It Must Be Raining Beans – Even More Specialty Coffee Joints in Singapore
Previous post on the subject: More Espressos, Lattes and Chemex Brews in Singapore
Updates on the subject: Yet More Interesting Coffee Joints In Singapore and here
“Specialty coffee” didn’t quite make it to my vocabulary until recently, when many of the proprietors welcoming potential customers to their coffee places described the spaces as serving “specialty coffee”. It remains to be seen whether these go the way of other Singapore food fads like apple strudel, bubble tea (now making a re-appearance), roti boy (coffee-laced mexican buns).
But let’s enjoy the sprouting while it lasts! It’s incredibly exciting to taste and see all the different interpretations of what coffee shop owners and baristas consider good coffee:
93 degreesC coffee is tucked away at the foot of Mount Faber, at 16 Morse Road No. 207 (“enter by Wishart Road”) – something for the Merrill Lynch chaps and shipping and oil & gas folk at HarbourFront. They roast their beans slightly darker, in-house on a bright red Toper and brew on a Wega. The house blend had a Sumatran base and a couple of other beans including Guatemalan – this began with a faint interesting bright nutty taste but sadly it faded too soon in the milk. They also have an interesting range of beans at the brew bar – will be back to check this out.
Current opening hours:
11 am to 7 pm on weekdays (closed on Wednesdays)
8 am to 6 pm on weekends
Spotted Maison Ikkoku during weekly jaunt down Kandahar Street, near Arab Street. At 20 Kandahar Street, wooden cabinets hang from the ceilings, with their doors made into coffee tables. The beans on offer when I was there were a Brazilian Fazenda Santa Alina, Ethiopian Harrar, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe and Jamaican Blue Mountain. Their house blend, brewed on a Nuova Simonelli and roasted by Cuppa Choice, was a mixture of the first three: quite a neutral cup but would have preferred something that would have made a better stand against the milk. It was my fault for choosing the single origin Brazilian for my second cup, a flat white – wasted the beans and the extra S$2 for a cup of excellence choice – would have been more respectful to have had it over at the brew bar instead. The carrot cake, made specially by a friend of the owner, was moist and had an ample amount of ingredients and taste. Looks like these guys are serious about attempting to get everything just right – they also had a Japanese latte artist, Hiroshi Sawada of Streamer Coffee, down for a bit of coaching.
Current opening hours:
Mon – Thu: 09:00 – 19:00
Fri – Sat: 09:00 – 22:00
Sun: 09:00 – 18:00
Sprouting up north(-ish) is The Coffee Daily at 75 Brighton Crescent. Minimalist 1970s interior with original tiled floor and a few retro records and tapes on display. They sell their house Gusto Gran blend concocted with the help of Highlander Coffee – a four-bean mix of Brazilian, Sumatran, Costa Rican and Ethiopian – probably a variation of Highlander’s own Gusto blend? In a flat white, it really held its own to the last drop – slightly spicy, citrusy, with good foundation.
Current opening hours:
Weekdays: 8am to 5pm (closed on Mondays)
Weekends: 9am to 6pm
Geisha Specialty Coffee at 175 Bencoolen Street, #01-55 Burlington Square
“Do you speak Mandarin?” asked Elsie Qian after she’d ushered me into a seat. Mandarin speakers are at an advantage at this joint because both Elsie and Wang Tao are China natives, and Wang Tao enthuses about his beans solely in that language. So i busted out the Chinese chops which last saw the light of day befuddling unfortunate parties in G2G Shanghai negotiations. And he was effusive: they imported very special beans from a supplier in Japan – beans which he believed could not be found anywhere else in Singapore. The beans were then roasted in small batches on-site in a table-top roaster. You could tell from the carbon dioxide blooms that the roasts were very fresh. Singaporeans roast their beans until they are too dark and oily, he said; he stopped before the oils emerged.
The joint was named for the couple’s favourite bean, the “Panama Finca Esmeralda Geisha” – probably referring to the famous Hacienda La Esmeralda farm since Wang Tao said the price of this bean went up after it won a competition in the mid-1990s. Tried this on a Hario V60 pourover at around 80°C. It was very sweet and incredibly fragrant – you could still smell a citrus flower fragrance in the cup 10 minutes after it was emptied. Slight sourness but in a bright citrusy, not a bean-gone-rancid, way. The fragrance actually seemed to intensify as the cup cooled.
Personal preference though was for the Ibrahim Yemen Mocha. This was planted and harvested by traditional methods and sun-dried. Its aroma was quite like a good Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, but on the tongue, nothing like – more full-bodied, complex, an exotic taste like spiced candied fruit. Wang Tao said he tasted cinnamon and a bit of heat. The effect on the tip of the tongue was indeed interesting – like the slight heat of chilli or, i thought, the tingle of grilled fugu fish.
It’s really great that they are reaching a demographic otherwise bypassed by the specialty third wave coffee movement – the aunties and uncles. One uncle asked for something very fragrant and was given a Blue Mountain pourover. His wife puzzled over the lack of milk or sugar, but was assured that the coffee was plenty sweet just taken plain. The uncle then asked for that nice coffee he had in Japan that came in a very small cup and was educated about espresso and espresso-based drinks. Lovely.
Long Black Cafe at 20 Biopolis Way, #01-02 Centros Block – Biopolis. The house blend consists of Brazilian, Indian, Guatemalan and Ethiopian. Had a cold so couldn’t tell how this tasted.
(Tasting notes: no i don’t really know what i’m talking about. Or rather i’m taking a leaf from Ronald Dworkins’ hedgehogs – i know what i’m tasting so telling it as it is, albeit in foolish ignorance of proper coffee-tasting terminology.)
Yahava Koffeeworks at 4 Jalan Gelanggang, Thomson Hill
Brunetti Singapore at 01-35 Tanglin Mall
Pause Cafe in Dominic Khoo’s 28th Fevrier at 5 Jalan Kilang
Toby’s Estate Singapore at 8 Rodyk Street