After skipping 2020, I am now back with my annual favorite coffee shop list.
This list consists of coffee shops and cafes that really made an impact on me this 2021.
Pre-pandemic, I would only limit the list to only five or four because back then there were only a handful of coffee shops. However, in 2021, there was a surprising number of new coffee shops. Hence, I am expanding my annual list to 10.
It is important to note that this is only based on my personal preferences. You may agree or disagree with the list I made.
Anyway, it was not easy in identifying my ten favorite coffee shops of 2021. Generally, despite the mushrooming of new coffee shops, they were mostly good across the board. Therefore, in making this list, I had to ask myself, why is this my favorite for 2021? What makes me happy when I visit them? What do I like to order here? Why do I often here or why do I like to recommend them?
Before I start the list, you can click here for my coffee shop guide in Davao City to know what other coffee shops you can visit in the city. The guide also provides other details of the coffee shops in the list below like their addresses and social media handles.
FAVORITE COFFEE SHOPS OF 2021
(In no particular order)
Life Cycle Coffee
Starting the list is one of the biggest newcomers of 2021 and one of my best discoveries this year. When I discovered them in January, I was captivated by their charm. A sip of its Shiro Blend had me craving for more. I also like the lack of signal here for mobile internet as it gives me a quick escape from how busy my work can be. Throughout my visits, I grew to love more of their products like the Japanese Drip, Steve’s Mocha, 4-9-2, and Sweet Latte. You will also find here my favorite teriyaki chicken in Davao.
I will always remember Artisan Brew as that mobile coffee shop behind the red Pajero. The first time I visited it, I remember ordering an iced pour-over because it was a hot morning. I really enjoyed that cup of coffee and it had me wanting to visit them more. I also liked their Honey Peach and Summer Cascara. Cyril, owner of Artisan Brew, also once brewed me this delicious cup of Mt. Apo pour-over. My favorite spot of his is the one in Ma-a. On a good day, it is a nice spot to chill at.
Kanto Coffee holds the distinction of having served my favorite Mt. Apo coffee pour-over to date. The pour-over was sweet and fruity. It had this distinct note of strawberry, which I don’t normally get from an Mt. Apo pour-over. They also serve one of my favorite espresso-based drinks — the Espresso Tonic.
Despite Onse being in Matina, I find myself going out of my way to come here for a cup of their Blanco or Puro. Plus, I really like hanging out here. It is one of the most relaxing coffee shops in the city. I just like sitting at the counter taking sips of my iced coffee and having a bite of that delicious white-chocolate macadamia cookie (Must try!). Also, they are serving this month until January a Cinnamon Butter Float, arguably one of the best drinks with cinnamon I have ever had.
After the changes they made, I think Fourth Street has become a better version of itself. I love the branding and the products they have to offer now. I also like their passion to try new things. Among the coffee shops on this list, I find them to have the best business hours to cater to anyone who is looking for a caffeine fix. They open as early as 6:30 a.m. and close as late as 9:30 p.m. (T-W-TH) or 11 p.m. (F-Sat-Sun-M).
This coffee shop also made a lot of changes amid a pandemic. I like how they expanded their shop to cater to more customers and the addition of bagels to the menu. While they do serve a good cup of coffee, I think what made me love them more this year is their addition of bagels to their menu. Their Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Bagel sandwich have to be one of the best sandwiches I had this year.
Purge Coffee Roaster
One of the OGs that pushed specialty coffee in the city, Purge Coffee Roaster is one of those local coffee shops in the city that always meets my expectations for a good cup of coffee. My go-to order here is always their Mocha Lava or pour-over coffee. They currently serve my favorite cup of Ethiopian pour-over.
Another amazing discovery this year. Tucked within Diamond Village Phase 1, this mobile coffee shop impressed me with its lattes. Prior to leaving for my hometown, this mobile coffee shop also brewed me a delicious cup of Good Cup’s Honduras El Puenta (Anaerobic washed gesha). It had a strong cinnamon-y note. I also like seeing how the espresso-based drinks are being prepared using the flair. I also like hanging out here.
Espresso Lab opened at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in July 2020. The coffee shop wowed me with their passionfruit magicano and their pour-over coffee continues to surprise me each time they bring a new set of coffee beans in. Among the coffee shops, I think Espresso Lab has a very diverse set of international beans. Every time I come for a pour-over, it is a different experience. I also like working here whenever I am in the northern part of Davao City.
We are going all the way to Bangkal for the last coffee shop on this list. FLTRD coffee was also a big surprise for me this year. I had no idea I would love it as much as I should but I do. Every time I visit here, it is always a treat. For non-coffee drinks, the have one of my favorites this year — Violet. It is tonic water with lavender syrup. It is a very refreshing drink. They also have a lavender latte, which is surprisingly good.
Hall of fame: Spark Coffee + Crafts
Spark Coffee was on my Favorite List of 2017, 2018, and 2019. This cafe has grown so much on me. It is one of the cafes in Davao City that I always recommend to my friends. From their Iced Americano to their indulgent Bacon, Egg, Cheese Waffles to their Jimojos, I am always happy with the coffee and food I get here. They ignited a spark in me when I discovered them in 2017. Up until now, that spark is still there.
Instagram-worthy coffee shop: Wood and Coffee
We have a handful of Instagram-worthy coffee shops in Davao City — the plant-filled Glasshouse Coffee to the minimalism of Fourth Street. However, I have to give the crown to Wood and Coffee in Magtuod. The coffee shop is not just a coffee shop but also serves as a gallery of artist Gil Bumanlag. What you get is a coffee shop wherein wherever you take a seat, it is always a good snap for those OOTDs. I also love how the pop of colors contrasts the modern industrial interior of the coffee shop.
Go-to for Pour-over: Espresso Lab, Purge Coffee Roaster
Most of the specialty coffee shops I have been to do offer a good pour-over but I have to go for these two this year. I am always in for a treat when I order pour-over coffee in either of these two coffee shops. The two coffee shops offer a good selection of coffee beans for your pour-over. Whatever coffee beans I choose, the experience is always surprisingly different. For international beans, I get more variety from Espresso Lab while for the local and Ethiopian pour-over, I lean towards more on Purge Coffee Roaster.
Pour-over of the year: Kanto Coffee’s Lactic-processed Mt. Apo
This pour-over blew my mind because of how fruity it was. Normally, the notes I tend to get from Mt. Apo coffee are berries and a bit of earthiness. It is also not very sweet and is quite heavy on my palate. However, this Mt. Apo roasted and sourced (directly from the farmer) by Kanto Coffee was sweet and had a strong note of strawberry.
Signature coffee-based or espresso-based drink of the year: Mocha Lava
There is a lot to choose from for this one — Secret Garden’s Lychee Bliss, FLTRD’s Lavender Latte, Espresso Lab’s Passionfruit Magicano, and Oye’s Pistachio Latte, to name a few. However, I have to go with Purge Coffee Roaster and Stash Coffee Co.’s Mocha Lava. It is espresso with milk and chocolate ice cream. This is one indulgent bittersweet drink that I just love ordering again and again.
Non-coffee drink of the year: FLTRD’s Violet
I could go for a matcha or chocolate drink for this but FLTRD’s Violet has been living rent-free in my mind since I had it. It is tonic water with lavender syrup. It is so good and refreshing. If I want to indulge, I would order two of these.
Cold-brew of the year: Life Cycle Coffee’s Shiro Blend
There were several memorable cold brew drinks this year — Onse’s Puro and Blanco, Grind Coffee’s Mocha cold brew, and Balay Juice and Coffee Co’s Nitro Cold Brew. It was hard deciding on this one but I have to go for the Shiro Blend, Life Cycle Coffee’s cold brew with milk. This cold brew is rich and creamy but at the same time, you still get that punch from the coffee. It is simply a delicious drink to have at the coffee shop or to-go.
Biggest splash: Life Cycle Coffee
From a quiet coffee shop at the start of 2021, Life Cycle Coffee grew exponentially to become one of the most popular coffee shops in Davao City. It made a big splash when it started in January and it kept the momentum throughout the year. It wowed many for their good coffee and Japanese meals (Favorite teriyaki chicken!). It makes me happy to see how much they have grown in less than a year.
Biggest comeback: Fourth Street
Talk about a turnaround. Fourth Street sadly closed its doors in the fourth quarter of 2020. However, at the start of 2021, it reopened. This time it is heavily focusing on its coffee intending to make good coffee more accessible to Dabawenyos. They started slowly at the start of the year but eventually gained momentum as weeks passed on. Now, it is among the known local coffee shops in the city.
And there you have it! The list is longer than my previous lists but that’s because the coffee scene in Davao City was really good this year.
I hope you enjoyed the list. And whenever you visit them and try some of the products I mentioned, I hope you will have a good experience too.
Again, this list is merely based on personal preferences and experiences. I highly encourage you to also visit the other coffee shops in Davao City.