By Roberto Klemente R. Timonera
Since it opened in June last year, the Bean Connection at Scooby’s Perdices has probably been one of the most popular tambay spots for students. Not surprising—it’s a five-minute walk from Silliman proper and its menu is light on the wallet, heavy on the stomach. Its orange and brown walls put you at ease while keeping you awake for the all-nighter to come. Top it off with their cozy sofas and friendly waiters (who start calling you by name soon enough) as well as the memes and one-liners on the walls and you’ve got pretty much the chillest student lounge in the city.
This month it opened another branch at the Scooby’s in Portal West, a place twice as large and twice as cozy (here there is a second floor with a soft blue armchair and an entire corner devoted to sofas). There’s a stage here too, and soon it’ll be holding a weekly open mic session for music and poetry.
For as long as most of us can remember, Scooby’s was always one of the most iconic restaurants in Dumaguete, alongside the likes of Sans Rival and Café Antonio. How it evolved into the Bean we now know and love is a fascinating story.
“We wanted something different…kanang pwede gyud matambayan,” says Casius Pinili, Mr. Bean himself. Five or six years before The Bean, his wife Isabel’s mother had already put up a coffee shop inside Scooby’s—the family business—but not many people knew about it because it wasn’t marketed properly. In a university town like Dumaguete there is a pressing need for a place where students can while away the hours or stay put to do schoolwork. Thus arose the idea for a more competitive coffee shop.
“It all started with the red velvet cupcake,” Isabel says. “My aunt in Manila made red velvet cupcakes I fell in love with. I couldn’t find that here.” She asked a cousin for the basic recipe, and tweaked it until she got the taste she wanted. The cupcake received a lot of positive feedback from family and friends; from there, she and Casius scoured the Internet for recipe ideas, making the necessary adjustments to meet their needs. Their menu went on to include coffee blends, cupcakes, an array of arroz bowls, and even some native delicacies like budbud sa Tanjay and sikwate.
But perhaps their most famous item—their flagship product, if you like—is their super moist chocolate cupcake. This rich piece of chocolate sorcery was actually the result of an accident: “I made a mistake in the icing and it turned out great,” Isabel reveals. When she tried again, this time taking extra care to follow the original recipe, the “mistake” version proved to be far tastier. This fortunate accident went on to be the reason many people found out about the Bean.
The Art and the Name
Back in high school, Casius used to do posters and hang out with a barkada of artists. The skills he got during that period helped him design their logo: a cup of coffee and a single coffee bean in an orange circle with a brown outline bearing the name “The Bean Connection.” He also did much of the interior design, taking the main color scheme from the logo. Being an avid fan of 9gag.com, he incorporated Internet memes into the posters and signs the Bean is now known for. The chalkboard outside the original Bean currently has a drawing of Fry from Futurama, the caption being “Not sure if they come for the coffee…or for the free wi-fi.” Other coffee-themed memes include their tip jar (which changes from time to time, and now has a 4 Pics 1 Word problem that spells out “tip”) and “Making your own coffee? Ain’t nobody got time for that!” Memes aside, the Bean is known for their many humorous signs and posters, like “Instant human—just add coffee” and “Time is precious. Waste it wisely.” “We incorporate funny stuff in our posters,” Casius says. “It really helps your day, when you’re stressed out and you see something funny.”
The Pinilis are good friends of the artists Paul Benzi Florenzo and Hersley-Ven Casero, whose many paintings decorate both Bean branches. The couple’s love for art and music is one of the reasons they decided to open a second branch.
“We really wanted to have open mic night,” Casius says. The original Bean was too small for that, so when they set to work on the Portal West branch, one of the first concerns was a stage.
With an ever-expanding menu, the Bean is currently sprouting many other treat ideas, such as YOLO (You Obviously Love Oreos) cupcakes and flavor-of-the month drinks. Today it retains its distinctly Dumagueteño feel (it isn’t a franchise) and remains a prominent chill spot everyone belongs in. Just remember to buy coffee.~