The Illy Series: Aruma Coffee Lounge

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It was a very rainy day at The Illy on the tail-end of outgoing tropical depression, Agaton. I rose close to midday after a harrowing twenty-seven of a supposedly just a seventeen hour ferry ride over the weekend. A splitting headache signaled my body’s demand for caffeine. The PussyKat hauled me into what later turned out to be an overpriced, non-metered cab and dutifully took me downtown to one of her favorite hangouts, Aruma.

Nestled in a mixed-use sector of second-floor residences atop hodgepodge eateries, watering holes and girly bars, this all-white affair stood out from its corner curbside location. Warm, yellow pendants and alcove lighting softened the stark color-way and feel. A chalkboard menu announced more than just the usual pastry-and-sandwiches café fare with full meal options.

I ordered a Hot Nutty Chocolate with an Espresso shot and a slice of Banoffee Pie. Dainty demitasse’s of Mocha Mousse looked very tempting on the display but with much willpower I declined the barista’s invitation to try one. Yes. Strong The Force is in this one. While I had to look for the nutty in my drink, it did come with a smooth mocha flavor not unlike that from Starbucks. Confusing as it is apparently a misnomer but otherwise pleasant. My current gold standard for Banoffee pie in the PI is Banapple’s but Aruma’s version did not disappoint. The baker deftly held the balance of taste, holding back on the caramel tofee, chocolate and other sugar-laden ingredients to allow the natural sweetness of the perfectly ripe bananas to mellow out with the unsweetened cream topping and the very basic, crumbly, packed-Graham crumb base.

Officially an unfinished-food disposal system by virtue of relations, I also sampled the PussyKat’s Coffee Jelly Mocha Frappuccino and Espresso Brownie. It was as Frappuccino’s everywhere go, very creamy but had a generous amount of coffee jelly in minute, regular straw-suckable, “crystal” sizes. I didn’t expect much from the Espresso Brownie’s simple, square slice but it packed a good flavor without overwhelming the chocolate with the bitter of coffee. Again, the baker wisely held back on the sugar. It would have been perfect with a black brewed or steamed, full-cream milk.

Until next time, Aruma.

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