At home for more than a month now, with the National Capital Region here in the Philippines in lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we sorely miss dining at a place closer to nature but just outside Metro Manila. Invariably, one such location that comes to mind is a café nestled in the highlands of Tagaytay, an establishment we first encountered way back in 2002.
Looking for a place to have coffee along the Tagaytay-Nasugbu Road just past the Mendez crossing 18 years ago, we came across what appeared to be a bakery with a café’s name, a new kid on the block in Tagaytay’s burgeoning café and restaurant scene. We soon discovered that while Bag of Beans was selling pastries, it also had an open café at a garden several steps below. We were soon sipping Batangas barako coffee while feasting on freshly baked bread and shepherd’s pie – the café’s specialty back then – in a charming, bucolic setting.
We enjoyed the food and experience so much we kept coming back to Bag of Beans at least once a year since we settled back in Metro Manila in 2004, except during the time we lived in California from 2006 to 2008. In the process we have seen Bag of Beans transform from a quaint, little-known café and bakeshop into a popular café and restaurant with 6 branches including a lodging place.
The open garden café eventually closed – it was too small for visitors that started flooding in – and gave way to a much larger setting at another location below and adjacent to the original bakeshop. The open-air set-up was retained with tables positioned amidst a collection of lush garden plants that blanketed the place. A number of cabanas were also built where guests could dine if it got too warm outside or if groups wanted a more private setting.
The menu also kept growing. From bread and pastries with coffee, the menu now included breakfast and lunch dishes with dessert. But our beloved freshly baked bread and local robust coffee continued to be part of the offering.
The dishes served at Bag of Beans were a mixture of local (Filipino) and American dishes. The breakfast platters reminded us about some diners we used to frequent in San Diego. (And how times have changed as we have now shifted to a plant-based diet for health reasons.)
When we started touring destinations in Batangas and other parts of Cavite from 2012 onwards, we would almost always drop by Tagaytay along the way and visit Bag of Beans for coffee and dessert if we were not having breakfast and lunch there. Besides the food, the coziness of the place with its verdant garden setting and rustic furnishings continued to draw people.
Thereafter, other branches started opening up as Bag of Beans continued to draw patrons. In 2015, Bag of Beans opened its first branch along Aguinaldo Highway and near the rotunda at Silang Crossing, still in Tagaytay. Whereas the main branch did not have a view of Taal Lake and Volcano, the newer branch – christined Athena – now had a panoramic view of the volcano complex from its open veranda.
By this time we had practically stopped going to the Main Branch, instead dining at Athena to enjoy views of Taal Lake and Volcano (we did miss the charming and rustic surroundings of the Main Branch though). Just a year after the opening of Athena, another branch was opened: Charito. This branch is also located along the Tagaytay-Nasugbu Road not too far from Athena and also overlooking Taal Volcano. It’s a more elegantly designed café and restaurant.
Charito is supposed to be higher-end than the other Bag of Beans branches although we didn’t find the price differences to be that much. (Prices at the Main Branch had actually climbed beyond affordable levels over the years but the food quality is such that you get what you pay for so no complaints there.)
Two more branches of Bag of Beans need to be mentioned here: the West Lake at Twin Lakes Shopping Village in nearby Laurel town and the Summit at Robinsons Land Corp. in Tagaytay. Meanwhile a lodging place – naturally named D’Lodge – was opened near the Main Branch.
It’s been a while since we dropped by on any Bag of Beans branch. The Taal Volcano eruption earlier this year surely would have affected all of the branches but any thoughts about them were soon overtaken by the Covid-19 phenomenon. But as we think beyond this lockdown we’re now looking forward to visiting any branch again, just like a reunion with old friends.