Coffee Wars! Rating the best coffee franchise here in the Philippines.
Grab your favorite coffee cup, put on your game face, and follow me. This means war! Today, we’re going into battle, and may the best…coffee shop win?
The prevailing coffee culture in most Asian nations, cities, and tourist hotspots is so competitive, that there are often multiple coffee shops to choose from in even the smallest area. They’re all vying for the attention of the same customers using brightly painted art, themes, luxurious decorations, heavenly pastries and sweets, and well-known franchise names. If all else fails, the coffee shop with the tastiest coffee, the coldest aircon, and the strongest wi-fi signal wins. It’s no wonder why coffee is a such a big business in Asian countries, such as the Philippines, where I now reside, with the price of a large latte almost reaching $3 here. While that may be standard for a Starbucks in the States, it’s a fortune for a single (big) cup of coffee in a poor nation like the Philippines, where the average person can actually eat three (not very good) meals on $3 in a day if they had to.
Such is the case here in Dumaguete where I live, where there’s a Bo’s Coffee right on the Boulevard, which was my go-to café for a long time. That is, until they opened up a Tom Toms Coffee RIGHT NEXT DOOR! They made the Tom Toms bigger, nicer, and open longer hours. The result is an all-out coffee war, with both shops doing everything (BUT lower their prices) to attract business.
So, I wanted to run down my other favorite coffee franchises here in the Philippines, with shops you’ll find from Manila to Dumaguete, Cebu to Bacolod, and many other cities in between.
Here they are – in no particular order – with a few notes or impressions on each.
The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
I thought this was a Philippines original because there are so many locations here, at just about every mall and city. But “The Bean” was actually started in 1963 in California by a guy named Herbert B. Hyman. The coffee is good, but the shops tend to be a little small, and I’m not a huge fan of the food.
Originally an Australian coffee chain, there are now 1,000 stores worldwide, including a dozen or so in the Philippines, although they’re all concentrated around Manila and the Luzon area. But try the Gloria Jeans at the Manila airport, for instance, and you’ll be impressed.
Bo’s started in Cebu City in 1996 and now has about 100 locations throughout the Philippines. Their blended espresso drinks like lattes and cappuccinos are some of my favorites, and their serving sizes are huge. Their shops tend to be a little small but they fit in plenty of round tables that can fit four, and their wifi usually is free and works great.
Believe it or not, Starbucks isn’t the most popular coffee shop here, although they’re starting to pop up everywhere, and especially in the business districts of cities, malls, and tourists havens. The coolest Starbucks in the world is definitely the location on Boracay Island, where you have crystal ocean and palm trees and then powdery white sand leading right up to the front door of the Starbucks!
Tom Toms Coffee
This South Korean franchise is just starting to open stores in the Philippines. The spaces are huge and comfortable, but the coffee is definitely subpar – although it’s expensive.
In some cities and airports, you’ll find Krispy Kremes here, which have surprisingly awesome coffee – and at about half the price of the other fancier chains! They usually also have free wi-fi so you can come in and hang out for a while.
Yes, they have a D & D in the Philippines! The plain old black coffee is good – but skip the espresso drinks here.