Friday, June 28, 2013

Caffe Bene - A Taste of Korean Taste

Korean Dessert Culture at its Finest: Caffe Bene

by Cityzen | M.C. Jose

I first stumbled upon Caffe Bene during a night out while searching for a good place to have dessert. We had the strangest experience entering it from the second floor because we weren’t really sure about where we were. Most coffee shops don’t have such high ceilings or such huge floor spaces. But we headed down, anyway, and purchased two scoops of gelato: Cream Cheese and Green Tea. And that’s what started it all.

Caffe Bene's gelato selection
With more than 900 stores in its native land of Korea, there is no doubt that Caffe Bene is one of the most well-known coffee shops around. “We were very excited to bring it here to the Philippines,” shares Marketing Director, Derrick Chua. “Caffe Bene offers a wide array of specialty dessert items such as the Liege waffles and the gelato, plus specialty drinks like the coffee, fraps, and the signature mocktails.”
Caffe Bene is home to rustic, European-inspired interiors.  The Eastwood branch, in particular, offers customers the comfort of enjoying their coffee and desserts under high ceilings. The second floor even houses a book corner, which, according to Derrick, is a staple in all Caffe Bene branches. As a book lover, this is a concept that definitely appeals to me.
To kick off the feature, Derrick had us try was the Americano (Regular – P105; Large - P120). “Our coffee sets us apart from other coffee shops,” he says. “We use a medium roast, which means that our coffee, even without cream and sweeteners, is great for consumption. You don’t taste any unwanted bitterness in the brew.” He speaks no lie, in this case. I have never been a fan of taking coffee as plain as day, but Caffe Bene’s roast is simply perfect on its own—not too sweet, not too bitter. Caffe Bene customers are encouraged to take it this way. When the café conducts occasional blind taste tests, people are often partial to the medium roast.
Dark versus medium roast
Next up was a variety of Liege waffles. The Liege waffle is a denser, chewier type of waffle that is sweetened by chunks of caramelized pearl sugar. The Plain (P95) is so good on its own that it sort of makes you want to stick to the basics because it already provides you with that sense of sweet satisfaction. Of course, this is no reason to shy away from the ones with toppings, as each is special in its own right. The Blueberry Cream Cheese Liege Waffle (P165) is a welcome change from many blueberry-flavoured desserts as the blueberries on this one are on the sweet-sour side, effectively coupling with the sweetness of the waffle. The Strawberry Cream Liege Waffle (P145), decked with fresh strawberries and cream, is a big favourite among Caffe Bene’s patrons.
Blueberry Cream Cheese Liege Waffle
Strawberry Cream Liege Waffle
My absolute favourite, was, of course, the Caramel Cinnamon Honey Bread (P145). Derrick mentioned that customers really see the value for money of this dish because it is big enough to share. Presentation-wise, it’s practically a work of art. It does, however, taste as pretty as it looks. The sweetness level is perfect, and the cinnamon gives it a nice, warm zing. Last but not the least, we had the Strawberry Bingsu (Large - P215; Huge – P285), Korea’s version of our local halo-halo. I’ve tasted bingsu before, but this one, with its generous helpings of gelato, fresh strawberries and azuki, is well on its way to becoming my favourite. This particular flavour, according to Derrick, sits really well with the customers. “People here just really love strawberries,” he notes.
Caramel Cinnamon Honey Bread
Strawberry Bingsu
Caffe Bene’s reputation certainly precedes it. As it is at the top of the ladder when it comes to Korean coffee shops, it has probably had a lot to prove to both long-time patrons and to new ones. But seeing that everything we tried at the café was great, it really doesn’t have anything to worry about. Caffe Bene, I feel, is truly representative of Korean dessert culture at its finest.

Additional images courtesy of Caffe Bene.
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Caffe Bene

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