A fine cup of coffee in the heart of the South...
The first time I encountered Magnum Opus Fine Coffees was at the DCF Fans' Day event last September. The moment I took a sip of their Belgian Heartbreaker, I knew I must make my way over to their specialty coffee shop in the South (lucky me) soon, and try more of their brews.
The Belgian Heartbreaker is their own rendition of a café mocha; it's what they call their gateway drink -- a beverage that serves as a bridge between the safe choice and the more adventurous one. I stood fascinated as I watched Jonathan intensely pour some steamed milk with melted dark Belgian chocolate from an orange vessel to a coffee-filled paper cup, his hand surreptitiously moving from side to side. And when he placed the cup in front of me complete with a heart-shaped latte art, I was impressed.
Velvety with a certain viscosity a melted chocolate lends, it's a coffee like no other. I wallowed in its comforting warmth, lost in my own thoughts and in appreciation of truly fine coffee. Like liquid gold, I drank it with care, sipping slowly---slurping even---making sure to fill my palate with its flavor that's tinged with sweetness, before letting it go down my throat. Totally the smooth operator, I left my heart that afternoon at Magnum Opus' booth, and I intend on having it back.
After days of dreaming about it, I finally made it to their place one afternoon. Magnum Opus is located at the heart of BF Homes, right smack in the middle of a food lover's paradise -- Aguirre Ave. Stepping inside the coffee shop, a lone barista---whose name was Sir as I later found out---was manning the cozy café. He greeted me with a simple but warm hello, and I walked over to take a seat at the bar, depositing my bags on the stool beside me. I perused the menu, but the one I was determined to have was nowhere to be found.
"Do you have the Marocchino?" I asked. "I can make one for you," Sir replied with a smile. And then he proceeded to create my requested concoction, while I took out my camera and started clicking away. Furnitures all over the shop, and even the ones outside were made of different sturdy wood, most of which are for sale. There were paintings by budding artists hanging on the walls, giving character to this quaint little neighborhood café-cum-gallery.
Only one other patron was there aside from me. He was sitting by the corner, typing away something intently on his laptop, contentedly sipping from his own cup. I went back to the bar, laid down my camera, and studied the colorful menu board. Here, the coffee list is but a guide, and the baristas or baristi are more than happy to whip up your preferred brew -- within reason, of course.
Once again, I watched with fascination as Sir prepared my drink with an earnest concentration only an impassioned barista can exhibit.
And there it was, my heart being given back to me. Much more potent than the Belgian Heartbreaker with its full flavor of tablea, the Marocchino's velvety consistency is laced with a hint of bitterness and lavished with that earthy chocolate taste. Sadly, the block of chocolate I was expecting was nowhere to be found. No matter, the comfort I got from my shot glass was enough to make me forget.
Midway into my macho drink, Jonathan entered the shop. "Hi, Guia!" he exclaimed with that easygoing demeanor of his. I was surprised that he recognized and remembered me as I greeted him back. We began a conversation about coffee that lasted for almost a couple of hours. This is certainly not a place for the hurried brouhahas of everyday.
My limited knowledge of coffee spanned the first wave of instant coffee to the second wave of espresso drinks, frappuccinos, and globalization of coffee chains as popularized by Starbucks and the like. The third wave coffee, on the other hand, is all about producing high-quality coffee, bringing out the unique characteristics of each Arabica bean from each farm that they are sourced. It's about educating coffee drinkers, and helping them refine their palates so that they may appreciate the distinctive features of high-quality beans, single-origin coffee as opposed to blends, micro-roasting, lighter roasts of beans, and even latte art. The word artisanal then comes to mind.
Magnum Opus belongs to this third wave of coffee connoisseurship.
I'm a latte and mocha kind of girl; I like milk and/or chocolate in my coffee. But while Jonathan was enlightening me about the different tasting notes present in various types of beans, and how each brewing method (drip, siphon, pour-over, french press, etc.) generates subtle nuances in taste, I became curious enough to try their hand-brewed single-origin coffee.
I opted for the Ethiopia Sidamo which promises peach, sweet floral, and deep caramel notes, but I'm afraid that my taste buds have yet to develop an awareness of the nitty-gritties behind a coffee's gradation. Served in a small carafe, it's light and a bit acidic; suggestive of tea and not your familiar coffee. No, you won't find sugar here, and you won't need it either.
After mentioning that I did not get to taste the "MagBono" affogato, an impromptu collaboration between Magnum Opus and Bono during the DCF event, Jonathan had Sir whip up a Wafflegeto for me, one of perks of staying at the bar, and chatting up with the head barista. Vanilla ice cream is impaled with crispy waffle, and a double espresso shot on top. I relished the purity and sweetness of vanilla tainted with the robust coffee flavor of ristretto (a short shot of espresso); the perfect ending to a productive afternoon.
The second time I was at Magnum Opus, I was set on trying one of their victuals. Once again, I planted myself at the best seat in the house, ready for another round of lessons. Jonathan's passion for sharing his knowledge about coffee is evident and engaging.
Milky, smooth coffee cocoons your throat as you relax with this amalgamation of espresso, steamed milk and a little foam. The swan latte art befits such a serene lake of light brown hue, prompting you to take your time while you drown in this big glass of contentment.
Named after the Dutch painter whose famous abstract painting of perpendicular lines and colors inspired this artistic edible, the Mondrian Toast has sections of housemade cherry jam, blueberry, and orange jam, sweet cream, and dark belgian lining on whole wheat bread. It isn't as sweet as I feared it may be, and pairs very well with a latte.
As if what I had wasn't enough, Jonathan handed me a toast besmeared with housemade chilli jam, and one that's also topped with ham and Irish cheddar, yet another perk. I must admit, it's nice to be spoiled once in a while. Sweet with a spicy endnote, the chilli jam is a unique concept that's also used in their Monte Cristo sandwich.
On my third visit, I wanted a heavier meal. While Jonathan and Sir were busy preparing my orders, two men came in and sat at the bar, too. I watched as people went in and out, amused by laid back quality of the people in this neighborhood. Ahhh, to live in the South.
By the way, Magnum Opus sometimes holds mini events like coffee tasting and appreciation, and are looking into hosting other events as well, weaving a sense of community and camaraderie among the Southern folks. It's also open to event collaborations with Bespoke, its coffee catering arm that brings the specialty coffee experience to your own backyard.
Anyway, I was excited to try their most popular proffering during their breakfast week some time ago. The Good Morning Muffin had gained a following that they simply had to retain in it their menu. It's Canadian bacon and cheese topped with rocket and a 1-hour egg, all sandwiched between sweet homemade English muffins bedaubed with some good old chilli jam. Two pieces of crisp thick-cut fries impregnated with orange zest complete the dish. I smiled as I took a bite of this sunshine on a plate. It's a play on all the senses, both in flavor and in texture.
The Piccolo Latte is a middle ground between a milky latte and a chocolatey marocchino. Equal parts espresso and milk, it has the same bittersweet base of Brazilian beans, evoking a sense of familiarity that at times brings a proprietary feeling. And since I didn't get to have a piece of chocolate with my marocchino before, they gave me a little bittersweet block of happiness to enjoy with my cup now (see cover photo).
A caveat: don't expect your coffee to be handed to you within a couple of minutes. If you're on the go, better head to the nearest Starbucks or Seattle's Best. Third wave cafés take their time to create your perfect cup, and that is part of their charm. It is a reminder that there is more to coffee than being a quick picker-upper. Magnum Opus is no exception, and true to its name, it gives you a masterpiece every single time. So relax, take in the art, enjoy the bustling street view, read a fiction book---or better yet, strike a conversation with the barista--- and revel in your latte. Your life will be all the better for it.
Magnum Opus Fine Coffees
Spot: 2/F The Prime Bldg. 115 Aguirre Ave. BF Homes, Parañaque
Contact No.: 0939.920.0701