Coffee joints in Singapore: Where to go for espressos, cold brews and flat whites

coffee shops and cafes in Singapore
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From hipster joints and hole in the wall shops to roasters who take their beans seriously, these places speak the language that caffeine addicts do: coffee

Coffee. It’s probably the closest we can get to the elixir of life. It’s the fuel for cubicle rats, the Xanax for night owls who had to wake up with the rooster’s calls, and the catalyst for many a great idea by many a great mind.

Benjamin Franklin was purportedly a caffeine addict; look what he achieved. German composer Johann Sebastian Bach loved his cup of joe so much, the one time he deviated from his usual instrumental compositions was to write Coffee Cantata, a comic opera about a young woman who went against her father’s wishes to carry out a love affair with coffee (drinking it was considered unrespectable in Bach’s time because of the way over-stimulated drinkers acted).

So maybe, just maybe, we could all drink ourselves to greatness. Not that we need a reason. Here’s a list of coffee shops and cafes in Singapore for you to switch up with your afternoon tea sessions.

Atlas Coffeehouse

Support local, visit Atlas. This cafe on Duke’s Road serves a house blend custom roasted by Singaporean company 2 Degrees North Coffee Co. It’s a combination of Guatamalan and Brazilian beans that gives notes of chocolate, nuts, and caramel. Not for the inexperienced coffee drinker, the aftertaste is supposed to be quite strong and bitter.

The food here is the cherry on top instead of being mere accompaniments to coffee. They have eschewed unimaginative cafe staples like eggs benedict and avocado on toast for dishes that show a little more culinary ambition, such as chicken stew and candied bacon on buttermilk waffles.

Atlas Coffeehouse

Caffe Vergnano 1882

There’s no such thing as a quick coffee break at Caffe Vergnano. Instead of the five to six-minute roasting cycle that is the commercial standard, the baristas at this cafe use a slow roasting method that takes up to 22 minutes, and make every cup fresh upon order.

Such pursuit of perfection is admirable when one considers that Caffe Vergnano is a veritable empire – its South Beach branch in Singapore is its 100th – and would undoubtedly benefit from using processes more suited to serving the masses. But trust Italy’s oldest family-owned coffee roaster to know what it’s doing; slow roasting brings out the flora and citrus notes in Caffe Vergnano’s exclusive 1882 Blend, which is made from a combination of Arabica beans from South America and Sidamo in Ethiopia.

Caffe Vergnano 1882

Chye Seng Huat Hardware

What used to be an old-school hardware store on Tyrwhitt Road is now the mecca of Papa Palheta’s universe. It’s the homegrown roaster’s head office, flagship store, and cafe, all rolled into one. The signboard has simply been left as is; it’s convenient when what lends a place hipster cred happens to save costs as well.

Taking pride of place in the cafe is a 360-degree bar that allows customers to sit and watch while the baristas prepare their brew. Papa Palheta carries beans from well-known producers and boutique plantations around the globe, and rotates items on the coffee menu with changes in the seasons so patrons always get to enjoy the best tasting beans for the time of the year.

Chye Seng Huat Hardware

Common Man Coffee Roasters

Despite its name, there’s nothing common about this Singapore-based outfit. Its focus is on specialty coffee, which, in the trade, is an exclusive title only given to beans possessing flavours so distinctive that their varieties, growing regions, and processing methods could be identified by taste.

Common Man Coffee Roasters is currently represented by two cafes, one on Martin Road and the newest one on Stanley Street. A must-try when visiting the Martin Road outlet is the 22 Martin Blend, named as a tribute to the cafe’s location. With classic coffee notes evoking hazelnut, toffee and dark chocolate, it should be a comfort drink for many.

Common Man Coffee Roasters

Curious Palette

They make Magic here. That’s what the staff calls the double shot ristretto made from the Chakra Blend by sister cafe Stranger’s Reunion. It comprises beans from Brazil, Ethiopia and Guatamala, and becomes a smooth, rich drink when combined with the right proportion of milk.

There’s also has an extensive food menu featuring beautifully plated desserts and waffles designed to get Instagram likes, but there’s no doubt that the coffee is the main star at this cafe on Prinsep Street. After all, at helm is owner Ryan Tan, a two-time Singapore National Barista champion, Singapore National Latte Art champion, as well as the 2015 World Siphon Coffee champion.

Curious Palette

Jewel Coffee

Only the best ‘purebreds’ please – when Jewel debuted with its first cafe in Shenton Way in 2011, it claimed to be the only roaster in Singapore providing single origin beans for espresso. Today, however, it has evolved into an empire of nine cafes around the island, serving both single origins and blends from around the world, roasted at its 2,000sqft plant in Tuas.

Jewel’s cafes cater to serious caffeine addicts, with double shots being the default. Single shots are only served if the preference is specified in the order. Beans are rotated so patrons will not see the same menu every time, but if you chance upon the Sumatra Mandheling Terminator 3, try it just for the fun name.

Jewel Coffee

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Kurasu

In both decor and menu, Kurasu is painfully minimalist. So minimalist, in fact, that looks like an extension of the office that is District 6, the co-working space it shares its Odeon Towers location with, and serves no food except for a mediocre banana cake not worth trying. But it doesn’t matter, because the coffee more than makes up for it.

The specialty here is pour-over brews. As the name indicates, it involves slowing pouring hot water through the very thin spout of a purpose-built kettle over ground coffee in a filter. And then you wait – and wait – until enough coffee has dripped through the filter to fill a cup. Because owner Yozo Otsuki hails from Kyoto, most of the beans used here are from various Japanese roasters.

Kurasu

Mavrx Coffee Apothecary

It started as a hole-in-the-wall in 2015, and now, it has expanded to become a hole-in-the-wall with a few chairs outside. With its location on Duxton Hill, the main patrons of Mavrx Coffee Apothecary are harried office workers who want to grab a coffee to go. No food is served, and the interior is simply tiled in stark black and white. When a cafe is as no-frills as this, you know the coffee has to be the focal point.

The main blend served here is Carmelo from Australia’s All Press Espresso comprising beans from Kenya, Colombia, Brazil, and El Salvador. However, the cafe sometimes introduces “limited edition" beans from boutique plantations that don’t get restocked after they sell out.

Mavrx Coffee Apothecary

Nylon Coffee Roasters

The name Nylon has nothing to do with the fabric and everything to do with the cities that inspired the founding of the cafe. After years of working and cafe hopping in London and New York, Dennis Tang and Lee Jia Min decided to bring the vibrant cafe culture they have seen in those cities back home to Singapore. Nylon is a portmanteau of New York and London.

Nylon is a business run with a lot of heart. Tang and Lee are big on sustainability, and only work with farms that share their principles. To this end, they have personally visited every farm they source from, which currently hail from Colombia, Honduras, and El Salvador. The beans are then roasted in-house in the back of its tiny cafe at Everton Park.

Nylon Coffee Roasters

Ronin

Never mind the Japanese name and its location on Hong Kong Street in Singapore. Ronin serves Genovese coffee roasted in Australia, so what you’ll get is a brew that will transport you to hipster cafes in Melbourne.

The Super Brazil blend combines beans from 12 different origins including Brazil (of course), Costa Rica, Indonesia, and even India. It’s said to be a well-rounded concoction that tastes good whether served on its own in the form of an espresso, or with milk. The food menu is equally hipster-centric, with all-day breakfast items like granola, muesli, toast with various toppings, and creative sandwiches.

Ronin

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Published 20th September 2018
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