That is how I would describe the coffee scene in Davao City in 2021.
For the first time since blogging about the local coffee scene, I could not visit all the new coffee shops in Davao City. And I think that is reflective of how the local coffee scene grew in a year.
When I was writing the “Kape Ta! Coffee Shop Guide in Davao City,” I noticed the number of new coffee shops on the list. Of the 26 coffee shops in the current list, 16 are new — four opened in 2020 and 12 opened in 2021. The list has yet to include other new coffee shops that opened this year.
Just a bit of a comparison, when I started Kape Diaries in 2015, I only reviewed or featured a handful of coffee shops. Also, before 2020, there were only a handful of “third-wave coffee shops” or those serving specialty coffee.
In 2020, I did not even expect new coffee shops to open. But Espresso Lab opened in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. Towards the second half of 2020, we saw the entry of mobile coffee shops — Artisan Brew, Kapweñoz, and Grind Coffee.
By 2021, we were seeing more coffee shops opening. I discovered one or two new coffee shops each month. And towards the end of the year, a new coffee shop seemed to open every week or two.
As more coffee shops open, we could say that there is a growing demand for coffee. And this demand could have been brought about by the mobile coffee shops.
Mobile coffee shops
I think the mobile coffee shops were instrumental in fostering demand for coffee.
ACDI/VOCA Business Development Coordinator Emmanuel Quisol said in an online interview earlier this year that the rise of mobile coffee shops was due to a need to fill in the gap created by the closure of some coffee shops at the height of the pandemic.
“As a result of strict health and safety protocols, there were several coffee shops that closed during the pandemic. This has displaced a lot of our talented baristas. Coffeeholics and regular customers of these shops have to find ways to get the daily caffeine fix,” Quisol said.
However, mobile coffee shops did not only fill a gap in the demand, but they also made specialty coffee more accessible to Dabawenyos.
“Mobile coffee shops are a good way to allow more people to learn, appreciate and taste specialty coffee,” Quisol said.
He also pointed out how brewing coffee in front of customers helps them appreciate and understand specialty coffee.
The location of mobile coffee shops has also allowed more people to access a good cup of coffee. For example, Artisan Brew is usually in the Ma-a or Matina area, and Kapeweñoz is in Lanang in the early mornings. Meanwhile, Grind Coffee and Kanto Coffee are regularly at the Abreeza Mall in the afternoons. You also have Darkk Coffee in Mamay and Es-Press-On in Quirino. These mobile coffee shops also conduct pop-ups at various events allowing more people to experience specialty coffee.
In terms of pricing, the coffee of most mobile coffee shops is quite affordable. Not only are they affordable, but I find most of their coffee to be quite good too.
In a nutshell, the accessibility of mobile coffee shops has allowed more Dabawenyos to appreciate and understand specialty coffee.
(I wrote an in-depth report for SunStar Davao on the growth of mobile coffee shops in Davao City. You can read it here)
A lively crowd
The push for specialty coffee in Davao City is nothing new. Pre-pandemic, a small group of coffee shops in the city have been pushing for the improvement of the local coffee scene. However, based on what I heard, it was an uphill road.
But I think, with I am seeing, that uphill road may have started to ease.
I observed that many people going to coffee shops have become more particular about their coffee.
I have also received inquiries on where they can get a particular cup of coffee they like. I was quite surprised to get inquiries like that because usually, people only ask me where to have coffee, what coffee shop has WiFi, or the business hours of a coffee shop.
While sitting at the coffee shop’s counter, I observed how some customers have become more curious about coffee. I like how some are curious about the coffee beans on the counter. I also liked listening to customers telling the barista how much they liked the coffee served to them in their previous visits. I also observed how some could notice the changes in the taste of their coffee.
It is interesting to note that as the coffee scene grew, so did its customers. You not only have casual coffee drinkers now, but you also have those who know the coffee they want or like.
While the increase in demand for coffee and the growth of the coffee scene is good, in a way, it is a double-edged sword too.
Based on my previous interviews, the current supply is still not enough to meet the demands of the local market. That is particularly true for local coffee beans like the Mt. Apo coffee beans.
During my interviews with several industry leaders, there is still a gap between the supply and demand of coffee.
(I wrote an in-depth report for SunStar Davao on the supply and demand of coffee. You can read it here)
Another thing is the market being more particular with its coffee. Many of the coffee shops that opened in pre-pandemic, the later part of 2020, and the first half of 2021 set the bar high, especially for specialty coffee. And as the months went on, some of them just kept improving their products. Hence, the market was generally served a good cup of coffee from the start. Therefore, I can say that some can be critical, meticulous, or particular about the coffee they will get or are drinking.
Just on the surface
This review on the local coffee scene merely brushes the surface of a growing industry in Davao City. There are other factors in play that needs to be discussed more with industry leaders. There is also more I want to say, but this is a long read already. (LOL)
But as an observer of the coffee scene, I am happy with how the coffee scene is going. The coffee scene in 2021 was lively with the entry of new players and a more inquisitive crowd.
There are several opportunities next year that existing and new coffee shops can still take advantage of. However, I can say that it could be more competitive now and customers will demand more or better.
As for 2022, I am hoping for a better a stronger year for the local coffee scene.