11 October 2019

Eight Speciality Coffee Shops To Visit in Singapore

When I thought I would have an eight-hour layover in Singapore on my way to Australia a couple of years ago, I immediately started researching the speciality coffee shops that I might visit. Sadly, the layover didn't work out, but my research didn't go to waste as I spent just over two days in Singapore at the end of my recent trip to Malaysia. I visited eight coffee shops and roasters during my stay — Saturday was a particularly caffeinated day, as I sought to stay awake for my very late flight back to London. Not by coincidence, my hotel was also located in easy reach of many of the coffee shops on my list.

The quality of the coffee was consistently very high, but my very favourites are marked in purple in my Google Map.

Apartment Coffee
I visited this small, minimalist coffee shop on the recommendation of the barista I met at Strangers' Union (see below), and was really impressed with both the coffee and the experience. Almost all of the seating in the narrow cafe is along the long, light counter. And on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I had to wait for a few minutes to get a seat, but this just gave me time to browse the menu of single-origin filter coffees, all roasted in house.

In the end, I went for an Ethiopian Uraga Bildimoo coffee, which was expertly brewed with great care and served in a wonderfully tactile oversized pale pink ceramic cup. The coffee itself was delicious, with the apricot and hibiscus notes coming through nicely as it cooled. Overall, it was a very calming experience in a very hectic day.

Apartment Coffee is located at 161 Lavender Street (MRT: Bendemeer or Lavender). Website. Instagram.

Bearded Bella
Feeling the pull of Melbourne, I decided to go for breakfast one morning at Melbourne-influenced cafe Bearded Bella, which was also close to my hotel in Chinatown. The breakfast menu was extensive and also quite expensive (particularly in comparison to my light/street food breakfasts in Malaysia), but had numerous tempting options. I ended up ordering the pistachio-encrusted salmon with potato rösti, which was delicious.

The coffee is roasted in house, and served in Bearded Bella's quirky, colourful packaging. I had a perfectly made piccolo, which made a very fine accompaniment to my big breakfast. Later in the day, while shopping on Orchard Road, I spotted a Bearded Bella coffee cart, and had a very good espresso there too. Their espresso blend currently combines a natural and a 'soaked' coffee, both from El Salvador.

Bearded Bella is located at 8 Craig Road (MRT: Tangjong Pagar or Outram Park). Website. Instagram.

Chye Seng Huat Hardware
CSHH may be the first speciality coffee shop I've visited that is located in a former hardware store, and it was a great experience. Located just down the road from Apartment, there was also a mini farmers' market taking place outside. Meanwhile, they hold cuppings and workshops in the accompanying training room, so there is a lot going on. As for the main cafe, a large, ovoid coffee bar takes up most of the space, with seating all around, as well as a few small tables around the edge of the room, which has some great vintage-inspired decor.

It was very busy when I arrived just after lunch on a Saturday, and again, the queue gave me a good opportunity to ponder the single-origin coffee menu. I ordered a natural coffee from Kyauk Kuu Pyin, Myanmar, and squeezed into a free seat at the counter, right in front of the pourover bar. It was wonderful to watch the barista at work, preparing pourover coffees and serving them in glass flasks, carefully wrapped with a colourful handkerchief for those who can't wait for their coffee to cool. My coffee was excellent — a fruity coffee with grape and berry notes that will appeal to most members of the natural coffee appreciation society. If you're in the market for beans, they sell retail bags of their coffee too, under the PPP Coffee brand.

Chye Seng Huat Hardware is located at 150 Tyrwhitt Road (MRT: Bendemeer or Lavender). Website. TwitterInstagram.

Common Man Coffee Roasters
I was having some problems with my mobile data and map app, which meant I got slightly confused en route to Common Man, the last stop on my Singapore coffee tour. Luckily, a woman asked if I needed directions and when I said I was going to Common Man, she knew it well and walked with me part of the way, warning me that there might be a big queue. Indeed, on the steps outside, signs indicated that the wait time for a table could be 30 minutes or more, but luckily, late in the afternoon, I was able to walk straight into a seat at the window (not that there were many free spaces even then).

After enjoying several pourovers during the course of the day, I had been planning to go for an espresso, but then I saw a rather delicious-sounding Tanzanian Kipenzi coffee on the filter-coffee menu and went with that instead. Naturally, while at Common Man, I had to go for one of their 'UnCommon' varieties and the sweet and juicy cherry and raspberry notes came through beautifully. There is a comprehensive food menu here too, with many great-sounding dishes that I'd have liked to try.

Common Man is located at 1 Jalan Tun Mohd Fuad (MRT: Fort Canning or Clarke Quay). Website. TwitterInstagram.

Five Oars Coffee Roasters
Just around the corner from Bearded Bella, Five Oars is a coffee shop and roastery that also serves a very fine brunch and dinner. The decor is mostly industrial-chic but with a large central planter that provides some greenery.

There are various single-origin coffees on offer, and I ordered a delicate Ethiopian Harfusa variety as a pourover, which was very well brewed. If coffee flights are more your bag, there's also a one and one on the menu.

Five Oars is located at 39 Tanjong Pagar Road (MRT: Tangjong Pagar or Outram Park). Website. Instagram.

Nylon Coffee Roasters
Nylon has been on my radar for some time and it was the first coffee shop I visited. A 15-minute walk from my Chinatown hotel, it is tucked away inside the Everton housing estate, but well worth seeking out. The small, minimalist cafe is almost standing-room only, with most customers perching at the high table. I did manage to nab one of the few seats at a low table next to the coffee plant and by the roastery.

I was planning to buy some beans, but decided to order a different coffee to try in the cafe, to maximise the variety. From the selection of four single-origin coffees available on filter, I went for an Ethiopian Gora Kone variety, whose lime and berry notes combined beautifully, especially as the coffee began to cool.

I then bought some beans from Maputo, Ecuador, which I've been enjoying brewed through the Aeropress and V60 at home this week. NB, Nylon does not accept credit cards and as I didn't have much cash, they were able to process the payment for beans through their web shop. They did, however, have a note on the counter to highlight their support of the climate strike, they would not be serving takeaway coffees with lids or straws, instead encouraging customers to bring their own vessels.

Nylon Coffee Roasters is located at Block 4, Everton Park #01-40, Cantonment Road (MRT: Tangjong Pagar or Outram Park). Website. TwitterInstagram.

The Populus
Located close to Nylon and Strangers' Reunion (and recommended to me by the barista at the latter), The Populus is a large cafe that serves all-day eats (once again, the brunch menu looked excellent) and speciality coffee, which they roast under the 2º North Coffee Co. brand. I knew I would be in good hands when I saw the Huskee Cups perched on top of the shiny Synesso machine, and unusually found myself hesitating as to which coffee to order.

On the recommendation of the barista, following my request for something floral and/or fruity, I ended up going for a natural Ethiopian Harfusa, which had a lovely rose aftertaste to the grape and peach flavours. I savoured the coffee for as long as I could, and the flavours only improved as it cooled. Speaking to the baristas on my way out, I heard about a limited-edition Panama Gesha that they had. My only regret was that I didn't have time to return to The Populus to try that.

The Populus is located at 146 Neil Road (MRT: Tangjong Pagar or Outram Park). Website. Instagram.

Strangers' Reunion
Strangers' Reunion was my second coffee stop — and first breakfast stop — on my first full day in Singapore. The large, airy space was fairly quiet early on a Friday morning, but I can imagine it's very busy during peak brunch hours. I placed my food order first — buttermilk waffles with macerated strawberries and yoghurt — before turning my attention to the coffee menu.

I started with an El Salvador coffee brewed through the Kalita Wave, which was beautifully brewed. Then, after several rather long 'piccolos' in Malaysia, I thought this would be the place for a more standard take on the drink. My instincts were correct and I was rewarded with a perfect piccolo, made with a blend of Costa Rican and Ethiopian coffees. After I'd finished, I chatted with the friendly barista about my trip and he helpfully suggested a number of other speciality coffee shops that were worth targetting during my short visit.

Strangers' Reunion is located at 35 Kampong Bahru Road (MRT: Tangjong Pagar or Outram Park). Website. TwitterInstagram.

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