pure, non-slang form. At this point in my life though, August has involved into something that reminds me of the Filipino heritage in general. Initially I had some grand things planned for this month, but I haven’t had time to execute ANY of them, so we’re just going to stick with this one thing I did manage to do: Make a list of homegrown Filipino food brands I have been loving lately.
As you go through this post you’ll probably notice it’s chock full of two of my favorite things: chocolate and coffee. It wasn’t intentional, but I guess I just couldn’t help myself. I do hope you guys find something interesting to try out from this list, especially since Filipino products in the market these days are upping their game!
This family-owned brand focuses on bringing attention to coffee from the Mountain Provinces of Cordillera, specifically Sagada and Kalinga. There has been a lot of praise being offered to coffee growers from this area, and I think it’s well-deserved. So far, I haven’t tasted any Sagada-grown coffee I didn’t like.
Café-Te-Ría currently has six blends available, and thankfully they offer a Starter Set featuring their entire lineup. Each blend comes in 30-gram grounds that you brew using your favorite method. For a box of 6 different coffee blends that contain 3 servings per pack, the price of Php 260 is actually really good for a total of 18 servings of coffee.
I actually haven’t finished the whole box yet because I’ve been trying a bunch of different brands, but the ones I have tried left a good impression on me. Each blend carried different scent and flavor nuances.
So far, I have finished Luna and Jacinto, and I just adore Jacinto’s bold flavor. Aromatic with a nutty and almost sweet taste, Jacinto really captured my attention as I drank it. I very rarely take my brewed coffee with anything added in, so my entire experience is always affected by the quality of the blend. True to its description, I really did crave for another cup of Jacinto in the afternoon. Good coffee!
I am a drip coffee fiend. It’s the closest I can get to a freshly brewed cup of coffee minus all the work. It’s got all the convenience packaged in too. One of the drip coffee brands I tried out is Daybreak Coffee. I’ve never heard of them before so I ordered an assorted pack to try as much as I can. It’s more expensive at Php 310 for just 6 servings of coffee.
Daybreak Coffee has straightforward options if you’re one who prefers classic, origin-based blends. The most memorable coffee I had from this line is the Batangas Coffee, which is super strong and works really well with a bit of milk and just a touch of honey.
Dipbrew Coffee Co.
One of my favorite local coffee brands to date are these Dipbrew drip coffees. Again, these come in drip coffee bags, which are the most convenient thing ever. But more than that, I love the flavors of the coffee blends of this brand. Right now my favorite is their Classic Blend, which has pleasant berry notes as an aftertaste. Their flavored coffee carries a lovely sweet scent, but I thought the flavors didn’t taste artificial or forced.
One thing I noticed about the grounds they use here is that it’s courser than the usual drip coffees. There might be more beans in there too, creating a very dark and very flavorful coffee. I also really like how their drip bags are shaped more like a sack rather than a cube when ripped open. Let’s use Daybreak Coffee’s drip bags (above) as an example. It opens up so wide that sometimes the wings can’t hold the entire thing and it actually falls into your glass. (It happened to me.)
Overall, Dipbrew’s coffees are my favorites among the coffee brands I have on this list. <3
Kat’s Happy Food Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix
Let’s move on to something that non-coffee drinkers will actually enjoy, and that is hot cocoa. I’ve been seeing this brand for ages but finally decided to buy some when I saw them on BeautyMNL. I’m glad I finally gave them a try, because they are definitely not your ordinary Swiss Miss-esque drink that’s more sugar than chocolate. I have tried various flavors from this brand and found all of them delivering in taste, whether it’s taro or mocha or matcha. Haven’t tried the strawberry and banana ones yet.
The packaging says 9 tabelspoons of powder but I only use around 6 tablespoons of the chocolate mix for every 200ml of hot water and I find that it gives me just the right amount of sweetness with the flavors I am looking for. Preparing it with hot milk is a game-changer though! Makes it creamier. Either way I loved this as a pre-workout booster or an afternoon pick-me-up.
My favorite is unsurprisingly the matcha flavor. Once I figured out my magic ratio of powder to water, I found that the matcha has a way of creeping up through the chocolate with its earthy notes. It’s pretty much the same way with the taro (second fave!) and mocha.
Cocoa Boulevard Chocolate Stirrers
I’m going to keep this one super short because I’ve talked about this brand at length on a blog post already. (Read my full review HERE.) I wanted to add them to this list because I genuinely did enjoy their chocolate stirrers, and I think their idea of molding the chocolate with a spoon in the center is a very clever one. One stirrer does cost as much as a cup of hot chocolate from a coffee chain, except you get an assurance of high quality if you buy these instead.
Kayumanggi Organic Rustique Cacao & Wild Ginger Tea
This brand advocates healthy living through the products they offer, but these are the two that specifically caught my eye as I was browsing. Their Wild Ginger Tea is something I’ve been drinking almost every night before bed. I use 2 rounded tablespoons with some piping hot water and a squeeze of lemon, and it just tastes wonderful like that. The first thing is the hit of citrus, and the ending is the pleasant heat from the ginger. There’s a bit of sweetness there too because they’ve mixed the ginger tea with some coconut sugar.
Their Rustique Cacao reminds me of tablea, only minus the effort and time it actually takes to prepare tablea. I love the unadulterated chocolate taste of this, and it doesn’t taste as sweet as the hot cocoa mix I mentioned above, so I happen to like this more. I use a little over 2 tablespoons per cup to get a strong drink. Each of these products cost a little over Php 300 in their 200-gram bottled forms. I think it’s a fair price considering the quality, but I I’ll be buying them in bags next time to save a little.
Cacao Culture Farms Cacao Tea & Sweetened Cacao Nibs
I noticed that Cacao Culture Farms partners with a lot of other local brands that produce chocolate-related products, and I really love that this social enterprise makes good on their promise to “encourage local food entrepreneurs to use high-quality, local, and ethically sourced cacao products from the Philippines”. This way, they can keep helping cacao farmers maintain steady work.
Though they supply cacao products to other businesses, they also sell their own products in their beautiful packaging that makes me want to buy everything with their seal on. But thanks to self-restraint, I ended up trying two only.
I have never tried Cacao Tea before and I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I certainly did not expect to love it so much. If you steep the bag in hot water for at least 10 minutes, you’ll get a full chocolate experience but with minimal calories because it’s basically tea with the essence of chocolate. Essence isn’t quite the right word… It tastes exactly like chocolate and that just blows my mind!
It was really weird drinking it at first because my brain was telling me I was having watered down chocolate, but the longer I kept the bag steeped and the more the flavor of the cacao came out, the more I was convinced that I’m going to need a supply of this in my life forever.
Meanwhile, their coconut sugar-sweetened Cacao Nibs has really become a staple in my snacking life. It’s Php 150 for a 100-gram bag and I treat the nibs inside like precious treasures. I snack on them a little at a time to make the bag last haha! It’s got the bitterness I love from dark chocolate and just the right hit of sweetness to remind you that you’re still having a treat. A nutritious way to get your chocolate fix!
Snack Box Brownie Crunch
Snack Box creates their brownie crunches by using only 100% natural ingredients. They don’t use artificial preservatives and flavoring to give Filipinos healthier snack options. I’ve been seeing this brand around back when they were still using a different packaging, but since my family likes munching on brownie cookies, I thought I’d give this one a try. Guess what? They really like these!
These are a less sweet version of the big bags they buy from S&R, and there’s something so satisfying about the way the chocolate tastes in these cookies. It is indeed addictive, but it also packs a lot of calories since each box contains 5 servings. I like that they have nutritional facts on the box.
I can totally see how some people can finish one whole box of this in one sitting, but I wouldn’t say that’s still considered “healthy” despite the brand’s best efforts at using good-for-you ingredients. Nonetheless, these are a treat! Loved the one with the chia seeds.
The Rains Delicacies Pili Nuts
The Rains Delicacies is a small company based in Albay, Bicol that focuses mainly on pili nut products. They have a ton of no-preservative flavored pili nuts to choose from but I picked one that I thought would be savory and another that’s sweet. Pili nuts are rather expensive but it has been a while since I’ve had them so what the hey! I’ve only ever had pili nuts in either brittled or plain roasted form so these made me curious.
The Chili Turmeric one didn’t have as much heat as I expected, but the turmeric taste was present although not too overpowering. It has a thin sweet coating that gives it a lot of crunch. The honey cinnamon one was of course sweeter, but I loved how the cinnamon taste played off the honey.
Wit’s Sweets & Savouries
Wit’s Sweets & Savouries makes all-natural treats that feature Davao-grown cacao from their family farm. They are proud of their “distinctly Pinoy Cacao Nib Granola”, and I definitely think they should be! I love granola but I am awfully picky about it, so my love for these came as a surprise to me after I got repeatedly disappointed by other local granola products.
Their Spiced Granola is unique. It literally gives you a hot and spicy sensation, while at the same time it’s just the right amount of sweet. The puffed rice and oats combo are delightfully crunchy, with chewy pieces of dried mangoes adding a different texture. The cacao nibs balance everything out really well. I can say with certainty I’ve never eaten anything like this before!
Their Tangy Granola is another favorite. I can’t pick a favorite between the two because they’re very different. I enjoy the sour notes of this a lot. It really awakens the tastebuds. The granola manages to come together in a unique medley of sweet crunchy bits, earthy cacao nibs, and sour dried green mangoes. It’s definitely expensive at about Php 200 for just 125 grams, but I’m willing to indulge in these every once in a while, whether with milk or not. Yum!
Buko Organic Coconut Spread
Buko Foods makes organic coconut spreads using locally-sourced ingredients. Currently they have 3 signature flavors but I have only managed to try one as of this writing, and it is one I really like. I’m a fan of coconut spread but I HATE the cheap ones that taste like sugary paste. I don’t know if it makes me sound like a snob, but I buy coconut spread for the coconut flavor. If I wanted a sugar rush, I’d eat gummy candies. You know what I mean?
The variant I bought is the one with cacao, and to be honest, I have no idea where the cacao is in all of this, but I don’t care. I like the coconut spread itself well enough on its own!
Buko’s coconut spread actually tastes like coconut. The texture of the spread isn’t super smooth like those more commercialized brands, which makes me believe that these are less processed and more natural. Also, the spread isn’t cloyingly sweet. It actually reminds me a bit of the latik topping on biko, but a little less sweet and with a hint of tang. It’s glorious on warm toast.
First Harvest Peanut Crunch
First Harvest is handled by mothers from the Gawad Kalinga village in Angat, Bulacan. As far as I can tell, the brand focuses mostly on peanut spreads plus a salted coco caramel spread that I might’ve tried before. I had my eye on their crunchy peanut butter though.
Peanut butter is my go-to spread on most days, but I specifically enjoy the spreads that taste more like newly cracked peanuts and less like sweetened peanuts. (I like peanut butters similar to Skippy’s flavor profile.) This one is sweetened with honey, and I sometimes feel like it tastes more like honey than peanut. It’s redeeming quality is the fact that it has crunchy pinipig bits, and I quite enjoyed that.
If you’re the sort that prefers sweeter peanut butters, then you will really like this. Just make sure to mix the oil all the way to the bottom to avoid dry clumps of peanut butter when you reach the end. That’s often the issue with natural peanut butters, but hey, that gives you an excuse to eat out of the jar because spreading those dry bits is impossible.
Tapa Republic Chili Garlic Sauce
You might be surprised by the sudden appearance of chili garlic oil in this list, but I’m including this for my fellow lovers of spicy food. This thing is THE BOMB. (Literally too lol.) One whiff will get your appetite going! There’s a dominant garlicky scent and taste, but the mix of seasonings is so well-balanced that none of the components overwhelm each other. It’s just a damn good chili oil that tastes great with anything, but especially with dimsum.
Think about the best chili oil you’ve ever had in a Chinese restaurant… Well, this is even better! It’s also legitimately spicy. One teaspoon can light a fire in your mouth and your belly! Para po ito sa talagang mahihilig sa maanghang kagaya ko. You have to try this if you love truly spicy chili garlic oil with your food!
In my excitement over the product, I nearly forgot to mention that Tapa Republic is a proudly Filipino company that focuses on pantry food products, like chili flakes and this awesome chili sauce. They source their ingredients from Nueva Ecija.
Putting this list together is my small way of helping spread the word about Filipino food brands. I like to think that I’m a supporter of local businesses and the passionate people behind them, especially when these businesses are helping to support local industries, but the job is easy when there are so many GREAT products available already! All we really need to do is to try them.
I really love the idea that there are people out there who recognize the potential of Philippine-made food products and are pushing to introduce them to a wider audience. Not only does it give jobs to local farmers, it also puts the Philippines on the map in a good way. There’s enough negativity going around. We should place our attentions on the good stuff for once! I hope you guys give our local brands a go and start a positive cycle where we all support our own homegrown products. <3
Full disclosure: All the Filipino food brands mentioned in this list (except for the Cocoa Boulevard Hot Chocolate Stirrers) were bought with my own money. All opinions are my own. I have not received any compensation for writing this post.