September 2013 Newsletter
I spent the last week of August in Singapore, and having a bit of time on my hands I
thought it would be a good idea to check out the current high end café scene.
As a first step, I tried to establish a baseline by visiting one of the many "Coffee
Bean & Tea Leaf" outlets throughout the city. They are by far the most widely
distributed chain on the island, and still use proper espresso machines and
grinders. Both double espressos I had (at different outlets) were technically
correct, 60ml shots with decent crema. Unfortunately, the coffee used to make them
had been overroasted to the point where any varietal characteristics were gone, and
the predominant taste was ash.
What was demonstrated was that the general levels of Singaporean barista skills have
risen dramatically in the last few years. So, armed with the knowledge that any shop
I visited should have at least this level of competence, I set out to taste test
espresso in Singapore. One thing I found out fairly quickly was that any of the
chains (and there's one called Coffee Connoisseurs, I should sue!) went for the
extreme dark roast.
Fortunately, the specialty shops I checked out were all medium roasts, much more in
line with my palate.
My rankings are purely arbitrary, based only on my tastebuds, because all the shots
I tasted were expertly produced. In fourth place, NYLON COFFEE ROASTERS, Everton
Park Estate, #01-40, enter off Cantonment Rd. Miniscule shop, no food,
offering espresso and pourover coffees. I found the espresso too acid,
a blend of Central American coffees, Nicaraguan and El Salvador. The
owners have travelled to the
coffee farms they buy from, cup regularly, and the coffees suit their
personal tastes, but they still have a lot to learn about roasting and
blending for espresso.
Machine was La Marzocco, Mazzer grinders.
Third place was JIMMY MONKEY, 9 One-north Gateway Singapore 139643.
Student focused cafe with industrial ambience. Slayer espresso machine, Mazzer
grinders. Shot was superbly pulled but the flavour was generic central/south
American blend, no standout notes of sweetness, fruit or chocolate. Service was
fairly sloppy, several menu selections unavailable at 2 p.m. Food prices are
relatively high for Singapore.
Second place was CHYE SENG HUAT HARDWARE 150 Tyrwhitt Road, Singapore, 207563.
Nicely furnished cafe inside an old hardware store. Synesso machine, Mazzer
grinders. Good service, correctly pulled shot ($4.00), slightly acidic blend that
probably works well with milk. Again somewhat generic central/south American
First place went to the long established HIGHLANDER COFFEE, 49 Kampong Bahru Road, Singapore.
If "There Can Only be One", this is the one! Tiny cafe area with
furnishings looking a bit tired. VBM (Vibiemme) machine, Mazzer
Lemon/jasmine front palate, creamy mid palate and chocolate and malt
finish, I'd guess there's definitely an Ethiopian component to their
blend. Food prices are quite reasonable.
This month's special is a blend of star coffees that I didn't have enough of to sell
on their own, including some Yemen Mocha and a touch of Haiti.
It's not acidy, or sweet, or chocolatey, it's just bursting with huge coffee
Until next month