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Muji opens second coffee counter; will open new store in the north

“BECAUSE it is empty, so there’s a possibility to be filled,” said Muji Art Director Kenya Hara in 2018 during a talk he gave in the Philippines.

Filling an empty space with possibility, Japanese brand Muji opened its second Coffee Counter in the country at the store’s Shangri-La Plaza branch, coming after its Central Square BGC branch. The menu is spare, with just a few sandwiches and selections of coffee and tea. Nevertheless, we still felt “filled,” as if Muji’s ethos can be fulfilled even if you’re stuffing yourself.

The Coffee Counter’s Katsu sandwich (a fillet of breaded pork between two slices of very soft, very good bread; slathered with tonkatsu sauce) was satisfying, as was the berry-flavored tea. During the preview on May 11, the Matcha Drinks series had yet to be launched, but it includes the Ichigo Matcha Latte (with milk and strawberry syrup), Dark Matcha Latte (matcha — simply defined, that’s powdered green tea leaves — with a shot of espresso), and the Caramel Matcha Latte (matcha with espresso and caramel sauce). All the drinks in this series go for P140-P155. These summer drinks are available for a limited time only and only while supplies last.

There’s something wonderfully moral about Muji, from the way they espouse “emptiness” as a way of living, and the message isn’t lost in their coffee. The brand was founded in the 1980s as Mujirushi Ryohin (translated as “no-brand quality goods”), first appearing as a generic line of products at the Seiyu group of supermarkets. In Japan, the Muji Coffee Counter is simply called Café&Meal Muji.

At the Coffee Counter, they use coffee beans and tea leaves that are certified by the Rainforest Alliance, an international non-government organization that fights deforestation and climate change. To support local farmers, they offer Benguet coffee beans as well. Their coffee and tea products are in sustainable or recyclable packaging to help conserve the environment. During BusinessWorld’s visit, we drank out of sugarcane straws.

“If you would notice, Muji’s products are mostly trying to focus on saving the earth. It really is our way and purpose to extend that sense of eco-friendliness to our coffee,” said Cristina Dagdag, Marketing Manager for Muji Philippines Corp., a joint venture between SSI Group, Inc. and Japan’s Ryohin Keikaku Co. Ltd.

Ms. Dagdag spoke about the other ways that Muji practices sustainability. They use less plastic in their packaging, and she pointed out the many wooden items up for sale. Bringing your own shopping bag (a practice believed to curb plastic waste; though the energy and resources needed to produce them is another debate in environmental science circles) is incentivized, with customers receiving up to a 2% discount. Lastly, Ms. Dagdag pointed to her own shirt, from Muji’s Hemp Series line. Muji’s website in the US says, “Hemp uses only 1/20 the amount of water as regular cotton to grow and process. Unlike cotton, it requires very little fertilizers and pesticides so the cultivation process reduces environmental impacts. Fabric made with hemp is lightweight, durable, and protects your skin by naturally filtering UV light. Hemp clothing is perfect for casual occasions during spring and summer.”

“We try to find sustainable materials for our products to ensure that we give back,” said Ms. Dagdag.

In another way of “giving back,” Muji is opening its sixth store in the Philippines, this time in the northern part of the National Capital Region, in SM North EDSA. The store is to open in the second quarter of this year, but they have yet to set a formal date. She also says that this will be their largest store so far.

Opening in the north is a response to a clamor from Quezon City-based customers, she pointed out, with evidence coming from their e-commerce platforms. “When we checked our data — we have an online page, our online catalog — the majority of those who ordered online are actually in the Quezon City area,” she said. “As much as possible, we really want to listen to our customers.”

Muji’s Coffee Counters are located inside Muji Central Square, BGC and Muji Shangri-la Plaza. Other Muji branches are located at Greenbelt 3, the Power Plant Mall at Rockwell, and SM Mall of Asia.

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