All Things Pinoy,  Monthly round-up,  Product Reviews

August 2020 Round-Up: Lots of coffee and food with international flavors

The months are passing by slowly, but somehow it also feels a bit jarring that it’s already September. I constantly feel like I’m stuck inside a reality that feels uneventful, because the days all look the same– home and office– from Mondays to Sundays. But at the same time, I can’t quite rightly say that nothing is happening, because this situation we live and deal with everyday is itself the main event. My subconscious response to missing “normal life” has manifested itself through impulse buys and purchases of food-related items that I feel might add some color and contrast to my days. Some of them do, some of them don’t.

Ironically, I’m starting to question how long I can keep this up. The delivery fees are really putting a dent on my wallet, and there’s always the risk that the stuff I ordered wouldn’t live up to my expectations.

Actually, I feel like I have to step back and reexamine why I’m making this round-up to begin with. It’s easy for me to enthusiastically share the things that I love, but these days it’s almost as if I feel pressured to buy stuff to “support small businesses” when, to be frank, not really all of them are worth supporting. I mean, I still make it a point to pick the things I think I will like, but I’m starting to feel like I’ve lost sight of what it is exactly I’m trying to do here. There’s a difference between supporting worthy small businesses and just writing about any small business under the sun. I started out wanting to share with you guys the stuff that I actually genuinely FEEL for, and I think I need to revert to that mindset for my next round-ups. If that means I’ll have shorter lists, then so be it.

Actually this list started out being a little longer, but I decided to review it and whittle it down to the brands that I feel deserve more attention. So without further ado, here are the products that made my list for August 2020 in no particular order:

1. The Good Cup Coffee Co.

My first ever coffee bean “splurge” came in the form of these two bags from Cebu-based The Good Cup Coffee Co. and I regret nothing. I actually bought these beans end of June, but I wanted to finish both bags before writing about them. Let me tell you, I am absolutely in love with The Good Cup. The quality of their beans is incredible, and the packaging is clean and gorgeous and classy. As far as splurging goes, this is the sort of thing I’d willingly spend my hard-earned money on. That said, I truly appreciate how they have a free shipping offer for those who buy at least two bags of coffee. (Yes, I always buy at least two bags!) All the way from Cebu for free? Yes and thank you!

Though I have plans to drink through their product catalogue, I’d like to especially mention their Honduras Caballero La Isabel (Php 700 for 250 grams) beans. It is the most unique coffee bean I have tried so far, with strong dragonfruit flavor and wine-y notes. I also tried a drip bag of their Honduras El Puente Gesha beans and holy moly, it’s so good! Probably one of my favorites so far among the coffees I’ve tried. Clean, with some bright fruity and floral notes that is just a delight to the senses! A 200-gram bag is Php 2,000 so I honestly don’t think I can talk myself into buying it at this point in my life, but maybe some day lol. Check out their website for their lineup. I actually have two new bags of beans from them I haven’t opened yet.

2. Yagam Coffee

Last month I mentioned falling in love with GoBrew’s La Trinidad beans, and since they have stopped offering Benguet beans in their lineup I decided to go straight to the source. I have heard about Yagam Coffee before, but at the time I hadn’t yet figured out my preference for Benguet coffees. Now that I know Benguet is my favorite Philippine coffee origin, I went ahead and ordered a 100-gram sampler pack (Php 450) plus a 250-gram pack of La Trinidad (Php 290). Yagam ships out from Benguet, but the shipping cost isn’t as high as I expected at Php 175. It took only two or three days for my order to get to me, but when my friend ordered it took a week, so I guess it depends.

The thing I love about Benguet beans is how across the board they have that sweet muscovado-like ending, but in between they have some very interesting contrasting flavor notes. Kapangan and Mankayan lean more towards sweet the whole time, with notes of toffee, caramel, and some nuttiness. Atok is one of the more complex ones I’ve tried, as it seems to pull floral and slightly minty, with a rich roasted cacao tone. It’s not that aromatic but it’s quite delicious.

The La Trinidad is playful, with a beautiful scent and bright citrus notes that zings through your tastebuds. The finish is decidedly sweet with a delightful lingering acidity. I loved these coffees so much I’m planning to gift them to some people I hope to convert into Benguet coffee-lovers lol. I urge you to check out Yagam’s website so you can partake in some of the best coffee our country has to offer!

3. H Proper Coffee Roasters

H Proper is one of the coffee roasters of choice among the crowd of more experience home brewers, and the curious cat in me wanted to know what the hype was all about. So I made an order and had three bags shipped all the way from Cagayan de Oro. The shipping cost Php 200, which is really not bad considering it comes all the way from Mindanao! In any case, my expectations were a lot higher than the cost of this purchase.

I haven’t opened my bag of Ethiopia Yigracheffe Haru Suke yet, but if the Ethiopia Sidamo (Php 450 for 250 grams) is any indication of what I can expect from Ethiopia beans, well then I think I’ll love it too. I know the Sidamo is a very popular choice among coffee shops, but it wasn’t until recently that I decided to buy whole beans from a reputable roaster so that I may try and brew it myself. It’s a delicious cup with some chocolate and black tea notes in the mouth, and a sweet undertone I belatedly realized kind of tastes like grape or some other sweet fruit. I’d probably recommend the Sidamo to anyone wanting to try Ethiopia beans for the first time. (It’s also not too expensive!)

The Brazil Santa Serra (Php 450 for 250 grams) meanwhile doesn’t have quite the interesting flavor “journey” as the Sidamo, but I get a full-bodied, nutty, bitter chocolate taste plus a caramelized ending with it. I’m pretty sure you’ll find something to your preference among the options in H Proper’s website.

4. Brew Fix Cold Brew Coffee

I make a lot of coffee at home, but somehow I still get roped into buying ready-to-drink coffees by my own mind. Anyway, I first saw Brew Fix on an Instagram ad, and then I saw it again on an account that exclusively reviews beverages. The feedback was very good and since they’re located in Taft I decided it probably wouldn’t be too costly to have it delivered to my Manila address.

The French Vanilla Fix (Php 120) is their bestseller for good reason. It’s my personal fave because of how pleasantly the vanilla permeates both scent and flavor of the drink. It’s not offensively artificial and complements the coffee rather well.

Their Barako Black Fix (Php 100) has a scent that’s sweet; directly reflecting the playful sweetness of the formulation of this drink. It has a honey-like undertone to me, and if you’re afraid that this drink is too strong, this sweetener definitely tempers it out. I was disappointed by the Masala Fix (Php 110) however, and to think it was the reason I decided to buy from this purveyor. It’s more milky than spice-y really, with the chai flavor almost like an afterthought. Since most people don’t really appreciate strong chai I get why they formulated it this way. The good news is you can ask to customize the drink.

That said, I do think this is the best value ready-to-drink cold brew I’ve bought this year. The 350 mL serving is generous enough to share between two people, and the quality of the drinks is quite good for the price. You can order through their Instagram page if you’re curious.

5. Bangkok Brew

These colorful 1-Liter bottles of Thai Milk Teas from Bangkok Brew get the award for most affordable beverage I’ve bought this 2020. They are located in Quezon City but occasionally make group deliveries to other areas, so I ordered along with a friend to take advantage of their Manila delivery. Across flavors, their drinks are really creamy and smooth. They formulated them in a way that would please most palates, although some are a little sweeter than others.

More specifically, I found their Classic Thai Milk Tea (Php 150) way too sweet for my taste. It has a fragrance but lacks that distinct Thai tea taste. The sweetness dominated the tea flavor! This needs to be consumed with ice to not be too overwhelming for people who don’t really like sweet drinks, but truth be told it’s a refreshing way to end a heavy meal.

The two other drinks are more up my alley. The Thai Milk Matcha Tea (Php 150) I loved even if it was a touch sweeter than I prefer. Rather than the earthier flavor of Japanese matcha, it has a pleasant scent and flavor that leans towards floral. Finally, the Thai Milk Rose Tea (Php 180) has a light rose aroma but a more obvious bitter tea taste. It’s significantly less sweet than the classic, allowing the more delicate rose flavor to shine. For the price range you simply cannot go wrong with these drinks if you’re craving for Thai milk teas. Order through their Instagram account.

6. Otter Bread’s Sourdough Noir

As if I didn’t love Otter Breads enough already, I got to try their version of a Sourdough Noir and it just made me fall in love all over again. This sourdough bread is infused with tsokolate batirol and dark chocolate, giving it a delicious sour-bittersweet-chocolate-y profile. Plus it has Otter Breads’ signature lovely crumb. I’m always grateful for sourdough breads that don’t transform into bricks after slightly cooling down!

This Sourdough Noir is just a delight to eat fresh off the pan, hot and toasty, with melted pockets of chocolate scattered all over. I love it on its own or with a bit of Otter Breads‘ house-made spreads. I’ve tried it with their clotted cream cheese and even their savory spreads and both work really well. (If you’re going to pick just one spread from their lineup, I would like to suggest the Mangowood-Smoked Bacon Cream Cheese I mentioned in a previous round-up. It’s so good!) Check out their menu on their Instagram and go straight to placing an order! Their products are very well-priced, methinks.

7. Plentitude Chocolates

I don’t know what I was thinking at the time I ordered these chocolates, but I have certainly broken my own record for most expensive local chocolate purchase so far. At Php 215 for a 43-gram bar, most people probably consider it a splurge. I was incredibly curious however about what a single-estate chocolate may taste like compared to my usual favorites.

Single-estate is basically a more specific identifier than single-origin. Beans of single-origin chocolates can be sourced from various estates or farms in a single province, but a single-estate chocolate has beans that comes from one specific farm only. It’s a bit like when you buy coffee from a particular grower, there will be certain practices particular to that grower that will somehow make the beans a little different from others. Once they acquire the beans from the estate, Plentitude make their chocolate in small batches to ensure maximum quality.

Frankly speaking, I’m too inexperienced to identify minor differences in the taste of chocolates, so I literally just prayed that this chocolate will blow my mind because I spent a lot on them. I bought three different chocolate bars with their own specific tasting notes, and I’m happy to report they lived up to my expectations. Smooth, with deep flavor, and having distinct nuances per bar, the most unforgettable one for me is the 70% Rehoboth Estate Chocolate. It has a deliciously tart undertone that truly reminds me of green apple. I love it! I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a chocolate quite like it and I’d willingly buy it again when I feel like treating myself.

They ended up sending me a handful of their other products so let us see what other thing might end up in my next lists. In the meantime, you may want to visit their website to splurge on some yummy chocolate for yourself.

8. Kamuning Bakery’s Pancit & Roast Chicken

Ironically enough, despite Kamuning Bakery being a bakery, it was not the breads that captured my attention from this feast I received from them. I really loved the Pancit Mixed Bihon & Canton (starts at Php 370) as it was right up my alley– not oily, not too salty, but still packed with a lot of flavor thanks to the abundance of sahog. Their tender 8-Hour Marinated, 4-Hour Slow-Roasted Chicken (Php 345) tasted quite good as well. It’s served with a gravy that was sweeter than what I’m used to, but the smoky-savory notes belatedly kick in and the gravy just grows on you. I believe both the pancit and the chicken comes with free pandesal per order.

I also got to try their Mini Ensaymadas with Dulce De Leche. The flavor was good, but I wasn’t a fan of the texture of the ensaymada as it was very crumbly. You can barely pick up a piece without it falling apart. Such a shame since the presentation of these pretty mini ensaymadas is quite nice. The texture is just too hard to ignore– it’s not exactly dry and the bread itself is actually quite soft, but the crumbliness isn’t ideal for a mini ensaymada like this. 

I haven’t been able to try their other baked goods yet so I can’t really judge with finality, but you might want to take a look at the menu of this 81-year old bakery in Kamuning. There’s a reason it has lasted this long!

9. Geno’s Ice Cream from Bataan

One of my favorite discoveries this month is this ice cream from Bataan. I’ve never been to Bataan and buying these out-of-town specials feels a bit like being able to get a taste of another place at home. My initial worry when we first got this ice cream is that it seems to be too big for us to finish it up while fresh. And to think we got two flavors at once, not knowing whether we’ll like it or not. Turns out my worries were for nothing, because between the Gabi-Keso-Pinipig Ice Cream and the Langka-Keso Ice Cream, it was a challenge to pick a favorite.

Both ice creams were SO GOOD! Not too sweet, milky, with individual flavors that shine. It had real bits of cheese or gabi or langka. I’ve never been so happy spending Php 700+ for a gallon of ice cream!

People have been saying this reminds them a bit of “dirty ice cream” or ice cream sold on the street by mamang sorbeteros. I get it. This ice cream brings about an inexplicable feeling of nostalgia. However the quality of this is superior to street ice cream, and the formulation is also just the right amount of sweetness. You can tell this is well-made by the way the ice cream ripples when you scoop– no ice crystals which means it was properly churned. Plus the milky flavor of it cannot be faked with cheap bad dairy.

Coming from someone who used to make small-batch ice creams at home, I think this is one of the best AFFORDABLE local ice creams you can get.

Out of the four flavors we’ve tried so far, my personal favorite is the Gabi-Keso-Pinipig Ice Cream. I have a very real love for taro, you see, but the langka-keso ice cream was fabulous too! It had a pleasant langka smell that was very natural. I loved getting to bite into pieces of cheese and langka and taro with every spoonful of ice cream. Just recently we finished their Halo-Halo variant, which had bits of red bean in it. It was great too! (I don’t recommend getting just the keso variant as it is the same base they use for their other flavors with cheese in it.) You can buy this ice cream from Manila resellers close to you. Just do a Facebook search. 

10. Frostbite’s Frozen Brazo de Mercedes

Frozen Brazo de Mercedes seems to be having a small moment as of late. I’ve been seeing so many different purveyors! We ended up buying Frostbite because it was the most convenient for us. (There was a reseller nearby.) My Dad loves brazo de mercedes but we so rarely buy this frozen kind so my Mom decided to switch things up. It ended up being a lot better than we expected! I think this was Php 450+ per 1/4 gallon tub. I can’t remember.

We bought avocado and ube, but I thought the avocado didn’t quite have that avocado oomph I was looking for in the ice cream layer. The ube one had a very satisfying ube hit to it though. I didn’t find it too sweet because I ate it in thin slices. I feel that eating all the layers together creates such a lovely harmony of flavors and contrast of textures. I like how that honeyed taste of the graham crust kind of binds everything together. Check out Frostbite’s Facebook page for their other offerings.

11. Maguro PH’s Spicy Salmon & Maguro Rolls

The thing that I’ve missed the most these past few months is Japanese food. Japanese food to me doesn’t quite fare well as a take out, so I’ve been working hard to push down my cravings until such a time when I can sit down in a restaurant and have Japanese food the way it’s supposed to be: prepared and served fresh, eaten on the spot. I mean, I couldn’t imagine eating sashimi that’s spent time under the sweltering heat of Manila while it’s being delivered to me!

But because I am human and sometimes my resolve weakens, I decided to try ordering sashimi anyway, and that is how Maguro PH‘s Spicy Salmon Sashimi Salad (Php 720 for family size) and Signature Maguro Rolls (Php 280 for 8 pieces) ended up on our dining table.

It was a mixture of finally getting to eat a favorite and also just getting to eat a well-made product in general that made me enjoy my experience with these dishes from Maguro PH. I thought their spicy salmon sashimi salad tasted better than the one from a more popular purveyor I’ve tried in the past. The salmon isn’t at its peak anymore, but it still had good flavor. As for the rolls, I loved it more than the rolls we ordered from a Japanese restaurant a few months ago.

Maguro PH has several more items on their menu that look pretty good. Check out their Instagram page to order or inquire.

12. Hario Skerton Pro

This coffee grinder has been my favorite “toy” for many months now, because it allows me to enjoy the expensive coffee beans I’ve mentioned above in their best form, aka freshly ground! I never thought to invest in one of these before because I always saw manual grinding as tedious, but since growing my understanding of coffee I decided to bite the bullet. This thing is easily more expensive than the four-wheeled cart I keep all my coffee beans and paraphernalia in, but I can’t say I regret my decision to buy it.

The Hario Skerton Pro is easy to use and it’s also easy to understand the mechanism and system it uses for adjusting grind sizes. The only thing I hate about it is how tiring it is to grip the body with your hand as you grind. It’s not super ergonomic, but it’s manageable. I mean, sure manual grinding big batches is EXHAUSTING, but it has allowed me to make better coffee drinks for sure, such as the ones I shared in the video below. In this video, I also have some clips that show off the Hario Skerton Pro in action, complete with the sound of beans grinding which comforts me so much.

I bought my Hario Skerton Pro from Lazada, using all sorts of discount codes and credit card promos, whittling the cost down to below Php 3,000.

13. Aroma Truffle Chips

I was initially quite taken aback by how STRONG the truffle flavor is in these chips, but the packaging did warn me. I just have been burnt plenty of times before by misleading labels on packages. Make no mistake with this one, kids. This brand of truffle chips is not for the faint of heart. It’s not chips with a touch of truffle, it’s TRUFFLE CHIPS, all caps. It’s like truffle with a touch of chips really. I can smell it from across the room! (TRUE STORY!)

I wasn’t sure how much I liked it at first, but somehow… The more I ate the more addicted I became.

These chips aren’t the type you’d want to binge on because the flavor can become overwhelming real quick, but it’s so good broken over a tuna and egg sandwich or a cheese sandwich or whatever savory sandwich you might be making for the day. It’s great eaten with meat, or with a burger– preferably inside the burger so you get some crunch in every bite. Most people will find this super strong, but shockingly I like it a lot. And I’m not even a truffle-lover per se.

I received this bag as a gift from the Singapore Tourism Board, so I had to check how much a bag costs. As expected, it’s not cheap! The cheapest I could find is from WeNourish.PH, at Php 400 per 100-gram bag. I’m super curious about the Honey Dijon variant! 

14. Feed Me, Pepe’s Dishes, once again!

I’m never going to get tired of mentioning Pepe’s dishes, and it’s not because I’m his friend, but because it’s impossible to ignore the work and passion he puts into each of the menu items he offers up every week. You can see it. You can TASTE it. He’s not even a chef or a trained cook, and yet he makes it a point to properly cook each component of his dishes. He properly seasons everything to maintain authenticity as well. (Lord knows these dishes require work and an experienced tastebud to perfect!) And then he packages it up for people like me who miss and crave for the REAL taste of these Asian dishes. He could seriously give restaurants a run for their money! Even Marvin Agustin agrees!

Seriously though, Pepe’s dishes are a must-try. For this batch that I shared above, one of my faves is the Dry Tom Yum. The flavors are so lively and just jump out at you no matter if it’s the shrimp or the tomato or the mushroom you eat. The Beef Massaman Curry is also super flavorful, plus the beef is well-tenderized! But since I have eaten a lot of curry in my life, it didn’t grab me as much as my other fave– his Bun Cha. I got lucky when he sent me some to sample, because it’s damn good. I loved how the nuoc cham made me smack my lips and how it just perfectly complements the smoky juicy meatballs. I didn’t bother with dunking and eating, I literally dumped everything in so my noodles can soak in that nuoc cham goodness. (I might’ve cleaned out the nuoc cham at the bottom of the bowl too. Shhh!) Ikaw na talaga, Pepe!


Full disclosure: This post is not sponsored. All items were purchased on my own unless otherwise stated. I received no compensation for writing this post. All opinions are my own.

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