Acting as a bridge between two different countries and two different coffee cultures, Chanco has learned that the most pressing concern for Philippine caffeine circles today isn’t the availability of the product. There are, after all, dozens of brands offering both regular and specialty coffee in every major city. Instead, the challenge now is accessibility—to give customers the confidence to voluntarily try new kinds of coffee on their own. Chanco wants to take a page from Singaporeans’ coffee habits. “What’s interesting in Singapore is that the people who are willing to pay $1 for coffee are the same ones who are willing to try a $5 coffee and vice-versa, which is exciting,” he says.
The challenge now is accessibility—to give customers the confidence to voluntarily try new kinds of coffee on their own.
But developing this culture in the Philippines is easier said than done. Aside from the fact that Manila’s coffee scene is still in its infancy, what makes the task difficult is the country’s pride in its own native product. “As long as you are a producer of coffee, you’ll hold so much pride in your own product, which is perfectly normal,” Chanco explains. “It’s very tempting for Yardstick to push [other coffees] faster than what we’re doing now, but we don’t necessarily want to alienate the customers.” So he and his colleagues are approaching this challenge another way: through Yardstick’s own specialty coffee subscription service, The Circle.
The Circle, Yardstick’s coffee subscription service
It’s another page taken from Singapore’s playbook, but it’s a strategy that seems to make even more sense for the Philippines and its archipelagic geography. With The Circle, coffee drinkers from Luzon to as far down south as Davao can order all of Yardstick’s current in-season single origin coffees and flagship espresso blends. There are three currently three subscription plans with durations that range from three to 12 months, and come with various perks. For Chanco, the most important plus to joining The Circle is gaining access to a members only Facebook group for all subscribers. “You can share recipes and give feedback, which makes it fun and more interactive, rather than just us sending coffee to them,” he explains. The Circle then becomes an echo of Chanco’s own casual coffee education, but blown up to a national scale.
“I think the common denominator for people who don’t normally succeed (in the coffee business) is that they’re doing it just because it’s cool. Maybe that’s not enough,”
As customers continue to use The Circle, they also get first dibs access to premium Secret Stash Coffees, which only ship once or twice a year. They’ll also be able to try out the new recipes that Yardstick releases every four months. Starting this month, they’ve released coffees from Kenya and Central America. Chanco acknowledges that not all of these new flavors will be for everyone, but he hopes that customers get curious enough to try them out for themselves.
With the number of coffee enthusiasts growing worldwide, Chanco suspects that Singapore will continue to venture beyond its own borders, exploring different markets in other countries. Meanwhile, the Philippines will come of age before long, finding its own identity and business model, learning from its neighbors. But with a constantly expanding industry comes the threat of collapse, and Chanco reminds aspiring coffee entrepreneurs to keep themselves rooted. “I think the common denominator for people who don’t normally succeed is that they’re doing it just because it’s cool. Maybe that’s not enough,” he states, before adding, “Get your hands dirty. It’s not as glamorous as it looks, but if you have the passion for it, it almost doesn’t feel like work.”
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Opening image by Renzo Navarro