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Surftown’s favorite cafe finally makes it to Manila with Del Union

Surftown’s favorite cafe finally makes it to Manila with Del Union

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  • Same but different: Del Union brings the quality coffee of surftown down to the city, but with a different vibe
del union

Ten years since El Union first opened in the surf town of San Juan, La Union, it has finally arrived in the city. But it isn’t the same coffee shop weekend vacationers have made pilgrimages to the north for. Sort of. 

The difference is evident immediately from its name—a deliberate choice by its founders. “The reason we wanted two different brands was to set customer expectations. You’re not getting the exact same El Union here,” says Del Union creative director Matt San Pedro. 

Moving from beachside to city (on the third floor of a bookstore, at that) is, after all, a stark contrast. But if you look closely at Del Union’s details, the essence of the surftown coffee brand remains infused into it.

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“‘El Union’ is a play on La Union, translated from Spanish, means ‘the union.’ ‘Del Union’ naman is a play on El Union, but translated from Spanish means ‘of the union’ or ‘from the union.’ Honestly it’s hard to translate the El Union experience into the city. [This] is not exactly El Union, but because of the name, you’ll already know it’s from the same people,” San Pedro says.

True enough, while Del Union has veered away from the beachside boho-chic of its surf town older sibling, it retains the colors reminiscent of its roots: warm orange tones like the sunset, and cool blues like the sea, here tempered by more city-esque aesthetics. The space, which occupies a part of Fully Booked BGC’s third floor, embraces a more retro feel with washed pebble accents, tiles, and wood.

And while Del Union markedly has a more urban feel, it retains its laidback charm, apt for its unique bookstore location.

[READ: How a young artist outside F&B whips up a different recipe for Del Unión’s success via F&B Report]
Del union

More than the aesthetic, Del Union’s menu also features some clear differences. While many clamor for the iconic grilled cheese, there are a number of equally impressive sandwiches in the Manila outpost.

These deli-style sandwiches are developed by Makan chef EJ Lagman, and come with a good range of filling options, covering almost every food group imaginable. Classics come in the form of smoked chicken, seared tuna, and charred beef, while more Filipino-leaning options take the form of toasted longganisa and tinapa pate. Vegetarians also get a hefty sandwich option with the kalabasa roast, featuring a colorful medley of flavorful veggies and crops.

For those who prefer to pair their coffee with sweets, Del Union’s pastry case features several desserts crafted by independent bakers and chefs from Manila and the north, too—staying true to El Union’s northern origins.

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Kalabasa roast sandwich
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Cold brew latte and cold brew mocha

Bataan-based Old Boy Bakery, helmed by Anton Miranda, supplies Del Union weekly with egg pies. Meanwhile, Del Union’s very own architect Jeric Rustia also has his chocolate miso cookies available. Other desserts on rotation include a calamansi muffin topped with sugary crumble and honey cake.

But of course, the coffee shop is famous for its selection of drinks. And though some of them have been named differently for the Manila branch, they retain their essential, well-loved flavor. The horchata and dirty horchata is now known in Manila as “orxata” and they also have a more extensive cold brew selection, with options like latte and mocha.

Del union
Dirty horchata
Del union
Chocolate miso cookie, egg pie, and calamansi muffin

Another uniquely Del Union option lies in the various milk choices. While in La Union, drinks are mostly restricted to dairy, the Manila outpost carries more plant-based milk options like soy and oat. 

It’s been a long time coming for the La Union coffee shop to finally put up shop in the city. But even in the city, with a “new”(ish) name and a slightly different menu, the youthful, laidback energy of the brand remains. A sure comfort for coffee fans in this side of town—whether you’ve been to the beach town of San Juan, La Union or not.

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