Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Holiday Reflection Typed By The Non-Dominant Hand

* I was a little hesitant about blogging this week because I really couldn't tell if I could type a long blog with just my left hand. My right arm will be in a fiberglass cast for two weeks, today's my second day of strong-hand immobility. It's starting to get itchy. You see I have extremely swollen ligaments around my right wrist that may become a major tear. Anyway, I've been online since coming home to San Pablo last Wednesday, I thought I might as well channel my status update-typing energy to that of a blog-typing one. And so here I am on this white text box composing my blog entry for this special week. Wow, I really type fast with one hand.

* It's a pleasure for me to report that our Yuletide Concert and Christmas Party last Saturday was a blast! A lot of people were there and we even had a gingerbread man-making contest sponsored by Ate Marisse. Of course the highlight of the party was the CAnton staff exchange gift. Everyone went wild because everybody got what they wanted. It was also a treat to celebrate the occasion with Segatron, LIME, and Yield Avenue. These guys really put on a show and they really enjoyed the food! I think Sega ate the most baked macaroni! Haha! 

* The CAnton gang had enough energy to go to Tagaytay and shoot the Sigaw music video by Yield Avenue. We were there from Monday to Wednesday. We actually shot the video on Monday and just spent the following days chilling, eating, and looking at the nighttime clouds. That was like a staff retreat for us, together with a few of our CAnton gang-mates. Well, it certainly did recharge us, our spirits not our bodies. Most of us got sick when we got home. We will resume the shoot at the cafe on the 27th. I would just like to thank Julius and his mom for letting us shoot in their house. To Sir TJ, thanks for doing this pro bono! And to Khitz and Yield Avenue for trusting us to help them in their music video.

* So that's what happened these past few days. We've been through a lot this year and I'm very pleased that the year ended on a high note. I'd like to share an illustration that I just thought of during one of my reflection times:

For those of you who have been blog readers since 2008 I guess you've read about one of my old illustrations that I always use on pep talks and speeches. The Vegetable Illustration. When I was a child I used to eat all the vegetables first on my plate so that I could enjoy the meat and the rice later. It means that you should do first what you are required to do before you can "fool around", act silly, and do what you want. 

Now for the new one, a somehow related thought. Clean your room first before you can play in it again. You see, we're a happy bunch of kids at the cafe, we love fun. But we had to deal with a lot of things and ball sheaths before we permit ourselves to be loose and have fun in our jobs. The year 2010 was a stressful year, and a lot of cleaning up was required. Example, leaving the old site and transferring to LB Square; the legal battles in LB Square. You can't just play and play. You have to be responsible enough to clean up your mess and other people's mess (if required) too. So the next time you see your room, think about yourself and let your room be a reflection of who you are.

* Jesus cleaned up our mess for us so that we could live in this world with freedom. Remember Him this Christmas and start cleaning your room, He wants us to enjoy it! Merry Christmas y'all!!!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Instant Coffee Goodness in Real Coffee

* I write many kinds of blogs for CAnton. Sometimes I write reflective/inspirational "heart" pieces. There are times when I just rant and type my heart out and then end the article neatly. There are also times when I just tell a story or report an event or occasion. When the noodle ain't working I resort to looking for a neat article to repost or when I run out of words to type I just do a photoblog with cool captions. But I also write informative blogs. It's one of those FYI types. Or "now you know" or "just so you know" kindathings.

* One night, the beautiful fairy that occasionally visits my mind reappeared and reminded me of the age old question, "how do you get people to drink espresso?" It's been a challenge for us baristas to promote the espresso as a beverage of accessible sophistication. It's a new concept here in our country, actually. Only a few people know that an espresso is just a shot of pure coffee joy joy. It's pure coffee joy joy if it's prepared well, it's pure coffee hell hell when it isn't prepared correctly. 

* I'm originally a fan of black coffee, it's not until the barista competitions and barista jams that I have found a renewed interest in drinking and preparing lattes and cappuccinos. I wanted people to taste the coffee and not the other stuff but then I realized that it's hard for people to transition from something familiar to something that is not within their comfort zone of taste. So I thought, as a barista, I have to facilitate the journey of young coffee drinkers, or what I like to call, The Coffee-Drinking Youth. 

* What's the most familiar coffee taste in the country? You're probably right, it's the taste of instant coffee. It goes well with pandesal every almusal. I have to admit, instant coffee still has a certain appeal to me. It's the kind of coffee most of us grew up with. And most Filipinos have already been endeared by its "safe" taste. Not too strong, not too sweet.

* We can't sell instant coffee at the cafe, that's for sure! But we can replicate it's taste! The concept of 30 mL shots fascinate me. So I tried to mix a shot of milk, a shot sugar syrup, and a shot of espresso in a cup. Then I added hot water. Kaboom. Bring on the pandesal. We promoted the drink last night and we got awesome feedback. Although it tastes like instant coffee, I told our customers that what they're drinking has a real shot of espresso in it. So you get the espresso and the familiar taste of instant coffee in one hot cup. It's a good transition drink, we will call it the Instant CAnton. Thank you LB for giving us the nickname CAnton. Try it tonight, if you have leftover pandesal, you can bring it. I like peanut butter, bring some too.

Monday, December 6, 2010

There's No "I" in Famly

* I'm a very very "hermitty" person. I mean, I can lock myself up in my room for days watching DVDs, playing NBA Live and stuff. All I need is a bag of supplies from 7-11. And I usually don't like guests inside the house because it would disrupt my tranquility. That is why the idea of "inviting people" into my life seems like a rather odd, ambivalent, push-and-pull, like-unlike,  oxymoronic paradigm to me. Oxymoronic paradigm? Is there such a thing? What?

* All these years of working at the cafe, several people have come and gone. And yet the CAnton gang remains a tightly knit group. It started small, mostly composed of my high school batchmates, but now we've formed a loosely organized clique with the cafe as the common denominator. My parents were right. These people have become my family here in LB. My two older sisters have their own families to take care of and I have the cafe. 

* Uh, no we're not an arrested development kind of group that can't move on with life and swings life away drinking coffee and playing boardgames. I'd rather see ourselves as people who aren't rushing life but are mature enough to handle the real world. I like that, I just thought of that last night. I was in "muni-muni" mode while I was reading Mon's book, Why does Popcorn Pop. 

* That's what I am actually, a person who is not in a hurry to grow old but has matured enough to handle whatever sh*t the world gives him. It's a subject for pep talks, definitely. There's no "I" in famly. You can see that, look at it again. And without a famly, in whatever context it is, you can't have that too many roadtrips. Someone has to drive and pay for the gas. Hehe. Yeah! 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Double Ristretto Americano with a Shot of Milk, a Pump of Vanilla, 14 mL of Sugar Syrup with Some Cinnamon, Please!

* I just woke up at 5:00 pm today. What a slob. My throat felt a little dry and my head was as heavy as whatever-metaphor-you-could-think-of-that-relates-to-the-word-heavy (because I can't think of one right now). What a great way to start the day! Nothing a little Pito-Pito tea would heal. So I put 3 more tea bags into my backpack before I left for the cafe. Strummed some songs on the guitar after taking a bath for good measure. Assurance of a good day? Haha, not really. Who would have thought that singing a song to yourself before leaving the house is a good form of motivation? You do that? Okay.

* Most of the Christmas decorations are up, what a pleasant sight as I approached the cafe's frontage. It sure takes away all the stress. The Yummings Super Bake Sale is ongoing too, I had a sampler of the choco truffle (sweets pa!). 

*  The CAnton staff had a long day yesterday. We started the day with a reflection from Matthew Paul Turner's book The Coffeehouse Gospel. And then we had a pictorial of our food and drinks. I give kudos to the men and women who dedicated their lives making the food and drinks for the shoot and the brave man who took the photos. You are very brave indeed. After that, new barista, Ian, and I went to their house to get their fun van. That's because the crew decided to shop for Christmas decor supplies at SM City San Pablo. Unfortunately, the van had a flat tire. It took Ian and I an eternity to change the tire and have it vulcanized. We ended up with dirty hands and wet clothes, that's because it rained very hard. Perfect timing. However, the incident was a bonding experience for us, good times.

* When we got back from San Pablo we installed the lights at the al fresco area and stared at it for quite a long time. Then we decided to let Kuya Jeg and the girls handle the decor for the cafe's interiors. The boys, on the other hand, played Counter Strike. After closing the shop, the rest of the crew joined in. Counter Strike, not the decorating. We finished before 5 am. And that' we roll.

* We'll be giving away these cards (see photo above) this December when you order and you'll get 20 pesos off on any coffee-based drink on your next order. I'll be printing them tonight. Cafe Antonio Sessions XII is on Saturday, be there! Buy a LIME shirt!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Spread the Jam Evenly on the Sides

* Seems like jamming has become a common sight at the café nowadays, be it in music or coffee. Last Thursday, we held our third Pinoy Barista Jam, an activity that started as a practice session for our barista friends from other cafes (Bo’s Coffee Club, Al Fresco Café, Jet Black Java) who got in the semifinal round of the Grand Barista Cup last August.

* A barista jam is not a new concept. Coffeehouses in other countries conduct regular jams where baristas from different shops come together in a single venue to share and display their skills in preparing different espresso-based beverages like lattes and cappuccinos. The jam goes on and on until supplies run out.

* Here in Los Banos , Café Antonio is a willing host for such jams in support of our profession as baristas and our group, Pinoy Barista. We want to provide a venue where baristas can make as many lattes as they want without worrying about how much each drink is costing them. Registration is free. The coffee beans and milk are provided. But baristas can also bring their own milk and beans to the jam.

* It is this kind of freedom in our barista jams that the barista enjoys the most. The expression of creativity has no limits. We can do latte art on almost anything we can get our hands on. And aside from providing a free venue, we are also able to provide good quality souvenir photos of the barista’s coffee art courtesy of our photographer friends and resident Pinoy Barista photographer, Zadl Suministrado of Nikon Club Philippines.

* Among those who participated in last week’s jam were senior baristas Mike and Lucky (2010 Philippine Barista Cup Champion) of Bo’s Coffee Club in Cebu; latte art extraordinaire Christian of Classic Confections; Andy (2010 Grand Barista Cup Semifinalist) of Jet Black Java;  former San Francisco Coffee  barista, Michael; and our Café Antonio baristas Neil, Ramhil, Joyceann, Jeg, and Ian. Official Pinoy Barista t-shirts were also sold during the event to help promote the group and support its cause. Free coffees were given away to everyone who went to the shop.

Thank you very much to all those who participated and witnessed the event! We hope we could organize more events such as this.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Word Evil Is Overrated, There's Another Word For It And It Starts With An "H"

* We've been closed for a week and everybody's been wondering what the hell happened to us. LB Square is under new management and the transition that happened last week from the old one to the new one was, let's just say, HYPER-HASSLE. I won't tell you the details here, but I'm sure Elbi peeps already know the skinny on it. I think the HYPER-HASSLE description says it all anyway.

* We've been through a lot these past several days, I feel like I'm 40 years old already. But God is good, in spite of it all, the Indie Music Fest pushed through last Saturday night and a LOT of people came. It's our first time to organize an event of this magnitude so it was a learning experience for us all. Thirteen bands were supposed to perform, unfortunately, only seven came on time and performed. We're sorry for that.

* What's important right now is we're rollin' once again and taking the punches as they come. It's a treat working here at the cafe, you get to taste all of life's delicacies, be it exotic emotional surprises or routine mainstream favorites. When you see the big picture, viewing it from afar, let's say the moon, you'll see the beauty of it all. Just like the Earth, from afar it's beautiful but when you go down and actually experience the intricacies and the details of it all, you'll find out that the beauty of it all comes from the never-ending conflict between the good guys and the hassle-doers. 

* Have a good week everybody. Get your free coffee on Wednesday, it's Barista Jam time!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

At the Back of Green Checkered Shorts

* "Sorry trapik" was our former cashier/barista, Mon's usual line entering the cafe's door and arriving for work with his trademark shades and his face smirking from the heat. You can really feel the hassle he's been through once he starts talking to you, his face paints it all in full color. It's definitely a portrait I'll miss seeing on Monday mornings. 

* Even before Mon became an employee, he has been the cafe's unofficial go-to guy in times of need...since 2008. He was our busboy and cashier whenever Retz was not around. We didn't have a lot of "bench players" back then so Mon was always a trustworthy option and was designated to be the main man on the counter taking orders and talking to the customers. It was also at the cafe where Mon met the love of his life, Jenni, our friend and high school batchmate. (Trivia: We met Mon in college, we didn't go to the same high school; he's also a Batangueno).

* In his last year in UPLB, Mon became our housemate. And because of that, he became used to our way of living: staying up all night and sleeping very late. Thankfully, he graduated in 2010 with a degree in Biology. And you all know the story after that, he trained to become a barista and worked at the cafe, just like the rest of us here. He started in June and spent his last day of official work last Friday, October 29. It was an amazing 4 months working with him.

* He wants to pursue a career related to his course, that's why he had to leave. Well a lot of great people started out as baristas early in their lives. It's a good work experience...and it also makes for a cool life story. 

* So Mon (or Ralph, as his name pin says), thank you very much for everything. We couldn't have done it without you, that's very true. I hope someday when you take your kids and your family to the cafe you'll proudly look up at the shop's signage and tell them, "You know guys, we built this city...we built this city on rock and roll!"

Our first halloween costume party, 10/30/10

Monday, October 25, 2010

Defeat Breathes Life To Those Who Are Probably Asleep

* Los Banos is a dead place during sem breaks. But interestingly enough, the cool sem break breeze assures you of a tranquil day ahead. It's kinda like expecting a state of boredom (which sucks) but at the back of your mind you know everything's gonna be just fine.

* For the CAnton crew, the sem break is a time of refreshing. We've been through a lot this year so every siesta opportunity stolen during our working hours is sanctioned and sponsored by the mythic Filipino spirit, "Maawakanaman Sasarilimo". 

* The staff meeting last week was a good one. Free donuts and music from Arnel Pineda and Journey. Certainly draws a crowd! Tomorrow we will have another one. We don't have a time limit for our staff meetings. We just go on and on until we run out of things to talks about. *talks about?! edit ko sana kaso wag na, parang Jason Mraz lang.

* One of the fruits of that meeting was the Hanged Bears Sick Halloween Decor Concept (!/album.php?aid=99613&id=1389378976). We didn't want a pumpkin-themed halloween so there you go. Kudos to Ate Marisse, she's the one responsible for the idea of hanging 'em toys. She is a sick person. hehe.

* Hey, on Saturday we have a costume party. Wear a specific Cafe Antonio food or drink and you'll get that item for free! The staff will be in costume too. I have a good one, hopefully it would be the scariest.

* We just repackaged our Tumblr page. We turned it into our Cafe Antonio Sessions Webzine ( You'll see write-ups and articles from different artists from Cafe Antonio Sessions. 

* If you want to chill this sem break just come to the cafe, we made a lot of free lattes last night. Too bad, only two customers stayed late. We're practicing for the Pinoy Barista Jam 3 on November 17. 

* Okay, go back to sleep or whatever.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Answers Come in the Form of a Magazine

* There are two things that give me creative inspiration: the living room television, and a secondhand bookstore filled with magazines. It's like a gasoline station. A convenience store. An ink refill station.

*  I tried the Internet to look for ideas. But the myriad sites that are readily available in a single click overwhelms me. It's too "free". There are so many places to visit. Somehow, I want boundaries and limitations so I can narrow down my options and concentrate on readily available ideas. The TV is limited because there are only a number of channels I watch. I wait for the commercials because that's where you can find the good stuff: background music, 30-second ads, neat trailers, the whole shebang. The local roadside bookstore, on the other hand, is like a personal portal. There's magic in there. It's like the Internet but you can actually touch the pages and roll it up and use it as a weapon, without regret. 

* I've been reading magazines since 1990. My favorite back then was Asia Week. Magazine-reading is a strong Flores family tradition. I go home to San Pablo and read Time Magazine first before watching TV. Sometimes I don't watch TV at all. 

* After a slew of cafe activities, it's time for us to take a break together with the students' sem break. Very fitting indeed. So I said to myself, "Two weeks with no students. It should give us time to think about the holiday season. I need ideas". And it came. The ideas came in the form of a magazine, a single magazine ad. I bought a magazine with Jenny Lewis on the cover. It's actually my second magazine with Jenny Lewis on the cover.

* I won't tell you what magazine that is. But it really helped all of us narrow down a concept and make it concrete.

* So if you're an impatient reader like me, pick up a magazine. It switches topics in every turn. I always start reading from the back page, I don't know why. Pick the most obscure magazine title out there and it may help you start or find a new hobby. Oh yes, magazines never go offline, just out of stock. It's for keeps.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Mayer Mayer On The Wall

* A couple of weeks ago, my friends and I were watching John Mayer perform a very intimate gig at a not-so-intimate venue, the SM Mall of Asia concert grounds. Being a decade late before having his first concert here, Mayer had a hard time packing all of his hits in one set. Even though we enjoyed the concert a lot, we wanted to follow it up with a gig of our own, a "make-up" concert for fans who didn't get to watch because of the harsh weather and the insane ticket prices. 

* Originally, the John Mayer Tribute Night was conceptualized a very long time ago, I think that was back in June, when LIME guitarist, Eric, and I were brainstorming for the whole Cafe Antonio Sessions concept. At that time, my friends and I weren't even decided yet if we were going to watch the John Mayer concert. The formation of the band, LIME, the hype of the Sessions, the hangover from the concert, the unpredictable poetic beauty of the rain, and the arrival of Eric's girlfriend, Ise, from Singapore, all fell into place to make last night's gig a very memorable one.

July and Joyce setting up the al fresco area

Gabes Torres and the talented Syndesmos Trio

LIME at their first major gig as a band

* I would like to give an A++ for effort to my CAnton family for making the gig a reality and a success. I told Lenard, the vocalist of LIME, that this is the most well-prepared gig that we have organized at Sessions. The poster was designed by Jeg and July, it was posted online on time, it was tagged like crazy. The poster inspired me to make a promo video. We asked for donations of used glass jars online for the al fresco area. Jeg, July, and Joyce conceptualized the whole thing and prepared it on the day of the gig. Retz and Joyceann took on barista duties to accommodate the legions of customers and fans who came at the day of the gig. Even Jeg helped at the bar. Ate Marisse and Mavericks lent us their tables and chairs so we can offer more seating and dining space. She even backed-up Retz in his cashier duties. Ralph and Neil of 9 In. Ni Neil were also there to help with the transportation of the equipment. Our photographers, Zadl and Dan, were both present (finally!) to cover the event extensively and provide us with kick-ass profile pics for Facebook. The rest is up to Gabes and LIME. And  as usual, they gave everyone an amazing show!

* It was tiring, that's for sure. The logistics were a nightmare. But there's a thrill to it that makes you want to do it again and again and again. The high it gives you is very addicting. Sessions is a unique music experience. It's not just any other gig both for the performers and the spectators. It's a driven, passionate, and focused series of gigs. No fees involved, no money included. It's a pure showcase of talent and artistic freedom. Let's come back to the reason why we listen to music, it's for the beauty and appreciation of it. No more, no less. 

* What else can I say? Great things happen when good friends work together.

The CAnton gang fattening up at Shakey's

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Colored Photobook and A Long Playing Record

* Since waking up this morning (thank you Vince), I have been thinking of a way to effectively communicate our experiences these past two weeks, or, uh, one and a half weeks. Sorry we were so busy, I couldn't find or make time to blog. So this is the time! It's make a photo blog! Haha, pang tamad! I'll put captions, don't worry.

Thursday, September 23 - Latte Art Jam

* In this photo, you can see that we did not include Neil's eyes, you might get hypnotized. The guy on the right (faaar right) is our coach and good friend, Lanz. He's in Singapore now, starting a new barista career at a new shop. He'll be working there for two years! Thanks Lanz, I hope you enjoy your stay there with Mam Vanessa. On his left is Kent, he's a bartender who tried to use his skills at the barista jam. He did quite well for a first-timer! We jammed from 12 noon to 4 in the afternoon, practicing latte art and pulling shots like there's no tomorrow! Neil, developed a temporary latte phobia after the activity. Congrats to Kuya Jeg for making his first rosetta leaf design! 

Friday, September 24 - Slumbooks from Witty Will Save the World

* Wow, looks like everybody on campus will be holding one of these on the second sem! We didn't expect to get 30 plus orders of the uber cool-let slumbook/notebook in just a few days! Next batch will be available, hmm, maybe next week. We will start gathering pre-orders this week. Remember, pay as you receive!

Friday, September 24 - Barako Concoctions Competition at the 1st Batangas Food and Beverage Exposition

* Thanks to Joyce's friend, Melodz Melo of La Salle-Lipa, I had the chance to judge my first competition! Yey! I brought along Mon and Neil with me, semi-formal attire and all, pogi-barista-image. And what a competition it was! There was dancing and cartwheelin' and all, I didn't expect that from a coffee-related contest. It was a treat, I drank 8 different blends of Barako-based drinks. Didn't drink coffee for three days after that. I shared the judges' table with barista trainers from Dairymoor of Tanaun and Cafe de Lipa. I hope we'll be there again to judge next year!

Saturday, September 25 - Cafe Antonio Sessions VII: Female Artists Tribute Night

* This gig has been the highlight of Facebook feeds for a week. It was epic. It was our first time to showcase these many bands at the cafe and what a line up it was! There was multi-vocal band, 9 in. ni Neil; acoustic emo duo (the bitter brothers) Juniper Face the Corner; indie princess, Gabes Torres; crowd favorite OPM army, Satori; and main acts, kings and queen of acoustic anthems, LIME (formerly Soundhole from our KA days); and rising OPM anthem machines, Yield Avenue! All the artists did their homework and really made a huge effort to cover songs from any female artist. The energy was so high that night and it was definitely a sign for us all to continue these series of gigs and make it a special event every time. 

September 27, Monday - Interview at Bialetti Foods Corp. at Wack Wack Village

* As part of his legacy to us, Lanz referred us to a part-time job as barista trainers at Bialetti Foods Corp. Neil and I went there and met the owners and tried out their machine. We're really excited to teach and share what we have learned over the years to new, aspiring baristas.

September 27, Monday - Impromptu Latte Art Jam with Barista from Denmark

* Our new customer and fan, Chef Derrick (Derek? I really don't know how to spell his name) brought his friend, Sophie, at the cafe. She told us she used to work as a barista back home, but haven't pulled a shot or poured latte art for a long time. And because we are kind and very accommodating to fellow baristas, we gave her the stage and she did put on a show! Our baristas joined in and we had a little jam session right there at the bar. Mr. Chef was the receiver of the lattes, gulping down 5 of them. Hope you guys visit us again soon!

September 30, Thursday - Pop's 64th Birthday

* Our Pop, my father, celebrated his birthday at the cafe! Well almost. We we're waiting for my sisters and my mom to arrive at the cafe. We didn't know that we had to bring the cafe food to my sister's apartment. Too bad, the crew didn't get free drinks! Hehe!

October 1, Friday - 4th Philippine Grand Barista Cup Finals at SM Mega Mall

* It all came down to this final day! Ramhil, Neil, and I arrived early so we tagged along with Sir Joefel and tested the espresso machine they were going to use at the finals. Pinoy Barista members were also there to join in the fun and test the hi-tech grinder and the Expobar machine. It was like a reunion for us, the same faces were there. From the PBC elims last August to the GBC orientation, semis, barista jams, and finals, the Pinoy Barista people are starting to form a strong bond in just 2 months! We didn't finish the contest, we left after Chester's run. We didn't to get watch Pinoy Barista member and barista competition veteran, Zaldy, because we were going to be late for the John Mayer concert at MOA. But congrats to the champion, Zaldy! I hope you'll make it to the Asian Barista Cup! Congrats also to Chester, your ampalaya concoction was great! To UCC, congrats too, your performance never fails to amaze us! To the Visayas and Mindanao champs, great job too! Special shout out to Sir Gerry, Joefel, Paul, Joel, Arlene, Elena, Chester, Ian of Bo's, Andy Boy, Marlon of Chocolate Fire (!), James, Sir Ernie, and Sir Ian from Singapore. Til' we meet again guys! Yung t-shirts, sa sunod na activity nalang! 300 each!

October 1, Friday - John Mayer Concert at SM Mall of Asia

* This was the wettest concert ever! What an experience. John Mayer is a cultural icon of our generation, we didn't care if we were dancing in the rain or the people behind us kept telling us that we were too noisy. Duh, it's a concert, duh. Well, the rain really did enhance the concert experience, it made it more special. Plus, we got to stay at a hotel with free food after the concert, thanks to our friend Julius' mom. 

October 2, Saturday - Cafe Antonio Sessions VIII: Segatron

* It was a gig like no other. Segatron, a fun-loving, rock-electronica, dance-party time, "party-core", "fag-core" (according to them) band, graced Cafe Antonio Sessions with a sonic set that brought in a legion of fans at the cafe making it our most successful gig so far (based on attendance and sales). What's great about the gig is that Sega and his bandmates arrived early, at 6:30 pm! That was impressive. They performed our favorite song on one of our playlists at the cafe, Miss Eye Catcher. The gig was opened by Juniper Face the Corner. Catch more of Segatron on Cafe Antonio Sessions X on November 13. CDs will be available at the cafe soon. 


* It's October! It's time for the much anticipated Brownie Fudge Frothiccino or BFF! Woohoo! And on October 9, we are inviting you guys to attend Cafe Antonio Session IX: John Mayer Make Up Concert, for those who missed the real concert. Featuring LIME and Gabes Torres, 8 pm at the cafe. See you! Hope you enjoyed our photos.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Coffee Gets Inspired By Music

* This week the cafe will host two events that we are most passionate about: Barista Jam 2 (with Pinoy Barista) on Thursday and Cafe Antonio Sessions VII on Saturday. We did this barista jam-Cafe Antonio sessions combo just 3 weeks ago. I guess everyone just got really excited and inspired so we decided to make this a regular thing. This will help us make the cafe become a favorite venue of both baristas and musicians to showcase their skills and express their creativity for free!

* I saw an article online at about what a barista jam is. It's an example of how the coffee industry takes its cues from music. Here's an excerpt from the article:

So what is a Jam? The premise is modeled after a musician’s jam session. That informal event is usually a group of musicians who get together on a regular basis to play tunes. Some bring stacks of “fake books”, books that have main melodies of jazz standard tunes alphabetically arranged for easy reference and ideas, other musicians would come with their ‘axe’, a musicians’ instrument as it is affectionately called. Still others would come just to ‘dig the scene’. Imaginative, free ideas of chord structure, phrasing, notation and tone would flow like wine or other inebriants that were often available and things always got a little wild as the evening wore on.

Jams were free form enough but some structure provided a framework generally someone would call a song, others would chime in and solo and everyone “jammed”. The song would last as long as the ideas did.  

A Barista jam is an assemblage with the same sense of inspiration and exploration; only the medium (or vehicle) is specialty coffee in general, and espresso in particular. Rather than musicians grouped together talking about riffs, scale changes, half notes and block cords, we have Baristi talking about shot times, tamping techniques, espresso blends and grinding burrs. Musical axes have been replaced with tampers, steam pitchers and beans. If this sounds like a science experiment to you, it is a little bit like one. Lab coats have given way to aprons. Loosely defined a jam is: anytime 2 or more Barista come together over an espresso machine to challenge themselves, or any time there is a gathering of several Baristi and machines all under one roof.


* After endless rounds of UNO Stack-O (trust me, it's grueling and exhausting), Dan Sta. Romana of Drmsr Photography bested 3 other teams to win the 1st UNO Stack-O Tournament last Monday sponsored by Espaleklek and Jethro Benaiah Osio at Cafe Antonio, Los Banos. Dan walked away with Php 2000 cash and is now in Tokyo, Japan taking a vacation. Congratulations! Other participating teams were Marisse Bonita of Mavericks, Gelo & Kaye of UPLB, and Jeg & Jabez of Cafe Antonio, Los Banos. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

On A Three Zero Run!

victory pose with members of Pinoy Barista

* We had three major events last week. Just enough to sap our energy and yet inspire us to push the tempo a little bit more. Adrenaline junkies, we are (Yoda-speak). First was the semi-finals of the Grand Barista Cup. Ramhil and I were at the World Trade Center to support our barista friends and members of our organization, Pinoy Barista. Although a small group, we didn't fail to encourage and cheer our fellow baristas as they went through their 15 minutes of hell. Event emcee, Sam Y G, couldn't help but notice us running around from one side of the stage to the other, cheering our friends. He said, "Kayo din yun nasa kabila ah!" Haha! 

* Pinoy Barista member, Chester Nimer of Bo's Coffee, emerged the winner besting 5 other semi-finalists from The Coffee BeaneryUCC, Jet Black Java, and Al Fresco Cafe. He became the Luzon Champion, getting the chance to compete in the national finals and the Asian Barista Cup in Singapore. Of course, all of us were proud of him and we counted that as a victory for Pinoy Barista. As a tribute to Chester's winning signature drink, the Mango Passiflora, I tried to remake it back at the cafe and then served it to my staff so that they can taste the Luzon Champ's concoction. God bless on the finals, sir! 

* I was also lucky that day, I won a bottle of passion fruit syrup for the "bring me" game and a coffee cup and saucer in the coffee trivia game. That never happened to me before. Malas ako sa games e.

Cafe Antonio Sessions VI with Yield Avenue, Code Name: Adobo, 9 Inches Ni Neil, and Satori

* Cafe Antonio Sessions VI! For the first time in Sessions history, the bands performed at the al fresco area. And what a revelation, it's so much better to play out there! We got to know a new band called Code Name: Adobo. They're an Incubus-like, funk-rock-jazz fusion band. I hope they could come back again and be a regular part of Sessions. Ralph & Neil, now known as 9 Inches Ni Neil, also debuted showcasing their alternative rock brand of music. The band features Mon on vocals, Neil on acoustic guitar and vocals, Ralph on lead guitar, and Lisette on keyboards. Sophomore Sessions band, Satori also came back to the cafe to perform the final set. And of course, Yield Avenue was there to perform two sets of covers and originals, including favorites, "Hanggang Dulo" and "Sigaw." As usual, the guys (minus Noey, plus Banjo) blew us away with another captivating, guitar-driven performance. At the end of the night, everyone was happy as the bands  ate their free Pasta Alfredos and sipped their iced teas. We can't wait for the next gig! The successful gig is a victory for us all! 

at the UAAP Cheerdance Competition with CAnton friends and crew

* In non-cafe related news, despite not winning 14 games in basketball, UP has finally reclaimed it's Cheerdance bragging rights! The CAnton crew was there to watch and it was a surreal feeling being in a situation where we actually won something as a school. So this is how it feels to win, we told ourselves. UP Naming Mahal never sounded so good!

* We just had our weekly Bible study and staff meeting this afternoon. We reflected and realized good things happen by grace and not because we deserve it. But because Someone wants us to. We are very thankful for that. Here's to another week of living by faith.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

‘Give Me A Break’ Isn’t Exactly A Battle Cry But ‘Scrabble!’ Is

Juniper Face the Corner

Gabes Torres

Latte Art Jam with Pinoy Barista

* Every year I experience major physical exhaustion especially in the “ber” months where all the “stress-zoids” (stressors the size of Zoids) usually chew away at what is left of my 7-11-sponsored sustenance. The two barista competitions (Philippine Barista Cup and Grand Barista Cup) we participated in last month really gave us a lot to think about and definitely a lot to work on. The training and practice, together with the rigors of daily living, café life, and band rehearsals, gave me bloodshot eyes, irregular sleep patterns, unexpressed frustrations, and non-stop streams of creative thinking.

* It’s been awhile since I’ve done a reflective blog. It’s also been awhile since I’ve written a blog on time, on a Monday evening. Well, maybe because I’m, or we’re, in a stage where the wheels are really rolling fast.  Café Antonio is in a stage where we’re developing two of our main thrusts: 1) making good coffee and barista development through exposure and participation in the local coffee industry, and 2) creative expression through music in the form of the Café Antonio Sessions. We’ve talked and bonded with a lot of people this past month. We’ve met interesting and talented artists in Sessions and we’ve made good friends with fellow baristas from different cafes in the past two competitions. These new relationships led to a barista jam last week and three Café Antonio Sessions gigs this month. Aside from that, we’ve also pimped our food menu and we’ll also throw in an UNO Stack-O Tournament next week for good measure.

* My sociable exterior usually hides my quiet chewy interior (by this I mean locking myself up in my room and watching Gossip Girl). What freaks me out is my increased social exposure due to the café’s sudden involvement in a lot of things. Ironic because I’m a Sociology major and being with people is our forte. I’m not saying exposure is bad, don’t get me wrong, it’s very good especially for a business. But being in the forefront all the time is a recurrent and awkward position for me. I’m the personification of an oxymoron. I do what I don’t like and always find myself doing what I don’t want to do. It’s a riddle.

* The lesson here is that I shouldn’t run away from my responsibilities. God isn’t forcing me to do things. Instead, He encourages me to do more of what He has entrusted me to do. And I still firmly believe that this café is my earthly assignment. So if life’s challenges give me more than what my personality can handle, I know for sure that my attitude towards life can always step up, thanks to the Big Man upstairs.


September 11 - Café Antonio Sessions  VI featuring Yield Avenue, Satori, Code Name Adobo, and Neil & Ralph

September 13 – Start of UNO Stack-O Tournament

Flavor of the Month: Caramel Raspberry Confusion (with Gummi Bears!) – Php 130

Pasta of the Week: Spaghettini with Tomato and Mozzarella

Sixty Time Snack Sets (from 3 pm to 5:30 pm only) – Php 60
-        -   Tuna Pita Wrap (2 pieces with 8 oz regular iced tea)
-        -   Chicken Mayo wrap (2 pieces with 8 oz regular iced tea)
-        -    Pita Pizza (with 8 oz regular iced tea)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Necessary Step

* After pulling almost four years worth of espressos as a barista and training under different mentors, it all came down to just one crucial brewing cycle and 2 important espressos. Those first two espressos I pulled at the Grand Barista Cup last August 25 definitely packed more suspense than spending an evening of small talk with Dr. Hannibal Lecter. It was all or nothing. It determined our quality as a barista. Well, at least for that competition.

Quick Geek Talk
* The coffee beans used for the competition was a 90:10, meaning that 90% of the beans in the blend is Arabica and 10% is Robusta. At the cafe we use a 50:50 for practice. Most baristas aren't used to working with coffee blends with an Arabica content that high. You see, having a higher percentage of Arabicas increases the probability of exposing the rather negative qualities of the espresso if not prepared properly, this is because Arabicas are naturally acidic. If the Robusta content is higher, it's boldness and heavy bodied qualities can mask the Arabica's delicate flavor and subtle nuances. In other words, the 90:10 blend is really a hell-raiser for baristas.

* We were given 5 minutes of prep time before the performance proper. Within that time we're allowed to test the coffee and have a feel of working with it. Grinding, dosing, and tamping are crucial in pulling a perfect shot of espresso. Using different techniques or combinations of techniques of these processes can alter the taste of the beverage ranging from horrendous to perfect.

* Neil was contestant number 2. So he gave me advice on the beans. The grinder setting was calibrated to a fine grind meaning the coffee grounds have a good tendency to be perfectly compact inside the filter basket when water passes through. The danger of a fine grind is over-extraction. That is, you'll see tiny drops of espresso dripping like droplets of rain in the demitasse, automatic bad shot!

* Dosing is another crucial part. Dosing is pulling a lever at the side of the grinder that dispenses a certain amount of coffee from a chamber to your filter basket. The barista can overdose and then level off the ground using his or her fingers. Sometimes dosing needs to be exact with just minimal spillage.

* Tamping is a nightmare. There's a hard tamp, soft tamp, and several other amounts of force to use on tamping. It's basically packing the coffee grounds into the filter basket with, of course, a tamper. The tamper is kinda like a barista's sword. It comes in different weights, sizes, designs, and shapes. The tamper provided at the contest was Joefel's, an expensive heavy duty type that weighs like a small baby. Minimal force is required. So most of the baristas borrowed Chester's (of Bo's Coffee) middleweight champion of the world tamper which requires a barista's sorta normal weight in packing the coffee.

* Having said all that, I think I didn't get the espresso right at the competition. I was too conservative in all three processes. I under-dosed, I did a pseudo-leveling, and I tamped very lightly fearing over-extraction. And I was too time-conscious, I was afraid I would go into overtime. I finished my run in 3:20 minutes.

* Watching all the baristas perform was very educational for us: for Neil, Ramhil, and I. We learned a lot of new stuff that we haven't heard of before. And I thought this is why we join these competitions, not just to compete and win, but to learn and share knowledge (and barista tools, haha!) with our colleagues. 

* The barista circle is a small world. We found out that day that the head judge, Ernie Mesina, was the one who trained the baristas at the Dumaguete branch. Very interesting indeed. We would also like to thank our coach, Lanz, for being generous to us and helping us develop our skills. 

* So to all the baristas we met these past two competitions, more power to you guys and God bless on the semis on September 9! We will be there cheering you on!


* Check out the complete gig schedule for September for Cafe Antonio Sessions on our fan page on Facebook, just search for: Cafe Antonio Sessions.

* UNO Stack-O Tournament is on September 13! You can get your registration form at the cafe. The event is sponsored by the UPLB Espaleklek, and my nephew, Jethro.

* Watch out for new dishes and drinks this September!