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Talk shop

By Senator Manny Villar

Are you able to function well if you don’t drink a cup of coffee in the morning? Do you feel sluggish or cranky when you have not had your doze of caffeine for the day? If that is the case, then you are a certified coffee addict.

It is this surge in coffee drinkers – some call themselves connoisseurs – that has fueled the mushrooming of coffee shops in the country.

I remember there was a time when we preferred coffee at home. Coffee shops were basically unheard of except in restaurants, sari-sari store and the eatery inside wet markets. Of course there was no coffee maker at that time so we do it the old-fashioned way: boiling coffee beans in a pot.

One of the best memories I have of my mother, Nanay Curing – who has been with the Lord for two years now – was when we would walk to the market just pastmidnight to prepare selling shrimps and fish. We would go to this small carinderia inside the market and order our coffee, just plain, black coffee (it’s cheaper with no sugar and milk). I remember that they pour coffee in glasses that used to contain the coffee.

The aroma of coffee competes with whiff of the seafood and meats around the market. This is best paired with steaming, freshly baked pandesal. You hold that hot pandesal and you dip it in your coffee until it soaks all the dark liquid in your cup. That scene – early morning, cool weather, hot coffee and pandesal – is imprinted in my memory forever.

Today, you can practically see a coffee shop in every street corner. Both local and foreign coffee shops have sprouted in Metro Manila and in other urban areas in the Philippines to satisfy the caffeine fix of Filipino coffee lovers.

But a coffee shop is more than a place to get your coffee. It is a place to meet with friends, conduct your business meetings, study, and even do your work. I usually have my meetings at Coffee Project – the artisan specialty café we opened in 2014. And I see a lot of people either having meetings there or focused on their laptops doing work.

Many people use the coffee shop as their place of business. Rather than making the daily commute to work, some just take a long walk or short ride to their neighborhood cafe, or the nearest mall.

I guess it works for some people because it cuts their travel time. It would mean less time wasted on commuting. Imagine if you live in Commonwealth, Quezon City and work in Makati. Imagine the time you are wasting lining up for the MRT or waiting for your bus.

And traffic has a big impact on productivity. A study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) warned that if we do not solve our traffic woes, we might lose as much as R6 billion a day by 2030.

Coffee shops have also become libraries and study area. Whenever I have meetings at Coffee Project, I see young men and women with their books and highlighter studying with a mug of coffee on the side. Of course, it’s not for everybody. Some prefer the solitude of libraries and consider a public place like a coffee shop as distraction.

But for many, the coffee shop offers a sanctuary for small talks, long discussions or just reading a book. I think there are even coffee shops that actually sell books and that provide opportunities for poetry reading or musical performances.

In fact, this was the idea that fueled our desire to put up, and expand, Coffee Project. It’s nice to have a place to hang out. A quaint, charming, warm, and welcoming place for your everyday habits to go with a nice cup of coffee.

In my years in politics, I cannot remember how many decisions have been made over cups of coffee. I presume that other decisions where made over wine or whiskey but that’s for another column. Whether it is in a hotel, a restaurant, or in the lounges of the Senate and House of Representatives, caffeine have fueled decision makers of this country.

I know that many of our friends in media have their own coffeeshop where they talk and chat. This probably paved the way for the emergence of the Kapihan – forums where journalists and newsmakers gather to discuss the important issues of the day.

The coffee shop has evolved throughout the years but the coffee experience remain the same, whether you drink it all by yourself in contemplation or with your friends and colleagues.

Kape tayo?