Coffee, Tea or Me?

Coffee, Tea or Me?

The list that contains the undeniable love of coffee, tea and other beverages.
Xing Wei Chua
Xing Wei Chua

It seems that Everton Park is seeing much of a revival of the vibrant cafe scene in the neighbourhood after the first initial wave of cafes had come and go there for the past couple of years — Handcraft Coffee is the latest addition here; opened by the same folks behind Grace Espresso at [email protected] along River Valley Road, they are located just right beside Pickle Bakery, which makes them a convenient coffee pick-up spot just after getting some of the stellar house-made artisanal breads next door. Being more of a hole-in-the-wall meant more for takeaways, Handcraft Coffee serves up only specialty coffee brewed from the espresso machine and hand-brewed filters; patrons can choose to have their coffee around the standing bar beside the espresso machine, or by the cushioned bench just right beside the entrance.

Opting for the White — 5 Oz, our coffee was brewed using the Kedir Bali beans roasted by Sweet Blossom Coffee Roasters; a coffee roastery that is established just right across the border in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. Felt that the White — 5 Oz here is particularly well-pulled; it’s smooth, creamy and came with a clean finish — carried a rather unique flavour profile where it comes with a mellow, fruity body, but ends odd with an earthy undertone. Pretty impressed with how this went.

Everton Park may be synonymous with great coffee and artisan bakes, with the likes of Pickle Bakery, Nylon Coffee Roasters, The Better Half and Patissier Woo being located at several corners within the HDB estate. Being located at a shop space facing Neil Road, Handcraft Coffee works more of a convenient coffee pick-up for those who do not have to time to wind around the estate in search for their cuppa — a good alternative to Nylon Coffee Roasters especially if the crowds to get a little crazy there.

Heard all about the new Pinhole Coffee Bar which had recently opened its doors pretty recently along Purvis Street — the coffee bar is situated right next to Jai Thai. Being a spot that focuses on their specialty coffee, expect a whole menu revolving around filter coffee where they feature single-origin beans roasted by various coffee roasters locally or beyond. Those who are more into espresso-based coffee will also be able to find the standard range of coffee beverages such as that of the Black, White and Espresso being available on the menu here; there is also a tasting flight which they have dubbed the “Hello, Good Morning” here, while non-coffee options include chocolate, artisanal tea and a tea ferment as well. For bakes to go along the cuppa, patrons can opt between the cookies and lemon loaf; both of which being the only bakes available on the day of our visit to Pinhole Coffee Bar.

For our choice of the filter coffee, we went with the Rwanda Umbumwe roasted by local coffee roaster, Cata Coffee (cafe-hoppers from water back in the day may be familiar with them being the coffee programme running alongside The Bakery by Woodlands Sourdough when they were still at Serene Centre). The tasting notes for the beans that we have picked includes hints of “pink guava, raspberry and white florals” — noticed that rather floral note in its body, while there was a rather alluring smokiness with a clean finish, which I found to be rather intriguing.

There seems to be an uprising of specialty coffee bars opening of the late, especially with the likes of abseil and Haven Coffee which have opened rather recently. With lesser specialty coffee options within City Hall these days, Pinhole Coffee Bar is a great addition to this part of the island — a rather centrally located cafe that emphasises on coffee; somewhat a great alternative to the crowded Narrative Coffee Stand on the other end at Bras Basah. A spot that coffee lovers should definitely check out.

Christmas is just round the corner, and Old Hen Coffee has just released yet another batch of beverages for the festive season. Joining the Peppermint Cocoa which had made its appearance during the same period in prior years is the Gingerbread Coffee — a newly introduced limited-time only special for this season.

Described to be brewed with “quintessential holiday spices like ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon”, the Gingerbread Coffee does carry a spiced note that is pretty similar to that of the Spiced Pumpkin Latte that they have released as a special for the Halloween season, though the Gingerbread Coffee is significantly less sweet — pretty much to an unsweetened version of their iconic creamy cold brew with evident hints of cinnamon and ginger. Personally still prefer the Peppermint Cocoa over this one given how festive it tastes, though the Peppermint Cocoa does lack the caffeine component that the Gingerbread Coffee has.

With Old Hen Coffee releasing a new bottled brew for every season of the late, I am looking forward to see if they will be coming up with any new creation for the Chinese New Year season that is coming next after Christmas, considering they do release the Orange Mocha annually in line with the festivities. Let’s just cross our fingers for now and hope for some new and innovative flavours for their bottled brews to come …

Tanjong Pagar has been quite the enclave for new cafe openings of the late, with cafes such as COTTA, Delicatessen, Alice Boulangerie etc. that had recently opened their doors here — abseil is one of the latest ones that had moved into the neighbourhood within Eon Shenton; the same building also houses Double Shot Coffee just a few units away from abseil. Focusing mostly on coffee offerings, the vibes at abseil reminds us of Platform. at Telok Ayer Street with its minimalist and clean decor meant to replicate that of a living room with curtains, floor lamps and some flora in corners of the space. Patrons can get to choose between espresso-based coffee, as well as a range of filter coffee brewed using beans from various origins — non-coffee drinkers can also choose between the few tea options that they have to offer, and patrons can also opt for a Dacquoise to complete the experience.

Had the abseil — the signature beverage here that actually comprises of espresso, osmose water and cream; the beverage comes served in a format similar to that of a macchiato with the cream atop. Served also with a straw, we were recommended to first take a sip of the cream, then use the straw to have the coffee beneath before mixing it up for the complete experience. Whilst the cream is smooth and carried a sweetness typical of that to macchiato-esque beverages served in bubble tea shops, the coffee comes with a medium body and a fruity flavour profile — personally would have preferred to have the beverage as-is, taking a sip of the cream and the coffee as and when we fancy rather than mixing it up as incorporating the cream into the coffee didn’t really make much of a difference except to dilute the cream, which quite defeated the purpose for us.

We also paired the abseil with the Earl Grey Dacquoise — the nut meringue sandwich came light and crumbly with a thick layer of Earl Grey cream that is spiked with orange peels for a zesty touch. The folks behind the counter shared that it was an apt pairing with the coffee to create this Yuan Yang-esque feel where coffee meets tea; something which we cannot agree more with.

Perhaps abseil might be stronger with their filter Coffee selection; that is something which we can only comment on when we try it the next time we come around here. But that being said; the relaxing environment and the lo-fi beats — it is undoubtedly that zen spot that soothes the soul, and that sort of spot I would look forward to just sink into to enjoy some vibes to take a slower pace whilst in the bustling Central Business District of Singapore.

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We also went for the Coffee Jelly Latte during this particular visit because we had always been wanting to try their coffee menu and this had always stood out for us whenever we skimmed through the menu here. While the body for the Latte here is more of the nutty sort, we quite fancy how the coffee jelly adds a nice chew and a refreshing note to the latte with its cleaner notes of coffee without all that milk — really fits the latte very well and a drink that seems overshadowed by the more attention-grabbing ones such as the Pei Pa Koa Latte with Peach Gum.

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Had visited Seng Coffee Bar quite some time back when they had first opened their doors and tried the Cempedak Creme Brûlée during that visit — was looking for somewhere to sit around since there was some time before dinner and thought why not settle here.

We tried the Secret Darkness Cold Brew — the packaging suggests that it may be a limited-time only special released just for Halloween. Look past that attention-seeking black aesthetic of the liquid contained in the bottle and this was a beverage set to impress — a concoction involving coconut, hazelnut and chocolate, it is almost akin to a chocolate milk with the body carrying evident notes of hazelnut, though it is how refreshing the coconut was at the start that made the beverage particularly intriguing.

Was going around Bukit Merah Central as spotted this new coffee stall named Star Coffee — turns out, this is one of the few coffee stalls at a hawker centre that is dedicates themselves to serving up the traditional Nanyang Kopi with a modern twist.

I was actually pretty intrigued by the stall since I have spotted an espresso machine in the stall — pretty much reminds me of stalls such as Kopi More at Golden Mile Food Centre, Lim’s Cafe at Chinatown Complex Market and Generation Coffee at Tekka Centre. Ordering my cuppa, I noticed how the owner-cum-barista here first uses an electric coffee bean grinder to prepare the coffee grounds to be used for the cuppa, before pulling the shot via the espresso machine just like how one would expect for a cup of espresso-based coffee at a specialty coffee joint serving gourmet coffee. The result is this cuppa that has a particularly thick crema; almost akin to the likes of the Kopi served at Kopi More — something that may be more common these days given the number of stalls taking this approach on serving up Nanyang-style Kopi, but still pretty much something one would not expect to get in the traditional brewing methods of local coffee.

Frankly speaking, even opting for the “normal” level of sweetness (patrons can also opt for either “more sweet” or “less sweet”), the Signature Coffee here has a rather harsh body that felt a little too bitter — rather off- balance even when compared to the likes of coffee served by other stalls adopting a similar approach in brewing their cuppa, even despite the addition of condensed milk at the normal level of sweetness. While I do appreciate the effort and thought behind the modern take, this is a cuppa which I would say that doesn’t quite work for everyone. Perhaps they can look more into the technicalities of coffee brewing to refine their cuppa further to achieve that balance of flavours that would make it an easier drink to have overall.

For those looking to give them a try, they are running a promotion till 15 October 2021 where they are serving their Signature Coffee at $1 — a rather decent opportunity to decide if their cuppa is one that suits the tastebuds.

Amoy Street Food Centre may be closed for upgrading works, but Mad Roasters ain’t resting on their laurels — apart from their Joo Chiat location being still up and running, they have also recently started operations with their pop-up operations at Moonstone Bar, as well as a brand new outlet at Depot Heights Shopping Centre, which is also their very first individual location with a cafe-esquire setting. Decorated rather simply, the interior design seems to suggest function over form, though we still found the slightly tropical theming somewhat welcoming despite its simplicity. Apart from serving up their usual Cinnamon/Chocolate Babka, they do also serve up two new savoury items at Depot Heights Shopping Centre — the Grilled Cheese Brioche, and the Avocado Brioche Toast.

I have pretty much abstained from ordering flavoured lattes for the most part; while my past visits to Mad Roaster were for their Flat White and cold brews, I have heard quite a fair bit about their Honey Butter Latte and decided to have one in its iced form this time round. Sure enough, it did not disappoint — it does carry that familiar, once trendy flavour profile of Honey Butter amidst the cuppa. For those who can’t really picture it, this was similar to Kopi Gu You (i.e. Butter Kopi) but in a form of a Flat White/Latte, though it does come with an additional dash of pretty gentle sweetness that gives sufficient contrast to the savoury notes from the butter which also gives the coffee a rather smooth mouthfeel. And when we speak about coffee, one can never leave out the logo art of the stickers pasted on their coffee cups/cup sleeves here — they are still that social enterprise actively involved with featuring logo art designed by refugees; a sticker dedicated to the story of the refugee is also pasted at the back to create awareness as well.

From just simply a hawker stall, Mad Roaster had come a long way, especially given how it has rode through the waves of COVID-19 being an operator of a hawker stall in The Central Business District. Nobody quite knows what else the pandemic will bring, but this is definitely an exciting phase for the folks behind Mad Roaster whilst staying true to their roots of not just being yet another name in the F&B scene, but also one that cares for the community at large.

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Old Hen Coffee/Kitchen’s bottled brews have always been a favourite amongst many ever since they had first opened their doors — probably one of the pioneers for white cold brew coffee while the local cafe culture was still emerging. Since then, they have experimented with few limited edition runs — fans of their bottled brews may recall flavours like their Peppermint Chocolate (during Christmas season) and Orange Mocha (during Chinese New Year); the Spice Pumpkin Latte is one of the newest additions to the seasonal specials here — perhaps Old Hen Coffee/Kitchen’s take on Starbuck’s PSL (i.e. Pumpkin Spice Latte) in the all-familiar bottled brew format.

Will leave the labels on the bottle to do all the talking (scroll left for the description), but do expect that this is a bottled latte rather than a bottled cold brew — not quite as rich and creamy as their Cold Brew (White), but think of it as an unsweetened cold brew base, with a lightly sweet finish from the pumpkin and a hint of spice from the nutmeg without being too overwhelming; a balance between all components with a clear note of caffeine that makes it unmistakably a latte.

It’s been quite a while since Old Hen Coffee had released a new flavour for their bottled brews save for the Cold Brew (Oat) when they had changed the branding and bottles of the cold brews — glad that they are actually still looking into creating new concoctions for the seasonal specials. Perhaps something to make that trip to Old Hen Coffee/Kitchen for if one is a fan of their bottled brews and wouldn’t miss out on the new flavours that they have to offer.

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Those who have been following me for quite a while now will know that I am all about supporting local home-grown establishments for the most part — while I have previously dismissed Huggs as more of a commercial brand meant for the office workers of The Central Business District with ready-to-eat hot food where they can be simply popped into the oven before serving, Huggs’ latest outlet (i.e. Huggs Collective) at Thomson Plaza is everything that I stand for. The Thomson Plaza outlet is probably their biggest outpost thus far — and for good reason; apart from just serving up wraps, cakes and beverages, their space at Thomson Plaza also sees Huggs collaborating with other local brands such as Denny Gelato, Mr. Bucket Chocolaterie and Commune etc. for a retail-cum-cafe concept where one can shop for items ranging from pens containing germinating seeds to yoga mat spritzs amongst other items, and enjoy the food and beverages from other local establishments all under one roof. There is also a Member’s Lounge exclusive for Huggs’ Rewards members with charging points, WiFi access and private telephone booths that seems like a space for some productive work to be done.

A friend who works near a Huggs have always mentioned about their coffee. On first sight, the Kopi seems a little pricey at $2.60 for a “Tall” cup — almost double the price of what one can get for a standard cup of Nanyang Kopi served at a local non-air conditioned coffeeshop; the bigger bummer is how those who prefers the iced option can only go for the “Grande” size with a price tag of $3.90. That being said, those doubts are were answered when I took a sip; their Kopi is probably one of the silkiest and smoothest Nanyang Kopi around — that smoothness almost akin to that of Kopi Gu You without the grease, or perhaps more comparable to the HK-style Milk Coffee without being particularly dilute in terms of flavour. Those who prefer their coffee a little sweeter can opt for the original level of sweetness (the baristas here do ask patrons about their preferred sweetness), though I would suppose that the “less sweet” version may suit me a little better; something which I might try the next time I am here.

While I was one who have easily just assumed Huggs as one of those commercial coffee places that lacked soul and character, Huggs Collective at Thomson Plaza was able to break that mould that formed in my head — a space that is created for the community be it simply for their patrons, or for local businesses alike. Coupled with their stellar coffee (at least we were impressed by their Kopi), it is little wonder how Huggs Coffee is filled with patrons even just slightly before their closing at 9pm with young families and middle-aged folks alike — armed with their beverages be it a Latte or a Kopi, getting their dose of Huggs before the day ends. Guess Huggs is probably where I would get my cuppa next time when I need one and pass by one now; and it would definitely be for their Kopi too!

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Orchard Towers is best known for its seedy reputation along the Singapore’s iconic shopping belt — so it’s pretty surprising to hear about Bean & Butter Cafe’s existence in the building that some dub the “four floors of whores”; a specialty coffee joint is probably one of the last things I would expect to be in this building anyway.

Apart from light bites and specialty coffee, Bean & Butter Cafe also serves up proper food such as sandwiches and waffles — items on the menu includes a smoked salmon sandwich, a crab roll, as well as several assorted home bakes that include muffins, basque burnt cheesecake and Ondeh Ondeh Madeleines amongst others.

What truly impressed me was their Orange Peel Black Cold Brew — one of the rare times that I have come across a flavoured bottled black cold brew. Steeped for 24 hours, the Orange Peel Black Cold Brew comes with candied orange peel for an additional note of sweetness. Whilst the usual cold brews tend to be heavy-bodied, the one here comes rather light — just as one could taste the floral notes of the coffee, the candied orange peel gives off a refreshing zing that carries a hint of sweetness, yet also comes with a clean finishing note; very enjoyable, and something which I am inclined to have again.

The folks behind Bean & Butter seemed to have been through quite a bit considering how the cafe was opened around two months ago — being situated at a spot that one would least expect to find a cafe at, not to mention having to have gone through dine-in restrictions as a result of the safety measures introduced in line with Phase 2 (Heightened Alert). They seem to know their coffee well, and are pretty hospitable — ready to share more about the process behind their cold brew coffee; a rare spot in town that coffee lovers will likely be able to appreciate. Will this be the start of a new era for Orchard Towers? Only time will be able to tell …

Opened to much fanfare, Eatbox was a spot that I was expecting to see crowds at for lunch when we made our visit on a weekday afternoon whilst being back in the office — the concept is a permanent feature by the same folks behind Artbox, which used to hold their annual events being a pop-up creative market every year. It takes over the former premises of the now-defunct Xin Tekka, and houses quite a number of new and familiar brands such as The Butcher Bar (serving up burgers and rosti), Flash Coffee (serving up specialty coffee), Okinawa Nigri (serving up Onigirirazu), and Toni Yakiniku (serving up Japanese Donburi) amongst others.

There are quite a number of beverage options at Eatbox, but the Rose Latte from Ethos stood out the most — a stall that serves bottled beverages, including bottled coffee. There is no doubt in how there was an evident floral note that made it so alluring, yet with a distinct hint of caffeine that made it especially well-balanced with an earthy punch in its body. Something which I would absolutely go for again.

With quite the variety of options covering Japanese fare, Thai food, light bites and beverage options, Eatbox is one of those places that probably has something for everyone. That being said, do expect a smaller option of mains here — most of the stalls seemingly catering to smaller plates and desserts though there are sufficient options that makes one want to revisit Eatbox again. Looking forward to go for the burgers at The Butcher Bar next, not to mention how it does seem like a pretty convenient location for a more “hipster” lunch around the workplace if one is in the mood to splurge just a little.

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Up, down and everywhere around for food.

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