Cebuanos are great coffee drinkers; or, more accurately, Cebuanos are great gossipers, who happen to indulge in their passion at coffee shops.

Cebu's pride is Bo's Coffee Club, a chain of coffee shops with stunningly elegant designs, English-speaking baristas, and a selection of gourmet brews. Bo's are, of course, a shameless rip-off of the Starbucks concept. There are now about a dozen Bo's in Cebu, and a fair percentage of this country's business takes place at Bo's. Bo's also serve the best pancakes in town, during breakfast hours. (For some reason the Pancake House doesn't do pancakes well, though their fish - daing nga bangus - is terrific.)

Just as Bo's were inspired by Starbucks, so were countless others inspired by Bo's. Cebu has recently experienced a surge in the number of Bo's wannabes, such as the beautiful and spacious Coffee Beanery on A S Fortuna, small but superb Calabria at the Cocomall, or Brown Cup, near the Redemptorist. Even the gas stations are getting into the act: Caltex has espresso machines at its Coffee Plus stalls.

In addition, in 2003 Cebu finally did get its first Starbucks, at Ayala, right across the longer established Bo's (followed by a second outlet in SM in October, 2004). Initially, Cebuanos went nuts over Starbucks and the place was packed, day after day. But there's no doubt that Bo's will survive and thrive: as a local company, they're more in tune with customers' needs. What does this business jargon mean? Well, Starbucks are an American chain with a longtime presence in Manila. What they do, they do well. You order a slice of cake, you get your cake; great. But if you order a slice of cake (try the carrot) at Bo's, you'll get your slice of cake with three forks, if there are three of you. That's because the management of Bo's knows that Cebuanos are notoriously misery, and slices of cakes are, more often than not, shared between groups of friends.

The hippest place to hang out these days is arguably Bigbucks, a spoof on Starbucks, but a wonderful coffee joint in its own right. Set up on the grounds of Bigfoot for the benefit of Bigfoot employees, Bigbucks is open 24 hours, has three flat panel TV's, and serves pretty decent coffee.

Now, these are all coffee joints where you have to pay as you order and do your own hauling. There aren't many decent coffee shops where you will be served your brew at your table. One is Cafe Georg, located next to the Cebu Country Club. The interior decoration is world class, the food - pork chops, dill fish, jambalaya, vegetarian sandwiches - is superb, and the coffee isn't bad, either. Cafe Georg has a sister outlet with an identical menu in Ayala, called Oh Georg. Another full service coffee shop is La Marea at Crossroads.


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