KKK Coffee: serving cups with a purpose

For many entrepreneurs, their unique selling point stems from their products. For KKK Coffee, they serve more than just a cup. They opt to tell a story.

Co-founder and CEO of KKK Coffee, Brian Tenorio has come a long way before settling into the coffee business. Never having thought of coming back after his design master’s program at Pratt Institute – one among his many other stints in New York – he decided to go back to Manila to pursue the coffee business.

KKK Coffee CEO Brian Tenorio on Developing Filipino Coffee Culture

“When we did KKK Coffee we wanted to do a scalable model. What we’re trying to do beyond people is helping culture. Our goal is to rediscover and develop Filipino coffee culture. No one says that the way we do,” Tenorio said.

The rich culture and the social aspect associated with coffee-drinking in the country was what convinced Tenorio to pursue a coffee business with a Filipino trademark and surprisingly one that is not the norm in the current coffee market. Having noticed that most shops in the business acquired to the western standards, Tenorio took a different route.

KKK Coffee

Their story was clear from the onset. Upon entry to the store, you will see the flag of the Katipuneros and Andres Bonifacio himself in a sea of red. Aside from coffee, their store also housed a variety of Filipino favorites including suman, empanada, and cakes that pair well with their coffee. One of their best-sellers include the Kapeng Ginto and interestingly enough, the idea was taken from 3-in-1 coffee knowing that most Filipinos have an acquired taste for sweet and creamy coffee.

His roster of drinks include staples like the AAA Premium Barako, served in the traditional pour-over way, and their trademark, the Caffe Filipino. Other unique mixes include the Kapeng Labuyo, the Kapeng Pandan, and the Kapeng Salabat. They also have comforting caffeine-free options like the Ifugao Rice Coffee and the Davao Tablea Hot Chocolate.

In an interview with Tenorio, he added that his coffee story also comes close to home as his mom usually complimented him on the way he made coffee. “My mom used to say ‘ang anak ko magaling magtimpla ng kape.’ The way she taught me to make coffee was through color – this is the way I copied her recipes,” he said.

Communicating the message across various channels

For a brand that cultivates a story, it can be challenging to remain consistent especially when partners are involved in handling other branches.

According to Tenorio, the secret to telling the story is to maintain its integrity from the source across various channels. To make a good story to begin with entails a lot of research. The patriotic story behind the brand is emanated through various means – from the name, the logo, the beans, the menu, the packaging, and the store design. Aside from this, he also trademarked all of the social and internet assets under KKK Coffee which include its Facebook page and website.

Tenorio also puts utmost importance in constant communication with his partners wherever they may be. He adds that while it is important to maintain the integrity of the story he still gives his partners the creative freedom when setting up their branch. His goal, after all, is to make Filipino coffee accessible across the country.

KKK Coffee currently has 3 existing branches in SM Marikina, Kalibo International Airport, and the famous Maginhawa St. in QC but expect to see more of them in the months ahead. Someday, Tenorio also hopes to open an international branch but for now, he hopes to cultivate the Filipino coffee story locally through his café. “We have another kind of great thing in the country and we have to embrace it,” he said.