MANILA, Philippines – The newly-opened Starbucks Reserve store at the Power Plant Mall isn’t just a regular coffee shop, it’s a theater for the best coffees the brand has to offer. Opened to coincide with Starbucks’ 20th anniversary in the country, the shop has some pretty sweet interiors. With its sloping wooden ceiling that recall the mountains of Benguet and Cotabato (regions where some of the country’s best coffees are grown), this shop is only second to their Intramuros branch in terms of awesomeness.
The Reserve Store still has a regular section for the coffees we’re familiar with (I’m partial to Cafe Mocha, personally) but the shop’s Reserve Bar is where the next-level caffeinated magic happens. This is where you can get some of the rarest beans available, including the Jamaica Blue Mountain. Rare isn’t just a marketing term – this is pretty ephemeral stuff. It takes almost 10 months to grow these beans, and the microclimate and soil conditions at the time of growing make each batch unique. Once Starbucks’ global supply is gone, it’s gone for good.
My favorite part of the new store has to be the Reserve Bar. This where the coffee masters and ambassadors – elite baristas who’ve received extra training – practice their dark arts. II recently visited the Reserve Bar to check out what resident coffee ambassadors, Miguel and Third, had in store. I was more than happy to let the duo curate my coffee-drinking experience. Sitting across a coffee ambassador was an interesting experience, almost like having omakase from a sushi chef.
You can order whatever you want, of course. But to get the full Reserve Bar experience, you should let the coffee master or ambassador steer things. Miguel and Third were more happy to share their knowledge and expand my coffee preference beyond “Black. Strong. Low acidity.”
The pair prepared 5 drinks (yep, I finished all of them).
All the drinks at the Reserve Bar are espresso-based. So it’s fitting that this was the first drink I tried. I downed my double shot quickly, and felt the intense, beautiful coffee flavor surge through me. It’s like putting a battery in your mouth…but in a good way.
Shakerato Bianco Deconstructed
The concoction has a double-shot base of Honduras La Campa espresso, Demerara syrup, and is ice-shaken. I was initially skeptical when I heard the word “deconstructed,” but after experiencing it, I can appreciate the moniker. By separating the vanilla bean sweet cream, you can opt to taste the coffee with minimal add-ons. And since the Honduras La Campa beans already have a caramel-y flavor profile, it makes sense.
A slightly more evolved version of its deconstructed sibling, the Shakerato Bianco adds another shot of Honduras La Campa espresso and replaces the Demerara syrup with vanilla bean sweat cream. Even with the cream, the drink is still “coffee-forward,” as Miguel puts it.
The Cortado is made up of equal amounts of espresso and whole milk. A powerful drink, creamy without being sweet.
Vanilla Bean Latte with a 4-layer tulip finish
We ended our session with Vanilla Bean Latte, which has a double shot of espresso with vanilla bean syrup. While lesser lattes can drown the coffee flavor in milk and sweetener, this one is perfectly balanced.
At that point, I already had 9 (yes, 9) shots of espresso coursing through my bloodstream. I had thoroughly enjoyed every drink Miguel and Third prepared for me, but it was time to raise my palms and say, great job guys.
The Starbucks Reserve store sounds fancy, but it really isn’t. These drinks are as enjoyable being swirled around your mouth to capture the subtleties as they are being knocked back in quick succession (which I did, mostly). What matters is less about the buzzwords (“small-batch,” “single-origin”), and more about the buzz you get from drinking these coffees. I’ll definitely back for more (albeit in relatively saner quantities). – Rappler.com
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