Aah, coffee…some people can’t stand the taste of it, while others simply can’t get enough. But love it or hate it, you got to admit — there’s just something about the wafting aroma of coffee beans in the morning that is just simply magical.
Those of us who love the drink have been delighted by the vibrant coffee scene erupting all over Singapore the past few years in the form of indie roasters, homegrown cafes (read: hipster), local coffee brands and takeaway kiosks, on top of the already established brands that serve great brews. These days, the quality of coffee served at a cafe determines whether you pick the spot to hang out with your friends or beau — oh how times have changed.
Here are 10 places to check out the next time you need a caffeine fix.
1. Baristart Coffee
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Having graduated from a top culinary school in Hokkaido, Japan, Emi Sasaki @emiem.sasa started her career as a Pastry Chef and has been in the confectionary scene for over 14 years. Her passion has brought her to different parts of the world that taught her a diverse cultural taste of confectionary. Drawing from both east and west, her recipes reflect her culinary inspirations and her penchant for combining rich and diverse flavours. With her extensive experience in food and pastry, she produces an impeccable quality of sweet delights in @baristartcoffee_sg. Head over for our expansive delectable selection of desserts and the most popular amongst guests, “kawaii” Shiro Kuma Hokkaido Shaved Ice specially designed by her talented skills.
Sure, the quality of coffee beans matters when making a good cup of coffee but did you know that the milk used plays an important role too? From its original outlet in Hokkaido to its branch here, Baristart Coffee is determined to teach customers about the quality of milk that comes from this Japanese region. More than half of the milk in Japan is produced in Hokkaido; its cool climate and vast farmland contributes to the uncompromising quality of milk. It’s also home to a variety of cows, in addition to the most common Holstein cows (the ones that are black and white), so the milk produced here includes rarer and richer types too.
Baristart also aims to ‘nurture professional baristas’, which is why its name is a combination of the words ‘barista’ and ‘start’. The high-quality beans staff there use come from roasters in Tokyo and Sapporo, which pair excellently with the refreshing Hokkaido milk. Apart from the usual coffee drinks, there are other fun coffee options in the form of desserts that are worth a try, such as the Baristart Coffee (with panna cotta, cream cheese mousse and espresso) from their Sweets Jar (a rich, creamy dessert served in a glass jar) list, and Shaved Ice (Shiro Kuma) with coffee-flavoured syrup, served in the shape of a bear. So cute, we (almost) can’t bear to eat it.
At 65 Tras Street, Singapore 079004, tel: 6904 3169. Visit www.baristartcoffee.sg
2. Five Oars Coffee Roasters
Just stepping into this cafe will make you fall in love with it, thanks to its ‘industrial’ look. The minimalist decor and lush greenery make it a must-visit for anyone looking for a new Instagram-worthy location. Inspired by the vibrant cafe scene in Melbourne, you’ll get the type of coffee and food you’ll usually find in the Australian city – which also means you know the coffee will be good.
The minimalist theme stretches to its coffee menu too, as you won’t get a list of drinks like cappuccino or latte (although you can request for them from the baristas) — coffees are instead listed as black, white, iced or hot. The cafe has two house blends, which are rotated every two weeks or so, and seasonal single-origin beans are served too. And if you prefer filtered coffee, you can get it here as well, served using a pour-over process. Coffee beans are also available for purchase, for personal consumption. The cafe has an extensive brunch menu – served daily from 8.30am to 4.30pm – and the feasting continues in the evening too, with a different menu from 5pm to 9pm. Grab a seat, enjoy the coffee and the view and snap some gems for your Instagram feed.
At 39 Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore 088462. Visit www.focr.sg
3. Strangers’ Reunion
This cafe has been extremely popular with coffee lovers since it opened in 2012. It’s no surprise that the brews are topnotch; after all, its owner Ryan Kieran Tan has come up tops in the Singapore National Barista Championship a good three times. He has passed on his skills to his team of baristas too, and they have gone on to win accolades themselves — one is a semi-finalist at the World Barista Championship 2018 and another is a three-time Singapore Latte Art Champion.
What all this means is that they know what they’re doing when they’re making your coffee and they also make it look very pretty (we certainly appreciate the art involved). The cafe sources for coffee beans from all around the world and roasts them in-house. Customers can choose an espresso-based cuppa or pick their filter brews prepared using one of four brewing methods: Aeropress, Syphon, Wave Dripper or Iced Brew, each of which highlight different attributes of the single-origin coffee beans used.
At 33-35 Kampong Bahru Road, Singapore 169355, tel: 6222 4869. Visit www.strangersreunion.com/strangersreunion
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4. Common Man Coffee Roasters
A favourite spot in the local coffee scene, CMCR doesn’t just serve delicious coffee, it also cares about the relationships built along the way, from bean to cup. For example, it practices ‘direct trade’, which offers a higher degree of traceability and more value given back to the farmers and producers in the coffee-growing regions. Not only are the coffee beans sustainably-sourced, they are also roasted fresh in their roasting facility in Singapore.
The baristas then expertly prepare your drink for you, having been trained at the brand’s own CMCR Academy, which offers barista courses on the art of brewing specialty coffee and how to work with an espresso machine (you can sign yourself up too!). Chose from a list of espresso coffees or filter coffees, and enjoy your cuppa with something from the all-day breakfast menu. You can also pick up beans for your coffee machine at home; CMCR often donates a percentage of the proceeds to worthy causes so you get to do something good while enjoying a caffeine shot — win-win.
At 22 Martin Road, #01-00, Singapore 239058, tel: 6836 4695. Visit https://commonmancoffeeroasters.com
5. Bearded Bella
No, you won’t find any hairy women here; the moniker is a reflection of the quirky style of this cafe and its owners. One of the reasons it was picked is because it has both masculine (‘bearded’) and feminine (‘bella’) personalities. The masculine aspect represents the adventurous and relentless pursuit of their belief in serving the best quality ingredients and flavours in their food and drinks, while the feminine personality is shown by the warmth, authenticity and non-pretentiousness of the owners and staff. Now for the main point: its joe.
The coffees served here are sourced from a supplier in Norway and some come direct from farmers in countries such as Brazil, Panama, Ethiopia and Indonesia. Beans are roasted in-house and coffees are seasonal, which means you’ll get the best of each harvest period. Choose a house blend or go for the single-origin espresso option. Filter brew coffees are always on rotation too, with two or three options on offer every day. Or try the cold brew, which comes in a hip flask that you can take home (you’ll get a 10 per cent discount if you bring the flask back for a refill). It has a substantial food menu too, with all-day brunch and a weekday set lunch at $18 for a two-course meal. Brightly-lit, with a minimalist look, this cafe is ideal for no-filter-needed Instagram posts.
At 8 Craig Road, Singapore 089668, tel: 9880 0775. Visit www.beardedbella.com/projects
6. Tiong Hoe Specialty Coffee
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Ahh, the aroma of freshly roasted coffee. • Once the beans are roasted to the desired roasting degree, the coffee beans will be ejected from the roast chamber into the cooling tray. Air is drawn downwards through the perforated tray to cool the beans while the rotating arm stirs them around. This process stops the roast from continuing (due to the heat energy that is still in the beans!), and is essential to produce consistent roasts.
Mr Tan Tiong Hoe has devoted his life to coffee, starting a coffee business (Tiong Hoe & Co) in the 1960s, after a short apprenticeship in a Dutch firm, Mirandolle & Voute. He started out knocking on doors to sell his coffee but his business slowly expanded and he was soon supplying coffee to hotels, restaurants and ship chandlers. The company is still in operation today, as Fresh Cafe Distributors. In 2014, Tiong Hoe Specialty Coffee was set up to sell mainly specialty coffee with quality scores of 80 points and above.
The store is currently run by the second generation: Mr Tan’s son, Jacob and his partner, Juliana. While it deals mostly in selling its freshly-roasted coffee beans and coffee-making accessories, it also has a very small area where you can sit and enjoy your cuppa. This is for serious coffee lovers only, or anyone who wants to be introduced to a gem of the local coffee scene. Tiong Hoe gets its coffee from renowned coffee traders, through direct farm purchase and at coffee auctions, and the beans come from Central/South America, Africa and Asia. You’ll enjoy the heady aroma of coffee as you walk in and it’s definitely worth multiple visits as the coffee blends are served on a rotational basis and they’re constantly experimenting with various brewing methods, so you’ll get to sample a variety of coffees just by being a regular customer here.
At 170 Stirling Road, #01-1133, Singapore 140170, tel: 6474 5442. Visit www.tionghoe.com
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7. Apartment Coffee
This cafe believes that every cup of coffee tells a story, from the type of variety to where it’s grown and the people behind the brew. Every detail contributes to the distinct characteristics of the coffee and Apartment Coffee hopes to share these extraordinary stories through their passion and craft. The type of coffee served depends on the time of year, based on the origins in season at the time. So, for example, March to June features roasts from Burundi, Rwanda, Colombia and Brazil, while July to October sees cups of java from Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia and some Centrals.
Even though this is based on the estimated harvest every year, it could change depending on factors such as climate and shipping. But what this means is, there’s a different coffee on the menu every few weeks so coffee lovers have the opportunity to ‘travel’ around the world through their favourite drink. Another thing we love about the place? Its bright, clean and minimalist white-washed decor.
8. Chye Seng Huat Hardware
The name pays tribute to the hardware heritage of the site but what you’ll get here today is a coffee bar as well as a roastery. Take a peak into the process of how the beans are transformed into what eventually ends up in your cuppa at the roastery, then watch the baristas in action at the island bar at the cafe, with a 360-degree view of them crafting drinks.
The coffees are rotated on a seasonal basis so you’ll get the best brew of the moment from in-season coffee beans any time you pop in. The impressive food menu changes seasonally too, with unique dishes such as Teriyaki Salmon Prata and Pandan Gula Melaka Pancakes currently available. Come for the island bar and the hardware heritage, but stay – and keep coming back – for the good coffee.
At 150 Tyrwhitt Road, Singapore 207563, tel: 6396 0609. Visit www.cshhcoffee.com
9. Liberty Coffee
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Rainy day morning at Liberty Coffee. The Rwanda Nyakizu single origin is tasting sweet and juicy. Home brewers, pick up this classic washed Bourbon varietal online at www.libertycoffee.sg/coffee. Or get it inhouse on our retail shelves or precision-brewed on the December dripper by the Poursteady: 387, Jalan Besar, S209002.
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A perfect time to try our coffees and teas. From now till March 14, pickup 2 retail tea tins or coffee bags and receive a 10% discount off the purchase of these items. This discount is applicable for every 2 items purchased, and only available at our coffee bar. Do remember to shop online at your leisure www.libertycoffee.sg/coffee
Its sign very clearly proclaims that it’s ‘proudly roasted in Singapore’ and coffee aficionados will know this brand quite well as it supplies to cafes, hotels and dedicated home brewers too. It used to be strictly a coffee roaster and supplier although it occasionally opened its doors to allow patrons to sample their drinks. But coffee lovers all over our island cheered when they opened a coffee bar on its new premises last year, making their coffee more accessible to casual drinkers too.
The beans are sourced from Central America, Africa and Asia, then roasted in Singapore. The cafe’s signature offering is the Speakeasy Blend, which has a smooth chocolatey profile and is laced with dried fruit and nutty tones. Try it in espresso form or as a brewed coffee. Chat with the staff to find out all about the craft of coffee-making or just marvel at the range of coffee machines and accessories here. All while sipping a cuppa, of course.
387 Jalan Besar, Singapore 209002, tel: 6929 7600. Visit https://libertycoffee.sg
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10. Old Hen Coffee Bar
Our tropical climate means there’s never a time when we don’t long for a cold drink. And, if you’re a coffee lover, a cold brew is always a good idea. Old Hen sells bottles of their Cold Brew that’s for serious coffee lovers, as they’re served in large 330ml bottles that resemble beer bottles more than iced coffee drinks. The Cold Brew is available in black and white (its bestseller) variations, and there’s a Cold Mocha too, if you prefer a chocolatey flavour.
All coffees are made in-house, in small batches daily. The cold drinks are available from their online store too, with island-wide delivery available from 10am to 10pm daily. The coffee bar also serves hot coffee, of course, and the coffees used here change (generally every three to six months), depending on what’s in season, but are mainly from Central America, South America and Africa.
88 Rangoon Road, #01-03, Singapore 218374, tel: 63415458. Visit www.oldhencoffee.com