Latest Stories

A coffeehouse is Manila’s K-Pop haven


COUNTER with a playful vibe

If you are into Korean pop culture and follow every K-Pop boy and girl band, you need to see this quirky, artsy, hole-in-the-wall coffee place in one of the known business districts.

In the Ortigas area, you will find the quintessential home of the Korean café culture: Subspace Coffee House. Inspired by the Hongdae area of Seoul, Subspace Coffee House offers you not just their infamous Purple Potato Latte, but the indie-slash-K-Pop lifestyle that young Pinoys aspire to experience.

Only a year old, it has been known to K-Pop followers, and serves as their nest and, for others, is one of the Instagram-worthy places in Manila. I had a chance to learn more about this  brand, made popular through social media.

Starting from love

HANGING chairs and teddy bears seem like an art installation.

Like in every dream, it starts from love. Thor Bulanon’s love for Korean pop music enticed him and his business partner, Wilmer Lopez, to start this coffee shop with a uniquely Seoul Art District feel, and bring its charm here for Manila’s coffee connoisseurs and fellow K-Pop fans to experience.

They also have a furniture business, Space Encounters. The store draws a lot of attention from the streets, and was always mistaken for a coffee shop. “From that, we already have an idea for putting up a café,” Bulanon described how the idea started.

“During that time also in Space Encounters, I was bringing in K-Pop items. I was very much into that. We thought of moving all the K-Pop items to this café.” That proved to be  a big hit, as Subspace now sells albums and memorabilia of beloved K-Pop idols such as Super Junior and 2NE1. It’s like a wish granted by a genie, because it’s hard for the fans to look for the albums.

In the beginning, Subspace was a venue for events like K-Pop Fan Girl Days that happened on weekends to keep the youthful vibe alive. The coffeehouse began operations in June 2011.  Lopez is in charge of the interior design and Bulanon handles the operations of the shop.



SOME of the albums sold at the store

Upon entering the store, I was transported to another place, and it didn’t feel like I was in one of the busiest areas in Manila. I was welcomed by this cozy, fun yet underground sort of ambience.

The place is magical and makes you want to sit in one of their pastel-colored sofas and stay for as long as you want. “It was also around this time that we went to Seoul, South Korea,” Bulanon said. “We saw the coffeehouse culture and we loved it. We love the design point of view and quirkiness with which they designed the coffeehouses, and we thought, let’s do that here.”

It is such a visual feast for the people that come here, as every nook and cranny is an Instagram-worthy snapshot. Thanks to social media, Subspace Coffee is becoming one of the “it” coffee shops to visit. Boasting 751 Instagram followers, it helped the shop raise awareness for their brand. Its followers are producing content that attracts other people to the place.

Lopez and Bulanon also use Subspace Coffee Shop as their platform to showcase their design ideas. “Let’s also introduce our pieces, because we have commercial clients who wonder how they can use mid-century modern furniture in a commercial space, and Subspace is the best example of it,” Lopez said. Aside from the food, if you do like one of the furniture pieces in Subspace,  they can replicate the design for your home.



treats and goodies

A Purple Potato Latte was something I’d never heard of before nor ever imagined tasting. This coffee beverage made me even more curious. In our Philippine food culture, this purple potato is known in layman’s term as kamote. Who would have thought to mix it with coffee?

The concoction is interesting enough to generate customer trials, as we put it in my marketing class. Give yourself a treat, because this is a new way to enjoy coffee. It’s sweet but not in the overbearing, one-sip-too-sweet way. It doesn’t taste like the generic coffee from the mainstream coffee shops. “It’s sweet and unique. Sweet Purple Potato Latte is our distinct offering. We were, like, ‘We’re not going to open until we have the sweet purple potato,’ because that drink is the famous one in Seoul,” said Bulanon. They also have a Peanut Butter Latte that is a must-try, as well.

Another thing they experimented on was Café Latte Art. “We’re also becoming known for it. That aspect I’m very proud of, as we are the only coffeehouse that customizes our latte art,” said Bulanon. They graciously showed us how it’s done, and it was fun to see them creating drawings on our coffee. The usual requests are to have K-Pop logos and animé characters drawn into their café latte.

If you are looking for a study place or a place to hang out or just to veer away from the mainstream coffee shops, I recommend this place for its fun food experience and design inspiration.


Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: K-pop , Korean Culture , Lifestyle , Subspace Coffee House

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Noli Yamsuan, Cardinal Sin’s ‘official’ photographer: ‘I could smell the aftershave lotion of the Pope’
  3. Palawan favorite getaway of show biz celebrities
  4. Fashionistas flock to designer’s wedding
  5. Joe de Venecia visits the Queen Mother of Cambodia
  6. President Quezon was born here–and so was Philippine surfing
  7. A tale of two Priscillas: my mother Prissy and Chona Recto Kasten
  8. This is not just a farm
  9. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  10. Levine designs womenswear with help from fiancee
  1. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  2. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  3. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  4. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  5. 90 percent of Filipino households don’t practice proper toilet hygiene, sanitation
  6. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  7. Boots Anson-Roa to wed in Eddie Baddeo
  8. Prince William fuels speculation of second royal baby
  9. Marcos grandson to wed beautiful Rocha scion
  10. This is not just a farm
  1. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  2. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  3. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  4. Manila in shock over model Helena Belmonte’s death
  5. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  6. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  7. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  8. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  9. Sen. Angara: I thought Pia Wurtzbach gave a good answer
  10. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?


  • Tagle: Christ’s resurrection a message of hope to faithful
  • Aquino vows to intensify anti-corruption drive further
  • Unease in Vatican over cardinal’s luxury flat—report
  • Nepal calls off search for missing guides on Everest—official
  • Pope’s Easter Message ‘Urbi et Orbi’
  • Sports

  • Rain or Shine grabs No.4, sends Ginebra to 8th
  • Red-hot Alaska rips injury-depleted San Mig Coffee
  • Pacquiao courtesy call to Aquino set for Monday
  • Nick Calathes suspension a reminder of supplement risk
  • Teague scores 28 as Hawks soar past Pacers in Game 1
  • Lifestyle

  • Angono petroglyphs in danger of disappearing
  • Britain’s baby Prince George visits Australian zoo
  • Noli Yamsuan, Cardinal Sin’s ‘official’ photographer: ‘I could smell the aftershave lotion of the Pope’
  • Simplifying and lightening life
  • Where to go for Easter night-out
  • Entertainment

  • Show-biz celebrities’ other choices of summer getaway
  • Why ‘Noah’ can’t dock his ark at Philippine theaters
  • Acclaimed artist goes wild while on holiday
  • Believing in this mermaid
  • Missing Xian
  • Business

  • Top-selling insurance agent opens her dream café
  • Connecting and transacting with one another
  • Building wealth for health
  • Why Mandaue Foam buys, rather than rents, space
  • A workplace of new possibilities
  • Technology

  • Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  • Netizens pay respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Opinion

  • Epiphany
  • Unpaid creditor vs distressed debtor
  • Moving on
  • From culinary desert to paradise
  • Response to China: ‘Usjaphil’
  • Global Nation

  • Tim Tebow’s charity hospital in Davao seen to open in 7 months
  • OFW died of Mers-CoV in Saudi Arabia, says family
  • Aquino, Obama to tackle US pivot to Asia during state visit
  • Asia seeks Obama’s assurance in territorial spats
  • Cesar Chavez movie sparks memories of Fil-Am labor leaders