A flavorful journey of culture, community, and coffee

Philippine coffee now in NYC. Photos by Gino Cabigao

By Gino Cabigao

Let’s begin with a delightful buzz – coffee numbers that are as invigorating as the aroma of your morning brew.  About “66% of Americans now drink coffee each day, more than any other beverage including tap water and up by nearly 14% since January 2021, the largest increase since NCA began tracking data,” according to the National Coffee Association USA.  About 80% of Filipinos drink coffee, according toblog Coffee Affection.

While visitor stories of the Philippines often revolve around breathtaking beaches and vibrant malls, there’s a hidden gem that deserves its spotlight – local cafes. After residing in the Philippines for six years, these local coffee shops became my haven. Among my favorites were Frank and Dean Coffee in Bonifacio Global City, where I’d head after a morning run around High Street, and El Union in La Union, my post-surfing spot for a cup of coffee or “dirty horchata.”  These coffee havens offered more than just beverages. They introduced me to dynamic cafe team members and the hardworking coffee bean farmers who brought those magical brews to life. Experiencing the unique workplace cultures of these coffee shops was so inspiring that it led me to start my own Human Resources (HR) Consultancy company, Kulture Ko.

Before returning back to New Jersey, I told Miguel, Frank and Dean Coffee, and Kiddo, El Union, that I hope to see them in the New York City area. During the 2023 Filipino American History month in 2023, it happened. The stories of Kiddo and Amy of El Union were featured in Brooklyn.  Miguel traveled to New York City bringing Frank and Dean’s Vintage Coffee Blend, which is a 100% Philippine Arabica sourced from the Cordilleras.

First on the list, “Hey Barista,” hosted a fantastic launch party in Bushwick, Brooklyn for their second issue. Among the standout stories from around the world, El Union Coffee took the spotlight. Their tale revolved around family – Kiddo, Amy, and their children – and the bold venture to open a coffee shop by the La Union beach. It highlighted their unwavering support for the El Union team during and after the pandemic.  I was able to share a few stories too of how I went to El Union during the weekends to grab some horchatas with Kiddo and team before grabbing a surfboard to practice surfing.

Philippine Consulate New York  and Philippine Trade and Investment Center host a Philippine coffee and chocolate pop-up featuring Frank and Dean Coffee and Filipino American businesses Daniel Corpuz Chocolatier and Kulture Ko. Consul General Senen Mangalile is third from left.
Guests grabbing a cup of Philippine coffee from Frank and Dean Coffee, and bon bons from NYC-based chocolatier, Daniel Corpuz.

Second, Frank and Dean Coffee attended the New York Coffee Festival, which had a variety of coffee shops from around the country, to showcase their Philippine-based coffee business.  A few days later, a delightful collaboration unfolded in Hell’s Kitchen, featuring Frank and Dean Coffee, Daniel Corpuz Chocolatier, Kulture Ko, and the New York-based restaurant, Tradisyon. Cups of coffee and chocolates were shared with Tradisyon’s patrons, enhancing their dining experience with a flavorful twist. The local residents and New York visitors had the chance to take home Frank and Dean Coffee beans from the Philippines and some stylish attire.

Frank and Dean Coffee wrapped up their 2023 visit with a grand finale – a pop-up collaboration with the Philippine Consulate General in New York and the Philippine Trade and Investment Center in New York. Guests were treated to delightful cups of Frank and Dean Coffee, and Daniel Corpuz’s delectable chocolates sweetened the event even more.

These experiences with El Union Coffee and Frank and Dean Coffee add to the diverse and wonderful experiences as a Filipino- American. We celebrated the fusion of culture, coffee, and community. It was a testament to the unifying power of traditions and flavors, bridging people from the Philippines to New York, while inspiring new friendships and culinary adventures. Let’s raise our cups to the beautiful stories that keep us connected and celebrate the rich tapestry of our heritage.

© The FilAm 2023

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