In this day and age, food and advocacy easily go hand in hand, as seen by drives such as “Restaurants Against Hunger” with different restaurants having special menus and donations for the refugees of Syria. Some establishments go a step further than advocacy by incorporating their causes in their everyday work, be it in their menus or in-house shops. An up and coming exemplar of this is the Hineleban Cafe, located near one of Makati City’s busiest districts.
The word Hineleban is an indigenous term referring to the “Mother Tree” at the heart of a rainforest. The Hineleban Cafe is one of several projects of the Hineleban Foundation, which is dedicated to reforestation and empowering the Philippines’ indigenous peoples to take back their roles as custodians of the environment. The cafe is a venue for showcasing and marketing goods from the foundation’s research and development farm, the Tuminugan Farm in Bukidnon, Mindanao.
Much praise has been heaped on Hineleban Cafe for its coffee (which has helped make it a spot for gatherings and events). However, we at Team Glasses have long sworn off this brown gold for health reasons, so what could draw us to this cafe? The answer: adlai. Adlai (Coix lacryma-jobi) is a grain that is native to Southeast Asia. In the USA it is called “Job’s Tears” or Chinese Pearl Barley. It has been cultivated for both sustenance and medicinal purposes by different tribes in Zamboanga del Sur and other parts of Southern Philippines. In more recent years, adlai has been touted as a supplement or alternative to rice, owing partly for its health benefits as well as its acceptability to diners more used to rice, especially well milled white rice.
At Hineleban Cafe, dishes that would normally be served with a cupful of rice or a bowlful of pasta are instead graced with a generous serving of adlai.
We decided to have our adlai in two ways during our visit to Hineleban Cafe. We went with one of the all day breakfast meals: longganisa hubad served with egg and adlai, and with another more innovative idea which was longganisa bolognese, which was adlai cooked with a sausage and tomato ragout. To wash this all down we had hot chocolate and a cup of red berries caffeine free tea.
The longganisa hubad plate was a good balance of flavors, with the starchiness of the adlai complementing well with the salty and garlicky mix from the longanisa. The salted egg salsa also added a subtle kick to the dish, which would be something we can suggest for anyone to start their morning with. Only nitpick here would be the oiliness, but that’s really the nature of the beast when it comes to longganisa.
As we discovered, adlai makes a very interesting alternative to pasta, owing to its chewy texture. It is reminiscent of eating a plate of orzo, or Italian pasta shaped like a large grain of rice. However, adlai has a lighter flavor and a rather different mouth feel. When mixed with a ragout, such as in the case of the longganisa bolognese, one can have a delicious and very filling meal in a bowl. The ragout itself could have used a little bit of a kick, owing to its mild flavor, but we admit that this is a matter of personal preference.
For those who are not fans of adlai, Hineleban Cafe also serves dishes made with bread, and of course its selection of exquisite brewed coffees. What makes this cafe a must for future adventures is its way of bringing forward an often forgotten advocacy, which is that of furthering the role of indigenous peoples in protecting the environment. In this world today, we need voices to help each other speak out and promote new, sustainable ways of living. Thankfully, the Hineleban Foundation and the Hineleban Cafe are among them.
Food Score: 4/5: All things considered, such as getting used to the taste of adlai, Hineleban Cafe does a great job of integrating this grain with cafe favorites such as breakfast meals and pastas.
Ambiance Score: 4/5: Hineleban Cafe shares a space with a bike and surf shop, thus giving the surrounding area a busy, almost utilitarian feel. However the cafe itself makes good by making their space seem like a cushy urban loft. The selection of books in its reading nook are a great help too.
Service Score: 4/5: We arrived here on a quiet Saturday morning, and the place had only a few staff on hand. While we were very well served with much courtesy, we do hope that the service is able to keep up during peak hours like the dinner rush.
GERD Score: 4.5/5: Hineleban Cafe and its adlai are something worth trying, since there are plenty of menu options for people dealing with GERD. Also this is a good place for a spot of tea as well. Definitely worth a visit.
Neurodivergent Score: 4.5/5: All hail adlai for being gluten free! That alone is a great relief to some neurodivergents. The caffeine free tea is also worth a try here, and an option for those wanting hot drinks while their companions sip the coffee that Hineleban Cafe is known for.
Team Glasses Score: 4.5/5: Hineleban Cafe is more than just another “third wave” cafe or trendy yuppie spot; it’s really a cafe with a mission. And providing a reliable source of adlai to this city is a plus too. We hope that more people will visit this cafe and learn about its advocacy in the coming years!