I’m reposting a piece I wrote together with Eva Gubat from 2006. This was a time when the blue & black Linksys routers were a status symbol at home because the “next frontier” was being able to add WiFi to your home. It was the age of Apple’s iBooks and PowerBooks — of being able to flex working from a coffee shop. I remember browsing PinoyExchange or MaPalad and the forums would have a list of “friendly” establishments that had free WiFi and allowed you to plug your laptop.
Many phones didn’t have WiFi back then so getting online on a portable device meant having to use a PocketPC or something that ran Palm OS. These were the final days of Symbian S60 and Nokia, which Steve Jobs would then deliver the final blow with the launch of the first iPhone a few months later.
This piece was part of an ongoing series that featured such friendly establishments offering free WiFi. Tech magazines at the time didn’t cross into lifestyle, but publishers soon realized that it was the lifestyle sections that attracted the budgets, so we had to be fashionably geek. Oh how times have changed.
Wi-Fi and Mocha
In our quest to find a laidback Wi-Fi hotspot, we found a place serving espresso and more. And, boy, were we in for a great surprise
In an age where drinking espresso is part of one’s daily habits, there are people who take the time to look for a coffee place both cozy and hip. We found such place in BF, Parañaque. Mocha Blends is a quiet place that sits in a corner. It doesn’t hawk its wares with loud colors and blaring music. It’s just there, a place filled with goodies, and that includes Wi-Fi.
Blending Wi-Fi and more
Perhaps one of the most honest services a coffee place can offer is a sign on the door that indicates if the Wi-Fi signal is on or off. The most irritating occurrence for the mobile warrior is when he or she plops onto a chair, orders coffee, boots up his or her laptop only to find a wireless signal with no Internet. In the long run, Wi-Fi seekers who find coffee shops ignorant of their wireless access tend to flock to other places for a more reliable connection.
Another enticing perk is that Mocha Blends allows people to plug in their laptops to the wall sockets, which is a good move because it encourages people to stay longer and order more.
The honest wireless services coupled with the encouragement for customers to stay longer builds a community not found in most coffee shops. Every so often, law students from various parts of the south flock together to have workshops or group studies, complete with laptops, a speaker and a whiteboard.
There are three “Wi-Fi zones” at Mocha Blends. There are tables and chairs outside for those who need their caffeine and nicotine fix while they surf. Then there’s the main area inside the resto complete with magazine racks and couches for those who want to experience the place’s full ambiance. Lastly, there’s an inner quiet room for those who want to hold private meetings or to study.
The first Mocha Blends outlet opened in July 2002 at the Circle C Mall on Congressional Avenue. Mocha Blends started its operation under Edsa Agro Industrial Corporation, run by Mr. Florante Dela Cruz. To date, Mocha Blends operates 31 outlets, with several more outlets under construction. These outlets serve espresso from the best Arabica varieties from other countries. Mocha Blends has also started venturing in having its own local roasting sources.
Mocha Blends strives to serve excellent espresso coffee and espresso-based drinks in a relaxed atmosphere, along with fruit-based drinks, pasta, rice dishes, Filipino-inspired breakfast, delicious pies, pastries and cakes.
Friday nights, from 8:30 to 11:30 pm, are for Mocha Blends’ Acoustic Night, when a band performs on a stage. Those who prefer solace can use the Quiet Room, which can seat 25-30 people. When we visited the restaurant for this review, we stayed in the quiet room, a very cozy room with a mobile made of colored capiz shells and a large painting on one side.
The quiet room has paneled walls in brown and cream shades. The room has lots of tables and chairs for hours of dining and surfing. On a corner lies a black leather sofa. A little exploration takes you to a pocket garden housing a Zen fountain and an array of plants. This nook is so beautiful that guilt ought to hit you when you try to smoke here. For those needing their nicotine fix, a smoking area is available with ash trays made from recycled coffee beans.
When one enters Mocha Blends, one notices a little banner by the door. It’s an instant message of salvation for any mobile warrior: Airborne Access Wi-Fi zone. Inside, it’s a feast for all senses. The main counter houses several coffeemakers in chrome shade with pressure detector and spigots. This is where the servers churn out cups of espresso for that instant upper. The main counter also has a dazzling array of colors. A set of sepia-toned wallpapers overhead, avocado-green panels, metal-ringed lights, a nook for customized frames, mugs and other ethnic knickknacks all give the counter an eclectic yet soothing feel to it. To one side is the cake counter housing goodies both sweetened and unsweetened. The specialties of the house are listed on a petite board complete with beautiful artworks. The brown walls are broken by colorful paintings. On a corner sits a shelf filled with merchandise arranged to relax the eye.
Talk of the town
Once you seat yourself, a waiter brings you the menu and the “table talker”: a buzzer that you can use to call the attention of waiters. Checking out Mocha Blends’ menu, we got dizzy with the wide variety of dishes and beverages: Espresso heritage, Specialty coffee, Hot mocha, Non-espresso drinks, Fantastic frosts, Specialty teas, Specialty cold drinks, Amazing fruitopia, All-day breakfast, Rice savories, Perfectly pasta, Gourmet sandwiches, Simple toasts and Starters.
If you’re ordering beverages, you need not get confused with the terms Piccolo, Medio and Supremo. It’s simply small (8 oz.), medium (14 oz.), and large (16 oz.), respectively. Those beverages and dishes marked with a star are Mocha Blends’ bestsellers, while a check means said dishes and beverages are highly recommended.
While we were checking our emails and updating the mph blog, we sampled the Blue kiwi blend, Mocha frost, Vanilla Plains, Mocha adoration, Cafe Mocha, Strawberry smoothie, and the mysterious Mavro Ouzo tea.
Blue kiwi blend is every summer addict’s dream for a cool drink. With a blue-green shade reminiscent of the beach, this beverage is sure to satisfy your thirst with its blend of kiwi and curacao syrup. Its sweet and tangy taste gave us a delightful rush. Mocha frost has coffee essence, mocha chocolate syrup mixed with cream and ice cream for that sinful, sweet experience. This beverage is said to be one of Mocha Blends’ more popular drinks. One can add hazelnut syrup for a balanced taste. We also got to enjoy the drink Vanilla Plains: a cold beverage steeped in vanilla and caramel flavor with bits of butter cookies. This drink balances the smoothness of vanilla and the crunchy texture of butter cookies; its white shade hides its beguiling, sweet flavor. Mocha Adoration and Cafe Mocha gave us a great espresso experience. The first has raspberry, whipped cream and strips of white chocolate. The second is an espresso shot mixed with special mocha chocolate from Australia. Talk about a double mocha whammy. The Strawberry Smoothie targeted the kids in us. It was vibrant pink, with a very thick, milky texture whose sweetness does not go overboard. The Mavro Ouzo tea is a sweet yet strong blend of star anise, elderberries, fennel seeds and liquorice roots. It’s served in a pitcher, allowing one to press the leaves for the right amount of extract. As the tea is sipped, a flavor is revealed every second. No kidding. Remember the scene in the movie, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory where the blonde girl enjoyed a wad of gum containing a three-course meal? That’s what happened to us: “Wow! Sweet flavor. Must be the elderberry leaves. What’s this tangy taste? And ooh! Minty taste! Wow!”
For the dishes, we had the Gourmet sandwich, Creamy crab, All-Filipino tapa,
Seafood Saffron, Carbonara and Grilled Sausage. The Gourmet sandwich has a selection of cold cuts and fresh vegetable slices with a dash of Thousand Island dressing. Its bread is toasted, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. Creamy crab sandwich consists of crab slices mixed in a sauce consisting of cream cheese, yogurt and spices. Although a bit too sweet for our palate, the crab slices and the toasted bread are a treat to sandwich lovers. The all-Filipino tapa gives another reason for us to be proud of our food heritage. The tapa slices are cooked well and spiced just right. Rice is served generously, and the two sunny side ups are added treats. To top these off is its packaged ice tea, sweet and herbal to the taste. Seafood Saffron has sliced mushroom, saffron sauce and generous serving of seafood bits. Spiced just right, its sweet, rich sauce can make the day of any gourmet buff. Next on the list is the Carbonara, a classic dish with a Blends twist. Mocha Blends scrimps neither on the crispy bacon bits nor on the parmesan cheese. Next is the Grilled sausage. We swear sugar and sausage never mixed so well as in this dish. It has a grilled Schublig sausage with liver pate as gravy, adding zest to the dish. To balance the all-meat ensemble, caramelized onion is added.
For dessert, (it’s tough, but somebody’s got to do the hard work), we had Banana Caramel Cream Pie, Toblerone cake, and Triple layer cake. Banana Caramel Cream Pie has white chocolate flakes, graham crackers and banana slices. Its top layer has cream and white chocolate flakes. Graham crackers give the dish its crunchy texture. The best part here is the banana slices: very sweet and soft to the taste, complementing the white chocolate flakes. Tobleron cake has a chiffon texture with the signature Tobleron taste, while the Triple layer adds a wicked flavor to this ensemble with its rich taste and varying doses of sweetness.
After our quest, we realized two things: one, Wi-Fi’s one of the greatest invention for all mobile warriors; two, it’s a sin to surf on an empty stomach. Who says it’s bad to eat near your laptop? We say it’s sinful to pass up a chance to eat good food. Pass us the menu again, Sir.