24 July 2015

In pursuit of the noble beverage

The men and women behind EDSA Beverage Design Group (EDSA BDG) are an idealistic bunch. They trust that Filipinos are ready for specialty coffee, bottled cocktails, and a startup with a unique business model.

You may have learned about EDSA BDG while going through your Instagram feed and stopping to check out a photo of its now-famous glass door where the words “In pursuit of the noble beverage” are printed.

This shop, which is a few meters from the historic EDSA Shrine, has created a buzz among coffee and cocktails aficionados, as well as lovers of all things artistic; but little do the patrons know that EDSA BDG, for all the coziness it serves, is a business-to-business company.

“We’re really consultants. We help you out with all your beverage needs — from recipes and supplies to trainings,” says EDSA BDG general manager Trissy Perfecto.

“It all started with coffee,” narrates Perfecto. Founders Jericson Co and David Ong used to frequent Craft Coffee Workshop in Quezon City, which is said to be the first specialty coffee retailer in the country. “Coffee brings people together, and true enough, they became friends,” she continues. From there, they put up The Curator in Makati City, a speakeasy that, along with specialty coffee, offers craft cocktails.

Soon after, the friends launched EDSA BDG, bringing a whole new concept in beverage design and service-oriented business. “Our main thrust is to educate Filipinos. We should all start drinking better,” says Perfecto. “The place is really supposed to be education in itself. It introduces new ideas.”

Bags of beans and intimidating contraptions greet visitors upon entrance to the two-storey studio. The ground floor is where the team roasts beans for delivery to clients, while upstairs is what appears to be a retail space, but is in fact a showroom of products and services.

A photo posted by Razel Estrella (@fishpeep) on

One remarkable spot is the Honeycomb Co-working Space, where customers can rent seats and work with high-speed Internet while drinking an EDSA BDG beverage to fuel the mind and body. The space is also designed to encourage collaborations.

Perfecto notes that the interiors are mostly made of glass to embody transparency: “We want people to really understand what they’re taking in. We want to be socially responsible.”

For now, coffee is EDSA BDG’s most holistic brand. Aside from supplying coffee beans, they also offer barista training, workshops for enthusiasts, machines, preventive maintenance, and even coffee subscription.

Down the road, they aim to go directly to farmers. “We’re helping a local farm in Davao. They bring harvested beans to us and we roast it ourselves,” shares Perfecto. “We realize there’s high potential there. It’s not specialty grade yet, but it can be. And that’s the goal — not just to bring the [premium coffee] experience to the Filipinos, but also for Filipinos to be known worldwide.”

Within a year since its opening, the company launched “#YKW Roasters Manila” specialty coffee; “Coo” bottled fizzy sodas; TGBG, or Tito Boy’s Ginger Beer; and the “Better Common” bottled cocktails, which takes its name from the promise of producing and consuming better products.

As with any noble pursuit, though, the road can be bumpy. Innovations will always have doubters. Better Common, for example, have been received with a few raised eyebrows, what with cocktails being equated to theatrics and fancy presentation.

There’s also the tough balancing act of pleasing clients and adhering to personal principles. “There’s a fine line between putting up a business to earn profit and putting up a business to educate,” admits Perfecto. “It’s hard to make money because you sacrifice a lot. That for me is a major obstacle in this business model.”

To clients who can’t be convinced and customers who can’t wrap their heads around liquid cuisine, Perfecto invites them to their workshops. Visiting the studio and talking to the staff is a good idea, too, as they’re more than willing to share their knowledge. Education, after all, doesn’t happen overnight. And even the founders continuously travel worldwide to attend food and beverage conventions.

A little over a year old, EDSA BDG has just taken the first step towards becoming the go-to expert in beverage design. Its clientele is turning out to be an impressive list with the likes of Wildflour Café and Bakery, Satchmi, Todd English Food Hall, and SpiceBird Boracay, among others, carrying their creations.

But the ultimate dream is to be known internationally as the product of the Philippines. “It’s a passion project,” says Perfecto. And maybe it’s only fitting that they’ve named the enterprise after a landmark of history-changing revolution and an emblem of Filipino passion. “EDSA is the highway that connects everything,” she adds. “That’s how we see the business growing.”

—Originally published on GIST

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