The very intention of Datu’s Brew when it opened in May 2011 was to showcase that “Mindanao goods can be world-class”. Particularly because it is a coffee shop, owner Jehan F. Baraguir said that what many do not know is that “Mindanao has coffee beans that are globally recognized,” she said. For instance, Bukidnon coffee growers submitted their (Arabica) beans for consideration to a Canada-based accreditation organization, “at pumasa sila (and they passed).” With this, “they closely monitor the beans they produce; they’re of world-class quality.”
It is this that Datu’s Brew initially served, which may be particularly appreciated when served as Kape Mapadtadem (local version of Café Americano). It is this, too, that “helped start us create a following,” Baraguir said, “particularly those who want to drink REAL coffee.”
From there, Datu’s Brew soon grew – at first, continuing to offer more local coffees, e.g. from the nearby town of Pikit, to be paired with local delicacies; and then eventually, some locally inspired meals and (unfortunately “betraying” the intention of the place) café faves.
The menu, therefore, is somewhat “kalat”/“magulo” (scattered/confusing). For drinks, the local coffees mingle with hot choco (P100), frappe ((140-P170), and juices and shakes (P65-P95). For food, e.g. there’s Mac & Cheese (P135), Baked Spaghetti (P145), and Shepherd’s Pie (P145). But – again to highlight that what’s local can be good – there’s also Chicken Pinapalan (P145), a Maguindanaoan delicacy that uses “palapa” (pan-cooked coconut) as main ingredient. Taste-wise, this is akin to Malaysian and/or Indonesian way of preparing meals (there’s the Malay connection, after all), so expect every spoonful of chicken to be coconut-ty instead of sweetish (as the chicken ends up tasting when ordered from, say, Jollibee or the likes).
Baraguir admitted that the way Datu’s Brew is being managed was affected by the opening of franchises that “tend to eat up local businesses.” Not too far from her place are two outlets of Bo’s Coffee – “local” in the sense that the brand is Filipino, but still not Mindanawon or, to be even more particular, Cotabateño. These outlets have become go-to places of many because of the “brand”.
And this is where there’s some sadness felt, perhaps particularly because Datu’s Brew has continued to further evolve into a “local store” of some sort. Inside, the walls are clad with outputs from Maguindanaoan weaving; and they are also for sale, with Datu’s Brew serving as the avenue for Maguindanaoan weavers to sell their goods.
“We partner particularly with Maguindanaoan women from far-flung areas so their goods get the attention they deserve,” Baraguir said.
For instance, one partner community is Bulalo in Sultan Kudarat, where the products woven by older women are sold through the store. The long-term intention for this particular community is “for the older women to train the younger women so they don’t lose a cultural practice after they realize it’s a sustainable endeavor,” Baraguir said.
Come over then to get a taste of something Mindanawon. You’d not only be helping a local business grow; you’d be helping a local community thrive, too. And following the very concept behind Starbucks itself, aside from serving good coffee (of course) isn’t that what cafés are supposed to also be doing?
Datu’s Brew is located along Gov. Gutierrez Ave. (on the way to ORC Compound), Cotabato City. For more information, contact 0935 687 8800.