Although cafes have offered non-dairy options for many years now —Starbucks first added soy milk back in 1997—it has always felt like an afterthought. With a strong consumer shift towards plant-based consumption in the last several years, it’s no surprise that more and more establishments are gearing up to serve the demand.
Odd Cafe, located on the seventh floor of a Makati building, is putting plant-based cuisine front and center without making people feel like it is just an option.
“It was a conscious effort on our part not to label our cafe as vegan. We want to normalize it instead,” says owner Via Villafuerte. “It didn’t need to be said out loud. We knew there was a stigma around plant-based food—that if it was vegan that it wouldn’t taste good. But if positioned as something normal, people would try it and realize that it is good.”
It’s a strategy that has played out in their favor. “Most of our customers are non-vegans,” Villafuerte says proudly.
No labels necessary
When something is labeled as “plant-based” or “vegan,” it may have a restrictive effect on those who don’t identify as a plant-based eater or vegan. With Odd Cafe serving up coffee with oat milk automatically instead of dairy, people are more open to trying it. “We don’t offer any dairy options. Whenever people find that’s the case and they taste it, we love it when we get the feedback that oat milk can taste this good. It’s a winning moment for us,” Villafuerte says.
Partner Jasper Cazin has been a vegan for over two years now. His challenges in searching for plant-based options in the metro have been a driving force in opening up Odd Cafe. “The scene is getting better and we have more options now than two years ago. I think more people are aware of what ingredients are really plant-based or not. I once experienced ordering something from another cafe that they labeled as plant-based but it turned out that it had food coloring made from bugs.”
What’s on the menu?
These experiences informed Odd Cafe’s menu design. “Our pastries are from Green Bar. For our drinks, we researched about plant-based recipes and where to source plant-based ingredients… to make sure that the ingredients were really plant-based,” Villafuerte adds.
Some of the bestsellers are the French Kiss, an espresso, vanilla, and cinnamon concoction that can be served cold but is quite a treat served hot. The Cereal Killer uses cereal milk (cereal soaked in oat milk and then strained) with a splash of espresso, roasted almonds, and crispy cereal bits. For those who want some bite, get the Pita Pizza, which is a pita bread stuffed with vegan cheese, chickpeas, and vegetables.
For non-coffee drinkers, there is a range of hot and cold teas available, including a refreshing black tea-based drink called Peach Mango.
At Odd Cafe, the eyes get to eat, too
The interiors are playful with Instagram in mind. Floor-to-ceiling cubic grid shelves serve as dividers of the former office space and hold trendy and colorful decor. What looks like Ettore Sottsass’ Ultrafragola mirror leans on the wall next to the words “Odd Vibes Only” in hot neon pink. High ceilings and a 125-sq.m footprint lend a spacious feel.
“It has that feeling of being minimalist just because it has a lot of blank spaces but it’s not really minimalist because we have a lot of funky elements that pop,” says Villafuerte. “We needed a space that would be worth going up the seventh floor to.”
Odd Cafe is a step in spreading awareness that you don’t necessarily need dairy for coffee. Their tongue-in-cheek menu is fun and together with their hip interiors, it hopefully attracts more people to discover the goodness in plant-based food and drink.