If there’s one thing Cartimar is well known for, it’s the pet shops that litter the area. The shopping center has become quite infamous for selling, erm, hard-to-find animals.
Recent years have also seen the place as a popular destination for “imported” shoes, albeit with questionable authenticity. As with most outdoor markets in Metro Manila, Cartimar is filled with cheap finds in every corner — an unlikely place to find a decent coffee shop in.
But walk a little further down the complex, past the rows of Class A sportswear, and into a dimly lit narrow alley and you’ll find a cool coffee shop inconspicuously located among an optical shop, laundromat, and some more clothing stores.
Meet Blue Wonder Coffee & Bean Roastery.
Not just a café
It’s easy to tell at first glance that Blue Wonder is not your typical third-wave coffee shop. From outside, customers can get a glimpse of an array of products filling the shelves that line the glass walls.
Established in June 2016, Blue Wonder is a one-stop shop for anything coffee-related. Says President Soo Hee Chang, “Blue Wonder is like a convenience store for coffee specialists, that’s why a lot of coffee lovers, barista competitors and professors, and coffee shop owners visit Blue Wonder to purchase everything they need for their coffee.”
If Blue Wonder Coffee rings a bell among Pasigueños, that’s because its main branch is located on E. Rodriguez Jr. Avenue in Pasig City. A third store is set to open this year at Estancia Mall in Capitol Commons, also in Pasig.
A charming respite
Blue Wonder Coffee in Cartimar opened in August 2017. The 15-seater coffee shop is a quaint gem in an unexpected location.
While the shopping center houses plenty of stores and eateries, there isn't a place where shoppers can take a breather.
“So we decided to provide a store where they can go when they want to relax, and have great coffee and buy all different kinds of coffee items for their needs,” Chang relates.
Foreign visitors and owners of other coffee shops and restaurants make up most of this branch’s customers.
Coffee enthusiasts are also attracted to the window display that showcases a variety of brewing paraphernalia. And even if you’re just a casual coffee drinker, you’ll find the cozy interiors welcoming.
This branch in Pasay may be modest in size, but it does not scrimp on its offerings. Chang recommends the Iced Blue Wonder Cream Mocha, which is a well-balanced combination of chocolate and espresso.
The hand-drip Ethiopia coffee is also a must-try. “Hand-drip coffee gives a very smooth and flowery aroma, which I really enjoy,” she describes. Espresso-based drinks, which start at P90, are also available hot or cold.
If you want something a bit sweet, try the Caramel Macchiato (P110). Blue Wonder also serves non-coffee beverages like Mint Chocolate (P105), Chocolate (P120), and Matcha Green Tea Latte (P130).
As a sister company of MK Kitchen, a kitchen supplies store catering to the local food service industry, this relatively young coffee brand offers an array of coffee brewing equipment.
On display all around the café is an assortment of tools for brewing coffee. There are manual grinders alongside automatic machines, gooseneck kettles, manual drippers, tampers, milk frother, percolators, knock boxes, and espresso machines, among many others. The adjacent stall that serves as the café’s stock room is also open for customers who want to explore more coffee-related knickknacks.
Blue Wonder boasts a variety of single-origin coffee beans that customers can readily take home. From the store front, you can take a peek at the wooden vats of raw beans from Sagada, Kenya, Brazil, Colombia, Ethiopia, and Guatemala (a 100kg pack starts at P170). There are also house blend variants to choose from: the Floral, Original, and Dark blends (100g pack starts at P160).
Chang says the bestsellers among these are the Blue Wonder Original House Blend and the Brazil and Sagada coffee.
All beans are freshly roasted from the main branch, allowing customers to get a taste of different kinds and flavors of coffee.
For those who want to learn more about coffee brewing, Blue Wonder also offers barista classes through the Cooko Academy, the first Philippine-Korean culinary and barista academy in the country.
If you find yourself wandering the streets of Pasay, don’t hesitate to pop into this hidden Cartimar café. Whether you’re a coffee connoisseur or a newbie coffee drinker, there’s definitely something here that will catch your fancy. — LA, GMA News
Blue Wonder is located at Stall #98-101/113-115 Cartimar Bldg., Cartimar cor. Taft Avenues, Pasay City. 8am to 6pm, except on Christmas and New Year.