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There is something about the smell of coffee early morning when just a few souls are awake.

I developed my love for coffee when I was young. I would wake up early to help my mother, Nanay Curing, sell shrimps and fishes at the Divisoria market in Manila.

We would leave our house and walk to the market at midnight so we could catch the auction of fishes and shrimps which we would then sell. But before we left, Nanay and I would take a sip of the nilagang kape she herself prepared.

I would take that hot cup of coffee, let the heat permeate through my palms, then smell that distinctive aroma. There is nothing like sipping a hot cup of coffee, especially during the cold months of December and January.

This is why I need a nice cup of coffee to get me through the day. Even during meetings – whether political or business – coffee is what perks up my mental juices and makes me sharp during discussions.

Coffee is equated with conversations. When someone tells you, “Let’s meet,” it’s almost always over a cup of coffee. When I attend conferences and seminars, I always look forward to the “coffee break” – which is that time when you can grab a cup and chat with a colleague or a new acquaintance.

When my family travels abroad, my “must-do” is to go to a quaint little coffee shop, have a cup of freshly ground coffee and watch the people pass by and the day go by. I know there are tourist attractions to be visited but a long, slow afternoon at a coffee shop is one of the highlights of my trips.

You can never take your coffee hurriedly. You need to take your time. One of my pet peeves is when I see someone rush with a cup of coffee in front of me. When I am in a coffee shop, it is as if I am watching people go by in slow motion.

When the coffee plant was discovered in Ethiopia in the 11th century, it was proclaimed as a “magical fruit” because of its medicinal properties. Rightly so, many scientific studies have identified its myriad benefits.

Several findings, for example, have reported that coffee provides more anti-oxidants than fruits and vegetables. It has been known to reduce liver cirrhosis, diabetes, and prostate and skin cancer.

But what I love most about drinking coffee is that it makes one happier or, at least, less prone to depression and suicidal tendencies. Maybe that explains why I am always happy.

It is this love affair with coffee that made me venture into the coffee business. We just opened the third branch of Coffee Project in Vista Place, Quezon City, and a fourth branch in Vista Mall Santa Rosa, following the branches in Alabang and Imus.

The first outlet opened on December 13, 2014, at the 3rd level of Starmall Alabang, Muntinlupa, and our plan now is to put up around 12 Coffee Project stores by the end of 2016.

The Coffee Project will have home-grown beans as well as international coffees. This way, I hope we can provide support to our local coffee makers who only produce 25,000 metric tons of coffee annually.

We hope to be able to carve out a niche in the market even with coffee shops like Starbucks and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. I think there are many people who share my view that coffee is more than just a drink, it is a complete experience. And this is the vision of Coffee Project: a coffee shop that offers great quality coffee, good food, and great experience.

The Coffee Project is also at the heart of our thrust to build what we call communicities, which are innovative master-planned city developments designed to be completely self-contained, with vast properties that offer facilities, amenities, community structures and commercial establishments, closer to a city than a mere residential village.

At a time when our cities are becoming urban jungles, grappling with the excesses of urbanization, we need to offer Filipinos communicities communities where they can achieve their dreams for their children.

The Coffee Project, which we hope to build in these communicities, can become a hub of community conversations, discussion among friends and neighbours.

I am glad my daughter Camille has taken on this challenge of making Coffee Project successful. She told me that her idea is that great coffee and good food should be served not only with nice dinnerware but in great interiors as well.

“We want the people to feel, from the moment they first step into our store that they have left all the stress, worries and hassles outside,” she said. “ It’s a place where they can relax and realize that their greatest problem is if they want a hot or cold coffee.”

This makes a lot of sense to me. The best cafes I have visited around the world revolve around those two elements – great coffee and the ambience. You may be inside the coffee shop admiring the interiors or outside marvelling at the people.

I am sure a lot of you are drinking a hot cup of coffee while reading this newspaper. Go ahead, enjoy your coffee!

(For comments/feedback email to: mbv.secretariat@gmail or visit www.Mannyvillar.com.ph.) (Senator Manny Villar)