Most people drink coffee to shake off sleepiness.
For some, though, there’s more to it than a caffeine fix. A good brew can provide a complete sensory experience—from the sound of grinding beans, to smelling the aroma as hot water is poured onto the cup, to the first gratifying sip.
In the late 1990s Starbucks elevated the coffee-drinking habits of Filipinos, triggering the coffee shop craze that shows no sign of waning, especially now that coffee lovers have become more discerning.
To further give people more choices, Starbucks has rolled out its Reserve line of cafés, which caters to more discriminating coffee connoisseurs.
Rare coffee beans
“It’s a whole new premium brand experience,” says Noey Lopez, chief operating officer of Rustan Coffee Corp., Starbucks’ distributor in the Philippines.
The more upscale positioning of Reserve is evident from the branding (a “Reserve” sign with a star next to it) to the store layout, which highlights the glorious history of coffee.
In its recently opened Signa Residences branch, the walls behind the counter showcase clear jars of coffee beans.
The Reserve coffee shop distinguishes itself from its more ubiquitous Starbucks sister by offering limited-edition beans and blends sources by buyers from around the world.
“We have rare and special coffees and seasonal offerings,” says Lopez.
Even the food and pastry fare is different, each developed to complement the rare coffee variants at Reserve. Some of our favorites include scones, and the carrot and granola cheese muffins. These are ideal for dark coffee drinkers because the sweetness of the pastries neutralizes and balances the bitter taste of the brew.
Merchandise collectors will be glad to know that Reserve also has special items exclusive to the shop.
There are five Reserve stores being built, with three now open for business: the Tomas Morato branch was formerly a Starbucks outlet; and there are two new ones at Bonifacio Global City Central and Signa Residences.
The rest will open in the Makati and BGC areas as well.
For those who want to learn more on what makes good coffee, Reserve is the perfect place to go to. One gets the chance to sample rare beans from around the world, and its stores are manned by specially recruited coffee experts.
“All employees who work here are certified coffee masters,” says Lopez. Each coffee master is chosen as carefully as the beans themselves, with each staffer undergoing strict training procedures and earning certification from senior experts.
According to Lopez, developing a mature palate for coffee takes time and experience, in the same way wine lovers develop theirs. Despite having been in the coffee business for almost a decade, Lopez says that he himself has yet to learn everything.
For the coffee neophyte, he recommends to start with the Reserve house blend. “It’s the most balanced and most welcoming; Latin American coffee is very agreeable,” he says.
For the more adventurous, he recommends his personal favorite, coffee from Africa. “There’s a fruity flavor, which is what seeps from the soil into the beans. It’s very good with ice,” says Lopez.
Starbucks Reserve coffee shops are at Tomas Morato, Eight Forbestown, Burgos Circle, Keyland Centre (Makati), Central Square Bonifacio High Street, and Signa Designer Residences.