These days, we like a transporting experience, with or without alcohol. And that’s just what you can get at bar.Flora, on Scout Rallos in Quezon City.
From 4 to 6 p.m., it’s a tea bar where you can have the classics: ceremonial matcha (₱200), matcha latte (₱200), masala chai latte (from ₱160), milk tea (from ₱160), house blend iced teas (₱180) and London Fog (a latte of earl grey tea and lavender foam, from ₱180). From 6 p.m. ‘til late night, it’s a proper bar known for its gin-infused tea cocktails in a sexy, botanical, Jagnus-designed setting.
“This is a girly catch-up place,” says one of the owners, Charlene Falcis, chic as the Rafikimono-clad staff, in a cropped black turtleneck, high waist khaki pants with a bootleg and stained berry lipstick, her hair pulled back. “Chika chika, catch up over food, over drinks. But it’s not really a walwalan place.”
We test that hypothesis on a Wednesday afternoon, as we order their Afternoon Tea set (₱1,350) comprised of a pot of tea, and a traditional tea stand with nontraditional small bites: tuna on rice toast, pomelo salad in panipuri, and crispy purses of ground pork and shrimp — the Thai dish called “money bags”— on the first layer, and dark-chocolate-and-lemon, milk-chocolate-rose-and-hibiscus and white-chocolate-and-lavender tea cakes on the second layer.
“This is from 22 Grams Manila,” says Falcis, pointing to the cakes. “Chef Dave, he’s a very, very good baker, about to open his own bakeshop.” She mentions that he made the cakes in large sizes during the pandemic, but sized them down for Flora’s tea stand. “We wanted to work with the best… to bring local independent players together.”
In fact, apart from the beverages, bar.Flora offers classes in tea appreciation, matcha, and chai. Ralph Tan does their Chai Journey workshops. “He has his own [chai] brand named Jacob’s Well,” says Falcis. “You get three to four chai drinks and at the end he shares a recipe.”
Then there’s Camille Tiongco, one of their bartenders who has a coffee background. “She does a Magic of Matcha class. You get three matcha drinks, [including] matcha coconut and matcha beer.”
Lastly, there’s Rachel Ngan Dueñas, who does the tea workshops every quarter. “Hers are really more immersive. She’s one of only two [tea] sommeliers in the country.”
Meanwhile, for their signature non-alcoholic “Tea-Tails," they worked with Nicco Recasata of INT.Bar fame. Two are sent over to our table by our host in a turquoise robe, Bella: the Hibiscus (tart cherries, apple cider, ginger beer, and coconut vanilla cream) and Jasmine-Darjeeling (black tea, lychee, soda water, lemon). Both are so refreshing, and it feels like we could stay there all the way to the evening, primed by the indie rock soundtrack and the depth of their food menu, which was partly developed by Chef Jorge Mendez of Mõdan, and bar.Flora’s young chefs Tana Picar and Jamie Javier.
Standouts include the kimchi arancini (₱280) (“Kimchi and mozzarella cheese inside, wrapped around kimchi flavored rice risotto,” Chef Jamie says. “Deep fried.”) as well as rice bowls like the Pork Belly Teadobo (assam tea braised pork belly, charred bok choy, hibiscus atchara and tea eggs, ₱475) and the Khaoconut Chicken (₱455), a grilled chicken thigh fillet in burnt coconut cream sauce influenced by Tausug cuisine. Plus, the matcha popcorn: nori flakes, brown butter, culinary matcha. When I get home, my dress smells a bit like it.
Chef Tana, who specialized in Asian cuisine and developed the excellent coconut chicken, points to the bottom tray of the tea stand, now empty. “I made all of that.”
We are so full. But Falcis says: “Huwag ka munang aalis.”
On our table is a bird-shaped glass filled with gin, chai syrup, and pineapple, with a plume of flowers and a glass straw coming out of its tail. On the other side, a tray with a teapot containing Haku vodka with Cocchi Americano vermouth sits next to three small vessels which themselves contain infusions of gin and tea: an Indonesian white tea with Nordes, Japanese sencha with Sipsmith, and a black tea with a creamy Italian gin whose name you can purr: Bottega Bacur.
We take our sips but they are quite boozy compared to the mocktails we’ve been enjoying. So we gesture to leave, just as Bella goes around lighting the candles at all the tables to prep for the late crowd.