There is nothing about Naga City that makes it similar to any other place in Bicol. Its religious history is rich, as documented by Filipino historian Danilo Gerona in his books. Its politics is colorful, even producing memorable names such as Raul Roco and Jesse Robredo. And its social, cultural, and economic developments have been visibly beneficial to its residents.
Many of the conversations that made Naga City what it is today have been made over cups of coffee in these local-owned businesses.
Alec Francis Santos of the Naga City Arts, Culture and Tourism Office being homegrown businesses makes them attractive to the locals.
Love for Coffee
“They are familiar with the Bicolanos’ preference in taste,” he told Getaway.ph. “It’s not a formula made in a corporate office somewhere in Manila or abroad and brought here, then assumed that Bicolanos and Nagueños will develop a liking to that taste.”
Whether they are businessmen preparing for a meeting in the morning, or tourists cooling down from their strolling the city or towns nearby, or students who have just finished club meetings late in the afternoon, or locals socializing at night, avid coffee drinkers can find their own watering holes any time of the day.
Santos said that Naga’s love for drinking coffee can be seen in the growing number of homegrown restaurants, cafés, and bars that serve them.
“[200 is] not bad for a city with a population of less than 200,000,” he said.
Domestic and foreign tourists who visit the city prefer the available local taste and products, he said. That prompted them to put special emphasis on developing and promoting local coffee shops.
Cafés in Naga City owned by expats who either have relatives in the city or have been married to a local also offer fusion meals and coffee made from beans from overseas. This has attracted some tourists who want to try a mixture of the local products and something that they are also accustomed to.
The usual social cirles in Naga City cafés vary from the intellectuals like Gerona and history enthusiasts who like to learn directly from him, to local businessmen making deals and commercial plans, and media workers who meet stories and social matters.
Some cafés have been offering a safe haven to those interested in local literature and art. He said that the business models of such cafés are not purely for profit, but to support their owners’ and their customers’ passions.
“I think it’s a great thing because [they] are bringing the culture and the arts out of the textbooks and into public space that can attract even those remotely interested.”
Here are some coffee shops that Santos recommends you try if you ever find yourself in the Pilgrim City of Naga.
1. Think Coffee calls their market that includes students, young adults, professionals, and businessmen “thinkers.” They get their beans from Philippine-based producers outside Bicol, but they advocate local agriculture by offering locally farmed produces. Try their premium pastas with their signature drinks TEAnagba Lemongrass Tea, Rice Coffee, and Tablea Hot Chocolate. Think Coffee can be found at Robinsons Place Naga. Outside Naga, they have a brand in another Camarines Sur city, Iriga.
2. You can choose from any of the two branches of Earthquake Café—one in Robinsons Place Naga, one in Naga’s famous Magsaysay Avenue. Their beans, sourced from Cordillera, are organic just like their other locally-sourced ingredients. Aside from their laing pasta and premium quality burgers, they offer NAGARLIC Chicken. You can also try their handscooped ice cream milkshake Quake Shakes, with flavors inspired by President Duterte (red velvet) and Vice President Robredo (mango banana).
3. Caffe Primo uses premium Italian beans aside from local beans from Davao and Benguet. Their location at Primus Hotel and Restaurant provides a relaxing environment away from the busy city. Try their freshly-made pizza, nachos that are overloaded with cheese and beef, fillet mignon, cold brew, and caramel macchiato. Their café is family-oriented and visitors can enjoy boardgames, books, and an entertainment area with a KTV and PlayStation 4.
4. Speaking of boardgames, there’s also Dice Boardgame Café in Magsaysay Avenue. They get their beans from Atok, Benguet. Their coffee goes well with their classic cheeseburger and nachos.
5. Travel Café PH offers keto-friendly cakes and breads aside from their coffee that are sourced from a supplier in Naga City. They can also be found in Magsaysay Avenue, where they have a small but cozy café. Try their homebaked cakes Le Concorde Cake, Mangga Brava, Colorful Flavored Silvanas, and their Tin Can Cakes.
6. The Coffee Table in Magsaysay Avenue is the first specialty coffee shop in Naga. They get their La Vazza beans from a Manila distributor, while their local beans are from Mt. Matutum in Polomolok, South Cotabato and from Iloilo. Their pasta, crepes, and sandwiches all go well with their coffee. The cafés advocacies include helping their employees reach their long-term goals (they have trained homegrown baristas) and helping local farmers from which they get their raw materials. Try their Bicol Express Pasta, their seafood and no-meat pasta dishes, their crepes, and their bestseller Banoffee Pie.
Aside from these five cafés, Santos also recommends trying Rafabel’s, Don Rodolfo’s, the Mediterranean-themed café Arabica, Tugawe Cove Café, Beanbag, Starmark Café, and White Bean Café.