Monday, August 31, 2009

I Tried to Do Handstands for You

* Well here we are once again, doing our respective jobs and stuck in the routine of life. Well most of you are on vacation right now but some of us aren't bound by national holidays. But routine is not that all bad. These moments of complacency, assurance of what would happen during the day, and repetitiveness are sometimes necessary, if not essential, in our lives. These lull moments will pass, then something insane will happen, be it a positive or negative form of insanity. Something totally unexpected or something anticipated and well-prepared for. We must bask in these moments and rest ourselves and find comfort in the arms of routine.

* One thing I realized after college is that students are among one of the luckiest people around. Why? Because they live in a routine. A life that is scheduled, planned out, and laid out for them. You know that this subject is on this time, you know when your midterms are, you can prepare yourself for a long weekend and stuff. Things like that. Although there are some elements of unpredictability, like a pop quiz or a typhoon, or an unplanned failed exam, you have to admit that the life of a student is structured in the structurest way of a structure!

* When you wake up after your graduation you'll realize that you are no longer bound by some school's requirements. Unless you found work early and you have to go to the office at once. In my case, I didn't have work for a year. I did the classic PMA (pahinga muna anak) way after grad. Typical soul-searching and stuff. I strongly recommend that to anyone who is reading this that would be grauating this year. Unless your parents are pressuring you or you want to earn money immediately. But being a bum really detoxifies your inner-being. haha! Yeah it does. It gives you time to think of what you really want to do and totally prepare for it.

* And now here I am, after two years, still in a routine, but it's a routine that I made for myself. No one's asking me to blog or maintain several social networking accounts. Our bosses in Dumaguete didn't tell me to do that (yes, this is a full-time labor of love). But I want to. At least the pressure comes from myself. I'm writing this blog because I want aspiring young entreps to know what goes on in the heart and mind of a 23-year old full-time cafe owner in a little town called Los Banos. Yeah, these are just random thoughts indeed.

* A friend of mine saw our new paper cups and told me, "now you're like Starbucks!" Uh, yeah, somehow. I wasn't really offended, I don't want to be a hypocrite, our crew hangs out at Starbucks when we can, but from the start of the business we didn't really want to be like Starbucks. Maybe in terms of brand recognition in the Los Banos (UPLB) and Dumaguete (Silliman) areas, yes we do want to be known for our good coffee. But in terms of the overall image, we decided to stray away from the quiet-couch-WiFi crowd. Instead, we welcomed the noise from a thousand youths and played genres from techno to RnB to metal (right now we're alternating indie singer-songwriters and post-grunge playlists).

* I have something planned out for the cafe this year. As you have noticed we have mellowed down on the posters, videos, promos and stuff. But no, we did not slack off. We're just coming up with something different, something new. I won't tell you what it is yet, I don't want to spoil it! It's still in the drawing board. The question will always be (at least for me), "What does it take to be different? What will set us apart?" Oh, I'm loving the dynamism of this job. After a few years I hope we can get good at this.

* I view my life like that of a musician or a novelist. You spend a lot of time under -the -radar, reflecting on what to do, what to write, what new material to create and all that stuff. People won't hear from you and they'll think you're dead. And then you come out of nowhere and come up with a mega project that's totally cool. Yeah, that's the kind of life I like.

* Like what my friend Aaron Zara told me last night, "I like your life, it's like everyday's an adventure." Yes it is, and thanks for reminding me cause sometimes I tend to lose sight of it. God bless everybody!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Weeds was Entitled Weeds Not Just Because of the Weed

Photo: Our new 12 oz paper cups, yeah!

[Soundtrack: Final Straw - Snow Patrol]

I was about to start this week's blog entry with the word "last" but noticed that I started a bunch of my blog entries with the words "last week". And that's why I started with this notice. Can I use the word "last" now? I think I will...

Last year, we devoted much of our time doing PR work online, making ads (posters and videos), and the works. This year I thought that we'll concentrate more on training our baristas and strengthening ties with our newfound industry friends. More on the technical side this year. I think we've done enough work introducing ourselves to the world (for now) last year. We're happy that as of this entry we already have 1014 friends on Facebook. We may not know them all (some of them I just added on Suggested Friends, some of them invited us) but I'm glad that you guys are part of what's going on in our lives as baristas and young entrepreneurs.

I was deleting emails from our inbox last night and I was surprised to see that we actually receive fan mail! Wow, I can't believe I've been ignoring those because all I see are the words Facebook and Multiply in our inbox. To those people who've been mailing us, thanks for the encouraging words! I hope the advice I'd given you would help you in your own future endeavors. We're not industry experts but we're glad to share our experiences with you. Here's one email:

Subject: Inspired By You
From: Niña Luigi Chua-Cabardo

Hi Joyce and Jabez,

I stumbled upon your cafe in Entrepreneur magazine and I have been thinking about your endeavor ever since. It has truly inspired me to take action on a long-time dream, which is to put up my own cafe. And you guys are so young, too! Congratulations on your success! If you have any tips on how to get started on this (which do I do first?!), please do let me know!

Hope to visit Los Baños one of these days so I can try your concoctions ;) Thanks and more blessings to you!

Inspiring people to actually pursue their dream gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. Whenever I feel I haven't done anything significant, here are some things that really gets me going and also inspire me to do better. I actually already made a sorta template reply for people asking for advice on setting up their own shop. Just a list of some things that I learned from Phil and Cedric Ho at Highlander Coffee Academy and other people I've talked to.

One thing I've learned from those guys is that you don't have to monopolize the industry. It's great that there are many small shops coexisting in one place. It offers variety, hosts different types of people, and also puts less pressure on you to actually accommodate everyone on the planet.

I've been really really busy last week. I have this 8am to 2pm secretarial job for my father at TOPIC Phils. every Monday to Wednesday. I think it's been three weeks now. I drive to San Pablo then back to Los Banos in the afternoon to setup the cafe at 3pm. We open at 4pm then I hangout for awhile then go home to prepare for another day. I still work at the cafe during Thursdays to Saturdays. Oh the things people do to get by.

Last Saturday morning was really very tiring. We were supposed to pickup the paper cups at Cubao at 9am. But then we were bitten by the "lakas trippings" bug. We decided that we take Ramhil home to Tanauan, Batangas after work then head straight to Cubao. We brought our former barista Bessy along too.

So after work we went straight to Tanauan and had "dinner" at Jollibee. Then went to Cubao. Realizing that our meet-up place was still closed, we went to Ortigas to look for a place to chill. We were looking for a Starbucks but unfortunately we got lost. The place really looks different without the light of day. We stopped at a Chowking but there was no CR. So we went to McDo instead, had our pancakes and coffee and stayed their until 7 to 7:30am. Talking about life and all that comedy-drama stuff.

We went back to Cubao at the Navigators building. I toured Manong and Bessy around and then we fell asleep on the couch. Thanks to Noynoy for accommodating us! Then the Primatech people came, did the transaction, and then we're off again. The traffic was horribly amazing, it was freakin' hot inside the multicab, with all the boxes containing the 5000 paper cups inside it. It was hell on earth, the multicab's fans were blowing out demons with pitchforks on our faces. The Creedence Clearwater Revival album I was listening to repeated 3 times and we were still in the same place! We got home at 12:30pm. Then Manong and I overslept, we woke up at 3pm instead of the usual 2pm. We were late. But when we got to the cafe, I decided to take my time and just chill, not worry about anything or panic. I opened the cafe alone at 4pm, customers went in but it was all cool. Iba lang talaga pag laseng sa puyat.

[Soundtrack: Futures - Jimmy Eat World]

After closing that day we went straight to Tagaytay to have bulalo on Dan's birthday. Happy 22nd bday dude! Then we stopped at Petron, SLEX on the way home to have breakfast and coffee. As expected, I woke up at 5pm the next day. I finished season 1 of Weeds. Actually the series inspired me to write today. I don't know why but the inspiration that a comedy-drama series can give me is often unparalleled. Props to My Boys season 1 for inspiring me for our first year at the cafe. Trust me, I learned a lot of things from that series.

Am I stressed? I don't think so, doing nothing stresses me more. I think we will all have cancer in the future anyway. So do what you have to do right now. Very bad advice for those who want to save money. Don't listen to me for financial advice. I don't like money and math.

AND as for this week, we hope that a lot of you would be taking out our hot coffee. The coffee cups really look good (see the picture above). Nice work by the Primatech people (not the Heroes Primatech people, ok? hehe).

Well thanks for reading these things that's been going on in my head. A lot of people won't care but some people just have to do this. They just have to blog. It feels really good.

Okay, I'll see you all at the cafe. I have some errands to do. Earlier this morning I hung out with my tito Ed Cvelich, a long-time family friend. We talked about a lot of stuff and had coffee at the cafe. Yeah, I opened it for him (because Ate Mila was cleaning anyway). He bought a t-shirt and I gave him a bag of beans to take home to the States. Hope you read this Tito Ed!

God bless us all!

May caffeine be the only drug you take.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Search for the Ultimate Soundtrip Experience

I remember our first set of speakers when we opened the cafe last year. It was a pair of desktop speakers with a left side mini-component speaker I salvaged from my room during my college days semi-plugged in to the desktop PC's headphone thingy, socket-plug-chorva. Ano ba tawag dun?! Anyway, it was the same set of speakers that I used in my room back in college. When the cafe was still under construction, I would come at night when the workers have gone home then test my speakers at the site. I told myself, "ayos na soundtrip to, ok naman pale e."

Then of course, taste and preference evolve over time. When our former cook, Dan, arrived he let us use his grandpa speakers with a mini subwoofer. It was a little better than mine. Dan argued that mine lacked the bass that his set can offer. I can't argue with that because it's true. So we used that pair for a long, wait, loooooong time.

But during the course of the year, I finally got irritated when one of the speakers lost its sound and the jack connecting the speakers to the laptop got busted. I got an iPod Nano for Christmas and the speakers kept on draining it before the day ended. We needed a solution, fast. I can't work without music.

When I went to Singapore for my barista training the following year, I purchased a JBL On Stage Micro Portable for my iPod and the cafe. I was wandering around this electronics shop and docked my iPod on every speaker I saw. The On Stage really blew me away, it was really small but the sound was very very good, it was excellent, in fact. When I got back, the VERY FIRST thing I did was showoff my speaker and test it at the cafe. I played L-O-V-E by Nat King Cole. Wow, it was so swabe pare!

I kept on raving about the JBL speaker, telling everyone that it's so good and it even chargers your iPod, and all that stuff. Salesman talk. But as usual, it came to a point that groovin' with the On Stage got old. I even got sad when the cafe noise drowns out the music.

Music is my life, you can read it at our high school yearbook. It's a personal truth. I'm not a gamer, I'm not athletic (at least not anymore), I don't drink, I don't go out much, I don't even watch TV anymore. But what I do aside from making coffee is listen to music, read music mags, write and record songs, and play my instruments. That's what I do in my room. I'm always in search for the ultimate soundtrip experience.

Okay so we bought this Ozaki Woofer of Woofers set at ATC yesterday. But there's a good story behind that purchase. Please allow me to blog about it (haha!). So here it goes...

I was on my way to Lady Gaga's concert, and I was trying out my SkullCandy Hesh on Lady Gaga's album, The Fame, on the way to Araneta. I like the way it drowns out the noise then you hear absolutely nothing from the outside world. When we got to the concert, I already had an excess amount of Gaga and I remembered the Walkman days when I used to listen to music album by album. It was during those days that you form a strong bond with an artist and an album. Anyway, it was a perfect jam. I thought that since we have a cafe, I have the perfect venue for people to listen to music and I hope that they too would have a good jam the way I did.

On the way home, Joyce played this really kick-ass playlist on her iTouch. I was reeeally, enthralled (wow, first time I used that word on this blog) by the sequence and selection of songs that includes Tonic classics, Dishwalla, Swirl 360, a new OLP song, 90s post-grunge classics, early 2000 alternative hits, and the works. I have to admit that I had a perfect soundtrip on the way home. Na-high ako (ask Bessy how that feels). Then I thought, "Ang ganda sana magpatugtog ng mga ganyan kung maganda ang mga speakers sa cafe, yung hindi nalulunod yung music, tamang chillax lang, waaah pano kaya..."

Then last week, Manong, Jeg, Bessy, and I hanged out at our "happy place", the Starbucks at Petron, SLEX. As I listened to their soft music playing from their superior Bose speakers, I told the guys, "Tingnan nyo, ang sarap makining ng music pag ganito e! Kahit gano na karami ang tao, rinig mo parin yung tumutugtog!"

Of course, I didn't have the money to buy the superior power of a Bose, so I had to settle my soul for something else. I remembered we saw this 6-piece Edifier speaker set at ATC when we watched GI JOE. I told Retz that we had to buy that, we just HAD TO. I really can't stand seeing my little JBL speaker huffing and puffing from the corner trying its best to sing the music that I like.

When we finally got the chance to come back to ATC I went straight to the speaker section and told the "kuya" stationed over there to test the speakers. Then we found out that that kind of speaker doesn't work with an iPod or a laptop. It needed a desktop PC and a kick-ass sound card to make it all work. Shattered dreams.

But the kind "kuya" showed us their other speakers. All in all we tested 5 sets. It was very crucial, I think we spent about an hour listening to the quality of the speakers. We tried different genres of songs on each. Then when the choices went down to the final two, the 2-piece Edifier speaker and the Ozaki Woofer of Woofers, I had to play and test a single song on the two sets to judge the sound quality. I decided that whichever played the BEST version of Crack the Shutters by Snow Patrol would get the final nod. Hands down, the Ozaki won. Plus the "treble" feature beat out the FM radio feature of the Edifier.

It didn't matter how hot it was inside the multicab and how tired and wasted we were from watching Hellboy 2 and Resident Evil: Regeneration prior to our trip to ATC, we went straight to the cafe to test the speakers. Retz and I spent an eternity looking for a connector that would extend the speakers' cables so we could place it on strategic areas. We didn't find any that day. But thanks to Julius and the Eusebio Electronics Shop, we got a pair today. Thank you!

Retz went all OC on trying to find the perfect angles for the speakers. The final test was a good Boom Boom Pow by the Black Eyed Peas. And yeah, it was groovin'! Finally.

Well I never thought telling a story about buying a set of speakers would be this long. But that's how it went.

As you can see, Cafe Antonio is not just a story about coffee, it's also a story about the experiences of the people inside it and how everything falls into place. And now you know how those speakers got pumping at Canton.

One last thing, ang galeng mo pare kung natapos mo tong basahin! haha! God bless! Thanks for the support!


* Blueberry muffins and Apple Cinnamon muffins are available again at the cafe. Now only 15 pesos.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

It's Getting Better All the Time

* Last week, our Cafe Antonio baristas, Neil, Ramhil and myself, along with our friend Al Labadan II, went to the World Food Expo 2009 at the World Trade Center to watch the student-level barista competition. We also bought some coffee and tasted the free espressos at the booths. It was a good experience for all of us. I really wanted to show my baristas different kinds of espresso machines, taste different espressos, and watch pro and amateur baristas at work. It's all part of their training as baristas atthe cafe. And the WOFEX fieldtrip really got us inspired to work even harder and perfect our craft. We also met some coffee people who gave us their calling cards. I hope to get in touch with them soon. Special shoutout to Wilma Serrano and the Equilibrium guys, thanks for the tickets and thanks for your support!

* Before the WOFEX trip, we really didn't know what to do because with the baristas gone, no one will work at the cafe, and it's a Friday, our best day of the week. We didn't want to close for the sake of the trip. It's a good thing, our former barista, Bessy (probably the most serious student/trainee I ever had) was available for Friday. She doesn't work at the cafe anymore, but still she agreed to fill our shoes on that day, even though it's her birthday week. We really appreciated your help! Bessy, Joyceann, and Manong were able to serve 97 customers that day generating 9,000 pesos in gross sales. That's our highest Friday sales this year! We're really glad that everything worked out just fine. We had our trip and still we were able to open the cafe with the help of our volunteers.

* Again and again, we would like to say thank you very much to our customers, both new and die-hard fans. We're very happy to say that each week keeps surpassing the previous week's performance. And because of your support we were able to print the 16 oz plastic cups we are using now. Our 12 oz hot paper cups are coming soon, and they have printed Cafe Antonio cardboard sleeves, thanks to Primatech Paper Soulutions. Slowly but surely we are trying to improve our products for you guys. Our barista training is in "adik-mode", we would like to serve perfect shots of espresso every time and make coffee art every time we pour milk into your cappuccino or latte. The best is yet to come, thank you very much! We're looking forward to a better week. God bless us all and continue praying for our young crew!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

It's a Brand New Month, Let the Games Begin!

* Last week was simply terrific. Highest weekly gross sales and highest total number of customers since anniversary week! Friday was showtime at its finest. Even Ramhil got exhausted from making sandwiches and pasta. That was quite a challenge! Now we can pay the bills and still have enough for a week's worth of gas, hehe. Our hats off to the happy community of Los Banos. Thanks, thanks, and thanks! Bongga ka day!

* New FoM for August! The CHOCNUT FROTHICCINO! Actually it's not really new, it was last year's August FoM too. For some of you it's new. In this drink you get to enjoy 4 pieces of Chocnut in three different ways. Two are blended with the drink, giving the drink its Choc-nutty taste (plus other magical stuff and pixie dust of course), one is chopped into chunks and stirred, and the last one is diced and sprinkled on top of the whipped cream! Definitely a treat for those who love Chocnut. Order one this week, it's certainly a classic! Plus, it's also one of the cheapest and easiest FoM's to make. Unlike the assembly line effort put into last month's Blueberry Cheesecake Blended Cream.

* NEW MERCH!!! Available at The new t-shirt features the Cafe Antonio Coffee logo with the word "Los Banos" at the bottom. Classic gold and black color combo. We will only produce 10 this week. If we run out of stocks just request your order. Only 250 pesos each.

As for the mugs, we have two new designs from Azzul Grapika. One is the Cafe Antonio Elbi - Laguna map-themed paint splatter mug, and the other one is the Neil Rebua Cafe Antonio Elbi Barista Fan Mug. Only 5 mugs per design are available this week. Php 200 each.

* Our paper cups are on its way this August! Our hot coffee will finally be available in 12oz cups when you order it to-go! Thanks to Primatech Paper Solutions for making it all possible for us.

* See you at the cafe! God bless us all!