I've been living in the Philippines for nearly seven years now, and as a coffee lover it's been hard going at times because up until recent years we had little more than chains like Starbucks, Seattle's Best Coffee and Coffee Bean to choose from. That was until Costa Coffee started opening stores a few years ago, so now the situation is much improved.
However, the nearest Costa Coffee stores are all close to an hour away from where I live, so most of the time I make my own coffee at home using my espresso machine.
Finding fresh beans with good body and flavour was also a challenge for many years too. I tried many different Philippine coffees because I assumed those would have been fresher than imported ones, but most were too bland or too bitter.
So for the past couple of years I've been using the Costa ground coffee in tins, despite them being about twice the price of other brands. But the problem with Costa is that the supply of their ground coffee is very erratic. They will have some in stock for a few weeks, then nothing for several months.
So I was absolutely delighted to discover a new local brand today called 'Brillo' that has an Italian Roast blend that tastes almost identical to the Costa coffee that I normally buy.
Actually Brillo is not that new. According to their website, which I checked out when I got home, they were established four years ago, but I only came across them today. I will be switching to them now because their coffees are half the price of the Costa ground coffee (but I shall still continue to enjoy Costa's famed flat whites when I am in the vicinity of any of their stores because I can't replicate the thick layer of crema on my home espresso machine).
The Brillo company was established to roast and package imported coffee beans in small batches, recognising that the secret of good coffee is to use freshly roasted beans.
Brillo is a strange name for a coffee brand (when I think of Brillo I think of a soap-filled scouring pad) but I guess they are using it as a Spanish word (which means brightness). The Philippines used to be a Spanish colony so it is quite common here to see Spanish words being used as brand names.
But what surprised me most of all when I checked out the Brillo website, was that their Italian Roast was a blend of a local Arabica bean (from Mt Matutum in southern Mindanao) and a Java Robusta bean (which I guess is why they can keep the price low). The coffee tastes so good I had assumed it must have been 100% Arabica beans because the Robusta beans don't add any bitterness at all.
They have three other blends that I will try in due course, but at the moment I'm more than happy with their Italian Roast - let's hope they can keep the taste of that blend consistent (something that Starbucks struggles to do with their coffees).