In the dense jungle that is Manila, there are still some hidden gems that surprise those willing to explore and find out about this sprawling and ancient city. One of these gems, which I happen to have stumbled along is Cafe Noriter along Estrada Street near Taft Avenue. This coffee shop, hidden in plain sight without any remarkable landmark to guide you will somewhat pass you by as you make your way along the streets of Taft. I sure did, since for the longest time that I have been passing that street going to graduate school I've never really noticed it.
Cafe Noriter belongs to one of the third wave of coffee shops to sprout in the Metro. It is a rustic, cabin-like, almost bohemian affair with a flare for the arts and creativity from its customers. But before I get to the specifics, let us first try to dissect what a 'third wave coffee shop' is. The way I understand this utterly new concept is, third wave coffee shops bring a whole new and different approach to coffee brewing. Far from the formulaic and almost McDonalds-like system of Starbucks and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, third wave shops like Magnum Opus, Cafe de Seoul and Noriter bring with them a sense of quality and craftsmanship. Now as I have said before, I am not exactly an avid coffee drinker or brewer but all I can say is that these shops provide a little snazzle, some dazzle, and a whole lot of artisanal flare to your brew.
Now that I've gotten that thought out of the way, I can now go back to my regularly scheduled program. My experience inside Cafe Noriter was a short-lived one. After having a gastronomic experience at 8065 Bagnet, Tricia and I needed a place to stay and hang out for a little while. When Tricia pointed out this practically hole-in-the-wall coffee shop, I just couldn't resist its allure and my visible surprise that I have been passing this place for quite some time. True enough the allure of Cafe Noriter is its almost bohemian and nearly kitschy character. Being a Korean franchise, Noriter being the Korean for "playground", the coffee shop has a distinct and unique character which makes it very interesting.
When we think of coffee shops, we think of sofas, comfy chairs, dark wooded tables and lighting fit for a museum or gallery. Well Noriter gets that pat down, but they take a traditional concept and turn it upside down and do a whole 360 degree for its interior. There is still the traditional coffee shop setup but what Noriter does it take away the comfy chairs and making you feel more comfortable with each other. Instead of chairs and sofas you get floors, lofts and little nooks; perfect places for studying or carrying out interesting conversations.
In an age where people love their gadgets and their faces practically glued to it, Noriter wants us to do the same at the same time still get comfy and cozy with your friends. In their lofts and wooden platforms, Noriter politely asks you to remove your shoes and feel at home. While seated, I couldn't help but notice and take the time to read what was written on the floor, tables and banister.
Practically every writable surface has been written on, but if you're lucky enough, go ahead and write on but keep in mind that some parts of the cafe are off limits to writing. Apart from the graffiti in every nook and cranny in this shop, another interesting thing to look at are the walls and shelves decked out with little paper cups. I have come to term these little paper cups as 'coffee shop stories', each cup holds a particular story of a casual visitor to Noriter. If I had more time, I would have browsed and looked at all of these cups. Nevertheless I wouldn't mind returning to Cafe Noriter and when I do return, I'll make sure to try something like their honey bread or one of their coffees.
Cafe Noriter can be found at 2746 Reyes Building, Estrada Street. Manila.
My name is Alfonso your nerdy history teacher, bookworm and lover of all things cultural and exciting. You can find me in a weekend market, in a bookshop, or eating in Japanese restos during the weekends.