Furniture designers Thor Balanon and Wilmer Lopez’s shop, Space Encounters, was so cozy that people thought it’s a coffee shop.
But Thor and Wilmer actually own a K-pop themed coffee shop, Subspace, near Space Encounters. A trip to Seoul had exposed them to the massive café culture in that city, which inspired them to put up Subspace.
Thor happens to be a huge K-pop fan (his fave is Super Junior), and Subspace blends two fixtures in Seoul: coffee and catchy K-pop beats.
Subspace also turned out to be a fun design playground. Recently, the three-year-old café refurbished its interiors with whimsical wallpaper that Thor and Wilmer designed, wooden chairs with bright neon accents, stylish Eames chairs upholstered with vintage fabric from the ’60s and warm-toned Edison bulbs hanging from the ceiling.
One of the best-selling beverages at Subspace is the local version of a Seoul café staple: the purple potato latte, coffee infused with sweet potato, an unlikely combination that surprisingly works very well. The sweet potato adds a thicker texture to the coffee while enhancing it with a subtle, creamy sweetness.
Coffee, K-pop and great interiors aside, one other thing that draws customers to Subspace is the whimsical and amazing latte art their baristas churn out. “We actually give potential baristas a drawing exam,” says Thor. “Anyone can learn how to operate a coffee machine, but not all can draw,” he adds.
Latte art is one of those intangible comforts that we get in a cup of coffee. One big gulp and your temporary art is gone (unless you Instagram it, which you definitely will). But the happiness it brought you will linger on for sure.
Drawing on a foamy coffee surface seems easy—all you need is a constant supply of frothy milk and a toothpick. But it takes a steady hand and a lot of imagination. The Subspace baristas have drawn cute cartoon characters like Doraemon and Totoro and Marvel superheroes like Iron Man; they even drew Cosette at the height of the “Les Misérables” fever.
Creating latte art takes anywhere from two minutes to 30, depending on the degree of difficulty. Some customers have gone as far as to ask for portraits, and the baristas happily oblige. The trade-off is that the coffee won’t be as piping hot, but the customers don’t mind once they see art in their cups.
Subspace is at Unit 103 Grand Emerald Tower, F. Ortigas Jr. Road, Ortigas Center, Pasig City; open 8 a.m.-12 mn Mondays-Saturdays and 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Sundays. Log on to facebook.com/subspace.coffee, Twitter @tsubspace and Instagram subspacecoffee.