I am quite proud that the Philippines has a very rich coffee culture. Ever since the Spaniards came to the islands and brought their coffee plants to the highlands, we have had our own blends from the popular kapeng barako to the lighter and tarter Hineleban blend from Bukidnon. Yes, we love our coffees strong and sweet, and our love for the strong, dark drink is evident with all the third wave coffee shops that are popping up all over Metro Manila.
Enter Toby’s Estate, one of the newest, hippest coffee shops in Makati that’s sure to give its competition a good run for its money. I had been hearing wonderful things about this place for months and was honored to have been given an invitation to its grand opening, especially giddy to meet the owner and mastermind behind the brand, Toby Smith.
The one word that comes to mind when describing the space is ‘hipster’. Walking into the coffee shop, you can almost trick yourself to think that you’re dab smack in the middle of Brooklyn, the ambiance complete with a bespoke communal table, suave looking baristas, and a big kitchen window for you to take a peek at what’s happening on the line. The simple typography that shows off some of their bestsellers is pretty badass, too.
Lining up to try their wares, and after a lengthy explanation of the two types of coffee blends they currently had that night, I got myself something off the menu, what the guys at Toby’s called, the Gibralter. Asking for the blend with the most chocolate-y notes, I was happy to be served a tall shot of “wake-the-fuck-up” in a glass. That was so strong, it could keep me awake ’til Christmas if I drank enough – no wonder it’s served in a small glass!
If coffee porn was a thing, Toby’s Estate would have the most centerfolds. Look at that beauty. Just look. The gorgeous latte art of my Hot Mocha (Php 160) made with thick crema made me think twice before destroying the masterpiece by taking a sip. I’d like to think that this is the dilemma of most of the people that patronize this coffee shop.
They passed around a few small bowls of pasta and sammies to fill us up while we immersed ourselves in everything there was to know about Toby’s Estate. There was Linguine on hand, made with sautéed mushroom with fresh herbs in a butter emulsion, as well as Rigatoni for the pastas. I liked the latter more, with the crumbled Spanish chorizo and spicy tomato sauce with a touch of basil oil.
As for the sandwiches, plates of bite-sized patty melt, grilled four cheese, grilled cheese and fruit, classic chicken salad, and sante were being passed around. I favored the grilled cheese with grapes and the four cheese sandwiches the most. It’s a good thing I have an iron stomach when it comes to processing dairy – there sure was a lot that night!
Marco Antonio, one of the owners (and heir to the Century Properties empire), gave a short speech about his passion for excellent coffee and what inspired him to reach out to Toby Smith and convince him to put up a branch in Manila. Toby, on the other hand, remembered the whole “reaching out” in a different way, sharing how Marco basically stalked him at a coffee convention in San Diego, twisting his arm ’til he tapped out and agreed to bring the franchise here. I liked Toby’s version of events a lot better.
In order to appreciate the coffee that they import from Toby’s farm in Panama, a coffee cupping was in order, with the likes of Cyrene dela Rosa of Interaksyon’s Chowbuzz, sniffing and slurping the different coffee blends along with everyone else.
Toby brought one of his Roasters with him to the Philippines to give a little talk about all the different coffee blends and what made each one unique. For the coffee aficionados, there were place cards in front of each cup for people to read and appreciate the origins of each type of coffee even further. I do like my light and medium roasts a lot more than I do the dark, as the chocolate, wine, and fruity notes are a lot more distinct. Reading up on how specific each type of bean is to a certain region and which farm it came from gives you a better idea of how your coffee gets from the farm to your cup.
A pleasant surprise for me was learning that Toby’s Estate also serves Bucky’s (Php 70 each). Well, would you look at that? I was looking for the Spiced Buckies, which was my favorite, but they only had four flavors – the Original, Chunky Blonde, Big Poppa, and the Buckies n Cream.
If you and coffee don’t really get along, but you find yourself in a coffee shop anyway, Toby’s Iced Mocha (Php 170) is a good alternative, sans the caffeine. They also offer Iced Teas (starts at Php 120) that they steep and chill in the fridge before serving, so yes, this isn’t the sweet kind – it’s the healthy kind!
On the walls are clocks of cities with a Toby’s Estate coffee shop, coffee plantation, or both. I had a long conversation with Toby about his Panama plantation and how seriously people there take their coffee, with coffee festivals and competitions happening all year round. Toby’s favorite – and mine – is the tart Geisha blend. The rich body and fruity aftertaste is so good, it’s a pity the stuff goes for around $200 a bag. Ouch.
We have this group of sillies to thank for bringing Toby’s Estate to the Philippines, and they looked tuckered out but happy with everything they achieved that night. Thank you Manny del Rosario, Marcelo Crespo, Marco Antonio, and Chut Cuerva for bringing the coffee concept to Manila and congratulations on the grand opening, fellas!
Kudos to all the hard-working folks at Toby’s Estate! It was a wonderful night filled with inquisitive coffee connoisseurs and caffeine junkies and can’t wait to go back once the kitchen has sorted out its menu.
Toby’s Estate is located at L.P. Leviste Street, Salcedo Village, Makati an is open on Monday – Thursday from 7am – 10pm, Friday – Saturday from 7am – 12am, and Sunday on 8am – 10pm.