Over the last few years, cafe goers here have enjoyed nearly every possible cafe trend discoverable—from themed cafes and inspiring interiors, to special bites and local-flavoured brews.
Geared to bringing coffee lovers to a new level of appreciation for the roasted bean are cafes that are returning the focus back to the beans and brews, going the extra mile to not only source their own beans, but also house their own roasters.
Says Alchemist’s Erwin Chong, “An increasing number of locals are beginning to appreciate the unique taste profiles of speciality coffee, as well as the ambience many cafe owners painstakingly strive to create. Gone are the days where cafes are all about the food and the Instagram feed, as more establishments are becoming more coffee-centric with minimal offerings.”
Marcus Foo, of Papa Palheta, one of Singapore’s speciality coffee pioneers, notes that the growing understanding of specialty coffee among consumers—from origins and processing methods, to storage, roasting and brewing—spells a bright future for the speciality coffee industry here.
“There is also an increasing thirst for knowledge around coffee—speciality coffee in particular—and this is proven by the fact that more and more consumers now can differentiate different types and origins of coffee served in your local coffee shops, chain stores and independent coffee shops,” says Marcus.
Continuing to push the boundaries of coffee appreciation here, these cafes remain on the lookout for the highest possible grades of beans to ensure freshness.
Glyph Supply Co takes things a step further by setting up a temperature and humidity-controlled storage to ensure the highest quality for their raw beans, armed with one of the newest roasters from Korea to allow others to roast with them.
“As we source our own coffees, we get a good range of beans that are not available at other cafes, and with our own roaster, we do offer a range of roast levels, which are not common among cafes,” Benjamin Tan of Glyph Supply Co adds.
Serving up coffee from Honduras, Kenya, Ethiopia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Yunnan in China, and more recently from Myanmar, the outlet focuses on hand brews that allow every barista to offer a little something different with each cup. “We also do a cold drop coffee made by dropping iced water over coffee grounds across a period of 28 hours, with one drop of water every two seconds,” Benjamin elaborates.
Meanwhile, far from its takeaway coffee stall origins in Tanjong Pagar and Raffles Place, Alchemist has established its flagship outlet at Khong Guan Building earlier this year, complete with a full-sized roastery and a small cafe.
“We have a house blend called the Dark Matter, which is a mixture of beans from Brazil and Colombia. Many like it because of the chocolatey notes it gives off, as well as a heavier body that locals are used to. We offer single origin beans as well that we rotate on a seasonal basis. These beans are sourced mainly from Ethiopia, Guatemala, Colombia, Brazil, and so on,” Erwin states.
These cafes are also becoming more inclusive—to both customers and employees alike—with concepts that welcome co-roasting, invite collaborations with other businesses, brands and trades, and even provide profit sharing for employees.
For instance, Glyph Supply Co’s lab-like environment is designed to invite collaborations and host other events. “It can transform into an art gallery or feature an omakase food menu for a short period without the need to do major adjustments to the space,” Benjamin explains.
Over at PPP Coffee, employees get to enjoy profits made at the store, says Marcus. “Many of the employees have also been with us for a long time. As part of the incentive programme for employees, profits of the store are shared with employees across the group—regardless of ranks, roles or responsibilities. This, essentially is our founder Leon Foo’s love letter to the employees,” Marcus explains.
With such business acumen and a renewed interest in the ever-changing speciality coffee offerings, these beans and their baristas look set to outlive any fleeting trend.
In celebration of its 10th anniversary, Papa Palheta’s newly rebranded PPP Coffee has launched its first store at Funan this June, bringing specialty coffee one step closer to fans of brews at Chye Seng Huat Hardware. At the new PPP Coffee store, enjoy a multi-sensory coffee experience with an experience bar that lets you brew your own coffee. Tuck in to a selection of cakes and assorted Nyonya kuehs, toasts, breads and pastries along with a collection of frozen vintage coffees, also known as The Archive, and signature drinks such as Papa’s Iced Coffee—iced latte topped with homemade coffee jelly—and the Huat Shake, a coffee-based milkshake made with espresso, milk, chocolate bits and peppermint ice cream. For this season, look out for coffees from three coffee producers in Myanmar and India, that are available at all F&B/retail outlets in Singapore and Malaysia, as well as online.
Funan Mall, #02-19, 107 North Bridge Road. Tel: 6299 4321.
Having done collaborations with home bakers, chefs featuring an omakase menu with coffee pairings, and chocolatiers offering chocolate tasting workshops, just to name a few, look out for a cocktail takeover in December by a local bar and an upcoming craft-based collaboration. With the team heading up to Colombia this October, coffee lovers can also look forward to some amazing coffees fresh from the farm in the coming months.
#01-06, 111 Somerset Rd. Instagram: @glyphsupplyco
Focusing on the concept of simplicity, Alchemist’s flagship store’s minimalist interiors are designed to let guests enjoy their coffees. With beans roasted in-house, allowing them the flexibility of experimenting with interesting beans and extracting unique flavours, look out for more premium and rare varietals, like the recent Brazil Daterra collection, and some Geisha beans in the upcoming season.
Khong Guan Building, #01-01, 2 Mactaggart Rd.
This article was first published in Wine & Dine November/December 2019: Hindsight 2020 issue.