“Surfing really changed the way I see life. It’s really more simple now. Once you start surfing, you quit all your vices so you can have the strength and endurance in the water. You can never underestimate the ocean,” says Coral Liggayu. 

It’s this love of surfing that led her to live in Zambales and now run a small, hidden cafe and teahouse called Teahouse at Sambali in Botolan. 

The simplicity she has adopted as a way of life can be felt in the teahouse. A rustic charm is found in the details—in the menu that Coral herself has handwritten in perfect calligraphy, in the gently restored found furniture, and in the built-in tiled benches. Time stands still at the Teahouse at Sambal. Here, you can order slow coffee, soak in the environment, and appreciate the art of taking your time.

“We’re a third wave coffee shop so we do manual brewing, pour-overs, French press, and Moka pot. Then we also bake homemade ciabatta bread and choco banana bread,” says Teahouse at Sambali’s Coral Liggayu.

“We’re a third wave coffee shop so we do manual brewing, pour-overs, French press, and Moka pot. Then we also bake homemade ciabatta bread and choco banana bread. We also bake pies like the calamansi pie, apple pie, and spinach and cream cheese quiche,” she says.

Teahouse at Sambali looks so cozy you'd want to stay longer than you planned
Teahouse at Sambali looks so cozy you’d want to stay longer than you planned
Teahouse at Sambali serves coffee from The Dream and other local coffee beans
Teahouse at Sambali serves coffee from The Dream and other local coffee beans
Guests can also sit on the bangguerra
Guests can also sit on the bangguerra

“I want people to feel relaxed, comfortable, and cozy when they come here. I want them to have a sense of calmness in this chaotic world. We want food to make you grow and not make you sick so we use only muscovado sugar and honey to sweeten our treats—never white sugar,” Coral explains.

Calamansi pie
Calamansi pie

Like many, Coral started baking during the pandemic and it was her calamansi pie that caught the attention of the community and gave her the idea that this can actually be the start of a small business. The pie’s crust is chewy and dissolves beautifully with a sip of hot coffee but its filling is what people clamor for. The calamansi’s distinct tartness coalesce nicely with the sweet, creamy custard. The place also serves rice meals and savory items but most are vegetarian or pescatarian.

Keeping it in the family

Coral Liggayu and her 19-year-old sister Oceania
Coral Liggayu and her 19-year-old sister Oceania

Coral runs the teahouse with her 19-year-old sister Oceania (who is also a surfer and recent transplant of Zambales) and watching the two handle the orders of customers is really a work of art. When asked if Oceania sees herself doing this in Manila, she says, “No, I”m not an urban girl anymore.” She reveals that she often goes to work wearing surf wear underneath so she can immediately hit the waves once her shift ends.

“There are some challenges for sure working with family,” admits Coral. “But they’re very helpful in every circumstance. You get to be patient with each other. You learn from each other. And because of that family bond, you’re secured and know won’t leave each other hanging.”

The menu features calligraphy handwritten by Coral herself
The menu features calligraphy handwritten by Coral herself
Ciabatta French toast
Ciabatta French toast
Good cups of coffee can build a community
Good cups of coffee can build a community

Besides Oceania, Coral also involves her brothers Reef and Forest. The teahouse is holding their first retreat, which includes healing breathwork workshops with Reef during sunset atop nearby Mount Calib-ungan. Her younger brother Forest also holds geometric figures classes, which is an interesting way to approach dance through the geometry your body can form.

In their world of slow coffee and beach life, social media marketing takes a bit of a backseat. “Engaging the community plays a bigger part than social media. We do have social media, but it’s not well-maintained because of the time needed to spend in the kitchen baking all of our products in its best quality. I believe that making and serving good food is marketing in itself,” Coral says.

In their world of slow coffee and beach life, social media marketing takes a bit of a backseat. “Engaging the community plays a bigger part than social media. I believe that making and serving good food is marketing in itself,” Coral says.

People who find themselves gravitating towards the waves of Botolan, Zambales will hear the whispers of the hidden teahouse by locals and surfers just like I did. When they see the Teahouse at Sambali sign in dappled sunlight, all they need to do is follow the scent of freshly brewed coffee to discover why everything in life doesn’t need to be rushed.