Barista who lost job due to pandemic now a multi-coffee shop owner

DAVAO CITY – After eight months of brewing coffee on his motorcycle on the streets of downtown Davao City, champion barista John Rey O. Plaza feels delighted opening his own coffee shop.

Plaza was employed as a senior barista for more than two years at a homegrown third wave coffee shop that closed down in October 2020 when the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic happened, leaving most businesses in Davao City at a standstill.

Looking back, the 35-year-old Dabawenyo said losing his job of 12 years amid the pandemic was a blessing after all because it gave him an opportunity to start Kapeweñoz Specialty Coffee Davao and provide for his family. Plaza won the Davao leg of the coffee triangulation competition of Baristas' Quest in July 2019.

After losing his job due to the COVID-19 pandemic, champion barista John Rey O. Plaza feels delighted opening his own coffeeshop. (Keith Bacongco)

Last July 8, his own third wave coffee bar on V. Mapa St., Poblacion District opened. It banners the local specialty beans from different regions of Mindanao and even from different parts of the country as he sources green Arabica beans from as far as Sagada, Mountain Province and soon Liberica beans or “Barako Coffee” from Batangas.

“I could not have done this if the pandemic did not happen or the coffee shop that I worked for did not close. I was very busy at that time, managing the coffee shop to some extent, and brewed and roasted coffee beans all at the same time,” he said.

Plaza still comes to his pop-up spot across Carmelite Monastery along JP Laurel Avenue from 6 a.m. to 9 am. daily with his makeshift coffee bar using his motorcycle with an old ironing board placed on top, while he trains two junior baristas for his new shop open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

Plaza said he had mentored a few baristas on roasting and brewing, some of them now owners of mobile coffee shops both here and in Panabo City.

“There is more time for me to promote Mindanao coffee beans and educate more people about our specialty beans because I have the entire day for that,” he added.

He also received offers from businessmen for franchise but declined them as he feared it might no longer live up to the purpose why he put up Kapaweñoz – that is, to educate people about specialty coffee.