GroupMates Cafe creates ripples for local coffee lovers

By: Leomel H Pasquin

One of the highest local productions of coffee can be found in Calinog due to its cool climate and a relatively high precipitation. While there is a substantial amount of production per year, the harvest had to meet a certain standard in order to yield quality coffee beans. People here are concerned about the volume of production rather than quality – primarily because the greater the harvest, the better the sales.

This is the reason why local coffee was not given much boot to compete with other exported beans or other local beans which has gone through a thorough quality control due to its high demand in the market.

But that does not matter at all. With the trend of “Going Local”, people are now exploring what the locality has to offer to the people. It takes a little twist to change their mindset towards locally produced coffee beans as compared to exported ones. People are now becoming cognizant of the local market with a very personal connection to the very culture and tradition of the locals.

This is what GroupMates Cafe has to offer to the public. Unlike other coffee shops that invest much on designs and  aesthetics rather than the culture and tradition, GroupMates wants to incorporate the very tradition from which these local coffee beans are produced.

“It takes one to know the value of tradition before one could blend a perfect native coffee,” says GroupMates owner Sheila Legria.

For GroupMates, real native coffee is not about making elaborative designs of steamed milk on top of an espresso. It is a solid black aromatic coffee that is either served pure hot black in a cup or served with a strained carabao’s or goat milk mixed on it. People are often wowed by how they see a design over a cappuccino without minding the real taste of a coffee. Some would be often mesmerized over the presentation only to realize that the base of their drinks was either bland, lacked the aroma, or bereft of the kick of a real coffee.

“That is why we dont serve cappuccino or macchiato because we want to get hold of what is “native coffee” in its literal sense. We ensure that native coffee are prepared in a traditional way by boiling the roasted beans and straining it back to the cup. Because this is what “local” means. It is not about the design. It is not about the presentation. For us it is something about the culture and tradition. And of course, the taste.”


GroupMates, a start-up

Legria said it is a challenge to set-up a cafe that will incorporate food and beverages alongside a coworking space. But since every cafe has now practically become a coworking space, Legria thought that it would somehow blend well given that natives of Calinog do not really hang-out long just like those in the city.

“I guess that perfectly fits us. Students would only visit cafe if they are hungry or thirsty. But we need to make a little change in order for them to relish the place and to linger inside it in order to bond or to simply study. That’s the basic philosophy of GroupMates Cafe.”

Presently, GroupMates is a very much sought after cafe in the locality and mostly of its customers are students and young professionals. However, small and quaint in structure, the place has been a success as it really hit the core of the locals by blending tradition and modernity.

“If you start up something in the locality, it is a-must-ingredient to know what would could cut across their culture at the same time make it hip for all ages to relate. I guess that what we did, and so far, it has been a huge success.”

People and tradition always match the table. You can judge people and their culture by way of food or how they prefer their food. There is no better way to know how tradition is being shown upon other than the stories of food and how they were brought about in their environment.

Perhaps this is where GroupMates had capitalized upon. Because even though their place maybe small and quaint but students, professionals, and even those whose life begin after 40 have come to notice their simple yet clean, elegant, and affordable place.

In the end, what drives people to their cafe are curiosity, ambiance, culture, belongingness–or simply because the place offers delicious yet affordable food and drinks to those who are hungry and thirsty.

“There are only three things that never go out style,” said Legria. “Beer, food and coffee. We stick to the last two and that’s how GroupMates Cafe came about.”


Why GroupMates?

There is no better way to explain it other than how we Filipinos go in pact or in group. We consider those who are close to us as friends – or even more than that: a family. Thus it would be practical to choose a name that would entail belongingness in a group.

“It makes a lot of sense to call our shop GroupMates by way of the very nature we Filipinos have – that is being gregarious. We want to make connections. We want to belong. We want to be called a family, a band, a gang, a party, a group. If you merge it all, we just want to be each called “GroupMate,” said Legria.

Hence, in a place where everybody is a relative of everyone, it would seems right that a name GroupMates just fits to how it is primarily conceived. It embodies the ties, it invites belongingness.

In other words, GroupMates Cafe was not just borne out of the whim of its owners. It traverses something that is cultural, something that is deeper, something that is familial, and something that embodies the bond which is quite unique to the locals of Calinog  where everybody practically knows everybody.