Coffee Culture in Singapore

Honestly, if you were to ask me about my opinion on the number of Cafes ‘part of the Third-Wave’ sprouting out in Singapore, I would say… Half of them aren’t even worth a visit… But first, let’s ask this question… What defines a Cafe? Good Food, Artisanal Coffee, Amazing Desserts? Or by calling the place a Cafe, it automatically beomes one…

Actually, ever since I fell in love with Coffee, whenever I walk into a Cafe (not a chain, like Starbucks or Coffee Bean), I get a feeling of whether the Cafe focuses on its Coffee, Food or Dessert. Also, the thing about Cafes is that, 80% of them are neighbourhood Cafes, thus the main Clientele would be people from the neighbourhood (if you exclude those hipsters Cafe-Hopping). One thing nice about them would be the ambience and friendliness in them, like how almost everyone knows everyone (almost like your downstairs Coffee-Shop).

I, honestly have only scoured for Cafes in the east of Singapore, or sampled a cafe that was in my vicinity at that time. I have yet to go out of my way to hunt down a cafe in the middle of nowhere… Why, you ask? Mainly, because I do not have the time, but there is a different, more subjective reason… It’s not exactly worth it. Let’s say you are living in Bedok, a neighbourhood with a lot of good cafes, and you heard of a ‘great cafe’ in Joo Koon… Would you go? I would say, unless you have to be in Joo Koon for some legitimate reason, it is not worth the time and effort to travel. Whatever happened to cafes just being places for you to chill, relax and socialise with a cup of coffee, or maybe even a light pastry or cake. When you cafe-hop (I have never cafe-hopped before… by the way), it is not exactly chilling and relaxing. Imagine bringing someone cafe-hopping on a first date… One conversation per cafe, I think… Haha!

Which brings me to another point, Cafe-Hopping. This is a very interesting topic, some people (A.K.A Hipsters) love it, some think it is stupid and loathes it… For me, as a cafe and coffee lover… And also a food blogger, I would have to sit on the fence on this one. It actually could be listed as a hobby or interest now, which kinds of leaves me a little dumbfounded… But, in no way, is Cafe-Hopping bad… It is a way to spend a day, sampling a few cafes in the VICINITY of each other (eg. East of Singapore), but what I can’t understand is people Cafe-Hopping the whole of Singapore… I heard of people Cafe-Hopping down a MRT line, which pretty much means they spend the majority of their time traveling…

Another topic worth mentioning is the actual cup of Coffee itself… I have worked at a Cafe for a short time (I have learned a little about the F&B industry from the job as a Server/Runner, even though I was paid peanuts and I ‘parted ways’ with them on a extremely sour note), and they only served Espresso-based Coffees, and all the Milk-based Coffees were generic, meaning ‘there is no such thing as Lattes, Cappuccinos and Flat Whites’… They were all just White Coffee with your choice between the 3,5 and 7oz sizes (Even though we keyed into the register whatever name the customer ordered… Lattes, Cappuccinos etc. to keep them happy, but there is absolutely no difference in the style of preparation, even though they are quite varying differences… click here if you are interested to find out more).

As I have mentioned earlier, you usually get a choice of sizes for your cup of Coffee, there is a top tip, go for the ‘obvious/normal size’… This is usually the 5oz size, or the regular cup with the pricing on the menu, eg. ‘Flat white $5, Larger Size Extra $1‘ The reason I cancelled that little phrase is because IT IS NOT WORTH IT UNLESS YOU ALSO ADD AN EXTRA SHOT OF ESPRESSO. Honestly, I doubt good and experienced Baristas would agree with this whole ‘Large Size’ Coffee idea… Because, if you do not add another shot, what you are USUALLY just paying for is just extra Milk… Which would upset the balanced ratio between Espresso and Milk. Essentially, you won’t be able to taste the Espresso shot properly with so much Milk… So more is essentially less in this case haha…

So, which is best? Brewed, Espresso or Espresso-based? Which would be the best way to sample Coffee? This is a argument that have been raging on since the invention of the Espresso Machine, some people can’t take the strong punch of an Espresso, and choose to add Milk… Some think the proper way to drink Coffee is with a large ratio of Water to Espresso and made delicately with time, but the Espresso… Forcefully jamming water through a machine into finely-grinned Coffee Beans is still the preferred way of many Cafes…

Of course… How could I end off without talking about the most common cup of Coffee in Singapore, the Kopi-Tiam Coffee! Many question why there is such a big price gap between Cafe Coffee and Coffee Shop Coffee… Well, there are many reasons, the roasting process and handling of the Coffee Beans, but the main reason is the TYPE of Coffee Beans… Most Coffee shops use ‘Generic’ Coffee Beans or the common Robusta beans, which are ‘cheaper’ than the Classic Arabica Beans, the preferred choices for most Cafes. Also, don’t forget the actual cost of the Cafe itself, it is actually pretty much a mark-up… Like with a Restaurant… Given a choice, I would of course go for a cup of Coffee in a Cafe, but like most people, I can’t exactly afford it all the time… So, Kopi-Peng FTW hahaha!!!


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