Dominating the "Top 5 Coffee Shops and Cafes" list stood Studio.89, hence forth we vamoosed.
Side note: At this point I've come to appreciate two things about the suburbs: they boast clearly visible names on their storefront, as well as provide an abundance of parking spots (with a few exceptions, of course - looking at you Chatime).
In addition to countless well-furnished tables on the main floor was a cashier and kitchen area. Located directly above was a list of the vast food and drink options available, many of which catered to those with special dietary concerns (ie. gluten-free, vegan, egg-free, etc.) Abbreviations noted adjacent to the drink selection also provided indications as to whether they were fair trade, organic, or both ("FO").
We placed our orders and headed upstairs, to the more tranquil, carpet-lined "Off With Your Shoes" zone.
Our food items were brought to us soon after, simply plated and (forever shall I be grateful) void of spills and crumbs.
The "minimum donations" were on the pricey side, with their popular Nutella Latte ringing in at $4.90 for a medium (and $5.90 for a large) and Chicken Sandwich at an astounding $8.00. (But then again, it's not like you wouldn't already be spending such amounts if you frequent Starbucks). The Orange Cranberry Scone was made utilizing "Feel Good Ingredients" such as organic flour and sugar, as well as vegan butter concocted from sunflower oil and tapioca starch, and was priced at $2.25. Once again, Starbucks would charge roughly the same, and I've witnessed vegan bakeries mark their products at irrationally high price tags, without including a fair trade aspect.
Morals and food production righteousness aside, I'd like to bring to the light the quality and flavours of the purchased dishes. No amateur to the world of flavoured espresso drinks and lattes, I must commend the volunteers for creating an extraordinary chocolatey drink with such a limited range of ingredients. The Nutella Latte was, in short, flat-out awesome; it retained subtle flavour of espresso, an indulgent amount of sweet chocolate-covered nutiness, and was served at the ideal temperature (warm enough to soothe shivers on a rainy day, but not hot enough to scald the tongue).
I am unsure of how the Chicken Sandwich tasted, though it did give off quite a pleasant aroma. My Orange Cranberry Scone was a sweet treat, but also proved to be filling without the tacky, dense texture usually expected of vegan goods.
I thoroughly enjoyed that every aspect of the cafe was representative of the group's beliefs and collaborative goals, and that the space was fully equipped with the tools and technology for serving the modern-day, IT-reliant citizen. Stable Wi-Fi, in conjunction with a high-quality products and a clean, comfortable environment is key to succeeding against other cafes. Not only does Studio.89 meet this criteria, they also do a great job of utilizing a variety of interior decor elements to stimulate brainstorming and conversation. (Might I also add that even their washroom stalls were kept pristine, and had different wallpapers (that the main floor) with delicately written signs notifying guests to avoid throwing inappropriate items down the toilet. These are details of an establishment that are truly note-worthy.)
We then browsed Heartland for a while following the catch-up session, and later parted ways. Cravings for Halo Halo began to act up, which led me to check out a small Filipino shop by the name of Somethin' Sweet 4U.
As the need to curb cravings was still present, I headed to trusty ol' Quiapo! Quiapo! once again for my dose of ube ice cream, mixed jellies, and toasted rice atop a stack of crushed ice drizzled with evaporated milk.
I asked, "About the Halo Halo?"
"Yes, how did you know that we have that?"
"It was posted on insauga."
"Ohhhh. I didn't know that students read that!"
I could only respond with "I'm not sure about other students, but I enjoy reading blogs and such, so I read that."
The lady nodded, terminating the conversation as she headed off into the kitchen.