How A Photographer’s Eye For “Clean And Nothing Fancy” And The Quest For The Perfect Cup Of Coffee Designed This Café In Subic
Worth driving for… The espresso machine takes center stage in this 33-square meter space with double height ceilings and ample indoor greenery
A short walk from the Subic Yacht Club, is a small, white cafe hoping to bring specialty coffee closer to the area. Its 6 partners all hail from the province of Zambales and call it their hometown, deeming it fit to call their cafe Hometown Café.
“The idea started with me and my sister Lady,” says commercial photographer and Hometown Café partner RG Medestomas. “Pre-pandemic we would visit our Lolo and Lola in Subic almost every month. We would leave Manila early and of course we would always have coffee. At the time, there were only two choices for coffee. So we thought, let’s put up a cafe.”
Inside Hometown Café, Subic
Inside Hometown Café, Subic
After figuring out where to gather the capital for the cafe, the Medestomas siblings realized that they didn’t know much else about running a cafe other than drinking it. So they brought in a knowledgable consultant and friend. “So I remembered meeting Matt Carpio and that he used to work at Yardstick and El Union. I approached him and when we told him that the location of the cafe would be in Subic, he said that that was where he was from!”
The 33-square-meter cafe with double height ceilings carries a bright look with clean lines. The cafe’s design was heavily influenced by RG’s eye as a photographer. “I used the same philosophy that I use in my photography and the design of this space - clean and nothing fancy. As a commercial photographer, I don’t want the attention to veer away from my subject. Here, I wanted the espresso machine to be in the spotlight - and that’s why it’s in the center. Even the layout of Matt’s books on the shelves - I just composed it all together to paint the picture of what Matt does and how he does it.”
Matt Carpio - as the main barista of the cafe - also set the direction of how the space would look like. “When we got the space, Matt stood in the middle and envisioned where he thought the machine would be best,” RG says.
“We were debating about whether which space should be bigger - the bar or the customer seating area. With the current COVID restrictions, we thought it was ok that the customer area was smaller,” Carpio adds. “What I wanted was that if it peaks and gets busy, I could comfortably fit 3 baristas inside. One barista can be planted at the cashier, one barista is concentrated on the non-coffee and backup on the espresso guy. The other barista is only focused on coffee - pulling shots and handing out. If your baristas are given a well thought-out space, no one bumps into each other, there will be less spills meaning less wastage. Your workflow is more efficient.”
RG worked with architect Allan Bill of Design By Bill to bring these ideas to life resulting in a large bar area with seating on one end. White vertical tiles accent the long wall with shelves of curated equipment and decor. Live plants such as a fiddle leaf fig tree, pothos and monstera adansonii thrive with all of the natural light that floods the cafe.
The layout of the bar is also intentional. “Since it’s a small space, I wanted a fluid customer flow in terms of taking orders. The customer orders at one end and picks up their order in the other end,” Matt explains. “If you see the layout, it’s the cashier, then non-coffee products right behind it. Next to it are the pastries so it’s just a quick turn. For the coffee or espresso-based drinks, it’s parallel to the ice machine. I want it to be a smooth workflow in terms of efficiency and minimal movement. The less movement you make, the faster you make your coffee.”
The whole bar serves as a storage unit as well with sensible placements for each item - the dry goods are stored under the pastry display, take out materials is under the take out counter, and cleaning materials are on the other end near the sink.
The bar area near the entrance has stools to encourage interaction between the barista and the customer. “One part of being a barista is being open to teaching enthusiasts about the coffee. Some ask why it’s so expensive. That is when the counter plays its part. When I manually brew coffee here at the bar, I get to talk about the story of the coffee. People can be enlightened and understand coffee and its complexities,” says Carpio.
Although the past two years had many enthusiasts learn how to brew their own coffee at home, it may be time again to visit your local cafe and see it for what it really is - a fertile ground for conversation and inspiration.
Hometown Café is located in Wow World Complex Rizal Highway Subic Bay Freeport Zone, Olongapo, Zambales. Call 0917 587 3651 for more information. Visit their menu here.
Photographs by Jar Concengco