“That’s when I really started loving coffee. It changed my perception of [it as] just a stale, bitter drink, but it opened me to the perspective of how it [can be] a lot different… how some can have [a] fruity taste, how some can have a chocolatey taste.”
Different people have different interests. Some may have a natural ear for music, while others may feel drawn towards the visual arts. It differs from person to person. However, upon hearing Aldrich Shih (LGL, ‘15) talk about the different flavors and brewing methods of coffee, you could tell that it was here that he found his passion.
Some may recognize the recent graduate as the man behind the Firefly Coffee Studio, which originally began as a part of the Animo Business Innovation Zone (BIZ) and is now a mainstay of the Br. Bloemen Hall. Lasallians have been coming to Aldrich for their daily caffeine fix for over a year now, but what is the story behind the young entrepreneur and his growing business venture?
Beginning the brew
Aldrich tells the story of how his fascination in coffee was actually preceded by an interest in business. In reality, it was a call towards entrepreneurship that got him started on his entire journey. “It just came to me that I wanted to try out entrepreneurship and I wanted to try out something new,” he shares. “So I thought, why not coffee? [Because] people really look for coffee but they find it really expensive. You know, the benchmark is Starbucks, but they find Starbucks really expensive. So I thought, why not provide cheap coffee?”
The recent graduate knew what kind of business he wanted to create, but he still lacked the technical knowledge and training to make it happen. Asking around for help, Aldrich was introduced to a variety of figures who would explain to him the intricacies of the world of specialty coffee.
“I was introduced to the [co-owner] of Craft Coffee, [who] is Raymond So, a former Lasallian. He taught me all about the coffee, he provided me with the equipment,” Aldrich shares. “[Afterwards], he referred me to Coffee Empire, another specialty coffee restaurant… I was also trained and mentored by its owners, Sir Henry Magalona and Sir Ernest Martin.”
Aldrich owes much of what he knows today to the help and guidance of Raymond So and the founders of Coffee Empire. However, he also highlights how important self-studying was in immersing himself into the art of coffee. “I studied some books and practiced a lot of latte art and brewing methods. From there, I got better and loved coffee more.”
From hornets to Firefly
Aldrich initially set up the Firefly Coffee Studio as a stall in Animo BIZ. Upon his graduation, he signed a one-year contract with DLSU Campus Services Innovations, and will now be a part of the Br. Bloemen Hall for the foreseeable future.
When asked about the origin of the Firefly logo, Aldrich shares his backstory as a member of the basketball varsity team in Grace Christian College and an avid NBA fan. “I saw how [the NBA’s] teams are really catchy, and have these excellent, cool-looking logos that are really striking. And then I thought that specialty coffee in general is about self-expression… So why not express myself through having a logo like some of those NBA teams?” He shares. “I thought that the [logo of the] Charlotte Hornets was the most striking. I thought insect logos were striking, so I came up with Firefly… and well, it turned out great naman.”
Aldrich admits that he had a little help running the stall in its earlier days. “Back then, when I was in Animo BIZ, I didn’t have any baristas so I invited my close friends to be my baristas,” he recalls. “But now, since I’m in a real business, I’m leasing… I wanted to do this on my own.” Today, Aldrich appears to be totally focused on the management of the Firefly stall. He has hired an employee to help him out, and has no other part-time job other than running the stall itself, devoting all his time and effort into finding success for the growing venture.
Specialty handcrafted products
Aldrich shares the secret of what sets Firefly apart from your regular cup of Joe. “The great thing about the [handcrafting] methods is that we filter out the harsh taste of the coffee, and it’s like we only get the flavor in it. We produce a very clean taste that’s easy to drink,” he shares. He explains how they meticulously check the grain size and brew time to get the unique taste of their coffee just right.
For Lasallians who pass by the stall but who have yet to try their products, Aldrich has a recommendation. The Cold Brew Coffee is the bestseller of the Firefly stall, and comes bottled and ready-to-drink. “It’s our most unique product. It’s coffee stepped in cold water for… around 16 to 18 hours.”
He also shares that it is his favorite coffee to make. “[The Cold Brew Coffee is] my favorite coffee. [It has a] rich and velvety taste, and it has no harshness. It’s like we just extract the flavor out of it.”
The Firefly stall is visited by around eighty customers daily–business is booming and Aldrich is busier than ever. Evolving from a humble concept in the young Lasallian’s mind into a yearlong contract with Campus Services, the future looks bright for this specialty coffee shop.
Does the young entrepreneur behind it have any plans of expanding? “I really don’t want to say anything for the future yet, but my goal is to have a shop outside and expand. But the stall, for now, it stays here.”
Aldrich prefers not to set any long-term goals for Firefly. “What I can say now is I love what I’m doing and I’m enjoying my time here,” the recent graduate makes sure to mention. He admits that even if he finds passion in his work, it isn’t necessarily easy—far from it. However, he still implores any would-be entrepreneurs to try their luck and seize the day. He also leaves some parting advice for future businessmen and women to consider: “Be quick in assessing situations, be quick in making decisions, but don’t be reckless.”