BEDANS AS WE are, our longing for leisure is as great as our thirst for knowledge. As such, to become “fully human” amidst the “hurly-burly-ness” of our campus and city lives, let’s take a stroll down to the hottest and most sought-after cafés in the University Belt (U-Belt).  

Besides often being associated with “chasing clout,” cafés are heaven-like places to relieve that stress. Reducing one’s sanity without going out of style, take a peek at these popular cafés today that are mere steps away from Mendiola! 

12:00 Café (4/5) 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Described as an ‘open’ café with a minimalist-inspired motif according to the store’s manager, this café located above BonChon Legarda is a pre-pandemic snack bar born out of necessity to provide student-friendly meals, pica-pica, and both coffee & non-coffee beverages to help soothe that quenching feeling after being roasted by professors.  

Steadfast to their aimed interior design, you will be welcomed with an aesthetically pleasing area dominated by neutral colors to help compliment the open-air terrace space facing toward Centro Escolar University (CEU) and San Beda University (SBU). Although packed due to its narrow design, this gives off a sense of intimacy when conversing with peers. 

Popular amongst the wide range of meals and refreshments is the highly acclaimed Spanish Latte worth Php99 for hot + Php10 if iced, to name a few. The Spanish Latte, being one of their best-sellers, is not up for debate due to how the said refreshment is served with the right sweetness and a texture that is simply light and creamy. It has a nutty aroma with a toasted almond-like taste, reducing the latte’s acidity. 

For non-coffee lovers, their Php149 (for hot) or Php159 (for iced) Matcha Latte is as far as it goes. The sweetness covers the authentically astringent flavor of Matcha. The texture is light, along with a mellow vegetal, grassy note consistent with other Matcha Lattes offered in most cafés. It might be average to some, but a must-have for new matcha lovers.  

Another best-seller of the café is their Biscoff Waffle for only Php99. A waffle smudged with Biscoff spread, this delicacy is quite thick-crusted, followed by a flavor that is quite drying due to Biscoff’s biscuit-like taste.  

Last on our list is their PhP110 four-piece Dimsum with steamed rice—emphasis on ‘steamed’ since the meal is served smokingly hot! The dimsum is packed with extremely juicy and flavorful meat, like a party in the mouth, added with chili sauce to keep the flame going. The spiciness is moderate but not recommended for the faint-hearted.  

Cups Café (3.5/5)  

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Just 290 meters away from 12:00 Café, Cups Café is the next on our list. This feel-good café is quite pricey compared to the first, yet its modern & dark interior design is worth capturing.  

Dominated by colors of black and gray, the café’s interior is similar to any other modern-day structure with a deco-industrial look. Under this motif, the café utilized exposed brick walls, poured cement floors, and Edison light bulbs. This Malaysian-inspired café also has a variety of tables for collaboration and hangouts, respectively, creating a much wider space to cater a substantial number of people.  

Part of the café’s best-sellers is the Php195 Chicken Pesto. Looking at appearance alone would create an illusion of the pasta being unappetizing due to its excessive display of cheese and oil.  

Yet remarkably, the balance of flavors was retained despite the ingredients. Although the chicken was not evident, not to mention how some of the customers observed a peculiar tuna-like taste, its herby flavor remained due to the basil provided – consistent with other pesto pastas.  

Another best-seller of the café is their Php150 (if small/kecil) or Php170 (if large/besar) ‘CUPS Special’ coffee, which some customers rated poorly. According to them, the appearance was ‘generic’ to other coffees. Its weak point, however, was its heavy flavor wherein “para siyang normal caffeine na-hinalo lang ng milk,” said a customer who wishes not to be disclosed. The same sentiments were shared by the café’s ‘CUPS Special’ blended coffee, priced the same as their ‘CUPS Special’ coffee.  

Obscure Café (3/5) 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

If you’re looking for a hub for chikahan with a cup of coffee, Obscure Café is right for you! Located at Morayta, this nook is far from small and has the space to cater to friend groups of any size (obviously, not TOO big a size to cause a scene). So, you can be loud to an extreme level here. Aside from that, the café looks like a garage with a creamy twist appearance. 

We, your café hopper, have tried the Lotus Oreo Latte, a hot coffee lined with peanut butter and crushed cookies at the paper cup’s rim. Their pasta is also enough for the stomach. Their Aglio Oglio pasta is fresh and warm from the pan, peppered with strips of chicken or bacon (whatever your choice would be, but having those add-ons would cost you an extra Php55 or Php60). Definitely recommended for big eaters!  

Other than what we’ve mentioned, the café also has some iced teas, smoothies, juices and mocktails, frappes, sandwiches, and pastries to satisfy your diverse appetite! 

Sadly, for some coffee hoppers, this isn’t your typical place to study or work. The energy of the café just isn’t giving this “study and work” atmosphere in the first place. It’s more of an area of kwentuhan, and that’s what most patrons here will most likely be doing: non-stop gossip from one table to another. 

Chingu Dachi Café (4/5) 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

K-Popers out there, we have heard your cry! Come to Chingu Dachi and you must definitely try their drinks! This café located at España is like heaven on earth for you, Kpop stans! The soft and luminescent lighting has a charming touch to your experience here in this humble abode. 

Their drinks are quite a staple here: milk tea, fruit tea, “just” tea, soda pops, coffee, and other cold beverages. You can pair a spot of tea or coffee with any of their sweet pastries like waffles, muffins, and toasts.  

They have muffins of various flavors, and I highly recommend their blueberry muffins. They have some savory options if you’d like pastas, rice meals, finger food, steak. 

Now, the REAL cream of the crop is something rather special. In one corner of the room is this white glistening chapel of merchandise. Several tall shelves are packed with merch, from albums, posters, photo cards, figurines, plushies, and lightsticks – they have it all! Other than that, they have another special thing in their reserve: the ‘Fotoautomat’ or the photo booth, which costs Php250 per session.  

Setting aside the Kpop craze, the café is also a great place to study and work. Many people will do the same, and the café’s vibe makes you comfortable doing your own thing without question. 

Now that we’ve put in the work trying these cafés out for you, it’s now down to you in deciding which fits your vibe. Make your day all the more enjoyable by popping on one of these cafés during your “me” day. 


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