MANILA -- The Philippines is without a doubt a nation of coffee drinkers — and a pandemic apparently did not change that.
In fact, when a popular coffee chain opened select branches for drive-thru during the enhanced community quarantine, numerous Filipinos flocked to the stores for their coffee fix, resulting in heavy traffic. Hours after reopening, due to the “overwhelming reception,” the coffee brand had to once again pause operations to support the government-mandated health protocols.
“A lot of Filipinos love coffee, but do not have coffee machines. Thus we wanted to develop the idea of providing instant brewed coffee,” Ma. Mikaela Maralit, co-founder of ABC Coffee said.
While most food and beverage businesses were crippled by the coronavirus, Maralit along with her business partner, Andre Bolinao, made the bold decision to launch ABC Coffee — in hopes of providing a safer alternative, where customers can skip the queue, and enjoy “cafe-style brew” without leaving the security of their homes.
“A lot of coffee shops had to close down or operate at a limited capacity. With our drip coffee bags, we saw that we can provide people with freshly brewed coffee -- coffee that can be made at home without any equipment,” Bolinao said.
He continued: “I guess you can say that it is our own little way of helping people cope with everything that is happening.”
The pair explained customers can enjoy brewed coffee in as fast as a minute by simply pouring a cup of hot water over their drip bag.
“As easy as ABC. It is made to be made whenever and wherever,” Bolinao enthused.
Although the government has relaxed the lockdown, with most establishments such as coffee shops reopening and easing to the “new normal,” the pair stressed their product is more than just an alternative for convenience during the ECQ.
According to Maralit, ABC Coffee showcases that “the country has always produced premium quality coffee that is competitive not only in taste, but also in terms of price.”
While a single order of coffee at most cafes ranges from P100 to P200, the entrepreneurs said each bag of drip coffee is a fraction of the cost, starting at only P30.
“In cafes, you have experienced baristas brewing your cup for you, so we put a lot of work in making our drip bags user-friendly and simple,” Bolinao said.
“We created a brewing guide with ‘pro tips’ for people to calibrate their brew and have great coffee at home,” he further explained.
Meanwhile, to rival the wide menu of cafes, and to debunk the idea black coffee is “plain and boring,” ABC Drip Coffee also developed a variety of flavors: Hazelnut, Vanilla Hazelnut, Caramel, and Mocha.
“We noticed that Filipinos love 3-in-1 coffee, and most of them are sweet, so we wanted to cater to that craving. Moreover, it is not hard to identify that Filipinos love to order flavored coffee in cafes,” she explained.
The two also said they are sourcing single origins and blends from “all over the country to continuously support local farmers.”
At present, the homegrown business flaunts 4 different single origins from Benguet, Kalinga, and Sagada.
“We aim to be the top-of-mind drip coffee brand in the Philippines, and we hope to showcase the premium quality Filipino coffee worldwide,” Maralit said.
Before carefully packing the coffee into the drip bags, Bolinao and Maralit conduct taste tests for each batch to ensure they are “fresh and of high quality.”
“We carefully weigh each bag using a digital scale because we are a believer in coffee-to-water ratios,” Maralit explained.
“We also make sure that our work area is clean and sanitized before we work,” she added.
According to the duo, however, the setup the lockdown imposed was not without challenges.
“It was hard for us to communicate since we are both working home. Conceptualizing, budgeting and executing the brand were all based on effective communication as we didn’t have any choice,” Maralit recalled.
“We also experienced delays in delivery of coffee beans, and we had a hard time looking for suppliers for packaging materials because a lot stopped operations due to the ECQ. We occasionally had difficulty with delivering orders because of the lack of riders for on-demand pick up providers. Thankfully, our customers were very understanding and supportive,” she added.
Despite the initial hurdles ABC Coffee surpassed their target.
“We set up sales goals during ECQ, and we ended up re-ordering from our suppliers because the support was overwhelming as we decided to ship not just in Metro Manila, but also nationwide,” Maralit said.
“As we interact with more customers, not only are they buying for themselves but also for gifting. I guess there are a lot of coffee addicts like us after all,” she added.
For more information, visit their Instagram page here.