Manila (CNN Philippines) — Specialty coffee is a luxury many have had to give up as the world continues to grapple with a pandemic. The quarantine lockdown implemented to prevent its spread led to an economic pause. But that didn’t stop people from finding ways to get their fix.
The Dalgona coffee trend that spread through social media, for example, replicates the frothiness of a cappuccino by whipping accessible instant coffee without the use of barista tools and equipment. It originated from Seoul, South Korea, known for its café culture.
When deliveries of coffee beans and coffee equipment started after the ECQ, people have also used the opportunity to brew specialty coffee in their own houses.
In Metro Manila, coffee lovers can enjoy the convenience of homegrown brand Type A’s premium cold brew concentrate. Using single origin beans from one of the highest peaks in Panama that head of research and development Dani Canlas-Torres hiked up to, the specialty beans are roasted, ground and steeped in cold water. The cold brew technique brings out notes of orange peel and dark chocolate with the least acidity you can get from coffee.
The former tech and management consultant launched the concentrate for those who like to enjoy their specialty coffee even when they don’t have the time to, hence the homegrown brand’s name — so goes the joke between her and her sisters Sarah and Anna, who are also her business partners at umbrella company Can Creative Capital.
Type A gives you 900ml of 100% Panama coffee concentrate in a reusable glass bottle. It’s easy even for casual coffee drinkers to prepare a good cup because of the concentrate format. You can add water or milk in a glass with ice to make yourself an iced coffee, black or white. You can add soda. You can sweeten it or spike it or sweeten it. You can make desserts with it. There are endless possibilities for your kind of refreshment.
Professionals in the F&B industry love it, too. Type A is used by restaurants and bars for coffee items in their menu. Futurist uses their cold brew for cocktails. Pizza Express uses Type A for their panna cotta and granita affogato.
The pandemic introduced a new kind of customer to Type A: consumer-entrepreneurs, fans of the product who are looking for a business on the side.
Chem Torrente, Type A’s growth manager says, “Consumer-entrepreneurs are the new asset of the hustle era. They are eager to talk to communities personally and through online channels even while at home. They are looking for opportunities to grow their current business or expand their sources of income.”
Canlas-Torres shares, “Most of them are food businesses as well. One of our collaborators is Seed Manila. They use our concentrate for two bottled coffee drinks, the Coco Black and the Soy Latte.”
Type A was founded when the world went on at a completely different pace. Now that people are spending more time cooped up in their homes, and the welcome distraction of a coffee run is not an option for most people, the brand recognized it was the right moment to brighten up gloomy routines with the launch of a new product.
“We’ve always wanted to expand our offerings, but it was accelerated by the lockdown as we felt our customers, especially our regulars, may want some variety—a change of scenery? — while they were stuck at home,” Canlas-Torres says. “Maybe they also unlocked some extra time to brew coffee on less hectic days?”
Type A launched a new category: coffee beans. “We considered a couple of different single origin options. We eventually landed on the first three coffees that are recognizably different from the other two in the collection. All the different bean variants are also a nice contrast to our flagship cold brew concentrate,” she shares.
Each 250 gram variant, all medium roast, tells a story. Marivic is named for the woman who organizes the lots of coffee in her community in Bansalan, Davao. The 100% natural Catimor Arabica bean brews earthy, with notes of green mango, cacao and a tinge of chili. Yirgacheffe is named for a town with family owned farms in Ethiopia. It blooms peachy, with a mild acidity and biscuity notes of burnt caramel. Guji Zone is named for a part of Ethiopia that has perfected a full natural process. It brews with a sugary sweetness, notes of bright berries and black tea.
Talking directly to consumers and constantly tasting the product with every batch are two things that have been key in their R&D. Shared Space was a conducive setting for this. Planned by architect Sarah Canlas, it is a sitting area that connects Type A’s bottling facility on one side and a coffee roaster on the other. Their roasted coffee bean supplier arm Origin Coffee Network is also based here. Aside from Type A, OCN has sourced beans exclusively for Lucky Roasters and El Union Coffee.
“This is a living room kind of space where we can open up to people and experiment with new things. It’s a helpful way to test the market,” says Canlas-Torres. On a typical pre-lockdown day, she sets out freshly brewed cups of coffee for home and wholesale buyers to try before they buy. Shared Space features a bar containing different kinds of milk and sweeteners so customers can experiment with different combinations. With coffee as a social lubricant, ideas and collaborations always come up.
“You don’t just drink coffee. You do something over coffee,” says creative director Anna Canlas, who furnished Shared Space. Type A has been served at trunk shows by Canlas’ Studio Josanna, a Marikina-made ‘70s shoe line reviving its design archive.
Everything in the Shared Space is repurposed. The room is anchored by an antique Mexican rug, brought back to life from a friend’s storage. The bench was originally a column in heavy reclaimed wood. The coffee table came from their coffee stand in Karrivin while the stools were previously in Can. The ledge by the window was previously installed as one of their city apartment’s first pieces of furniture, harking back to Can’s beginnings as a home office. A roomy daybed stays in the shade. Shared Space breathes with high ceilings and natural light. With glass windows looking into the roaster and bottling area, it expresses that the company values transparency.
In the meantime, Shared Space is limiting guests to those who are picking up orders or returning their empty bottles.
When things are back to normal, the team wants Shared Space to bring people together for conversation, community and collaboration. Says Torrente, "We're here to empower the consumer-entrepreneurs by providing quality coffee and materials, or even just talking through strategies to help them sell.”
Type A is receiving orders at www.type-a.xyz.