Today I started down the path of the Singapore Barista Trail; a path where I take you to the first three great coffee shops.
Singapore is a city with opportunities and wealth. Never in my life have I seen so many Ferrari’s, Bentley’s and Lamborghini’s in one spot (well, maybe in Hong Kong). High-rises and luxury shops compete for sunlight during the day and neon lights fight about who is the brightest during the night. And then the people; ex pat’s earning their yearly salary in a month and rich locals spending money like it’s water. Would a city like this have the time and the space for specialty coffee?
Singapore Barista Trail: Geisha Specialty Coffee
When you google for the best spots in Singapore you will eventually scroll past Geisha Specialty Coffee and that is exactly where you should stop scrolling. This was my first stop on my own Singapore Barista Trail. Located opposite of the School of Art in Singapore, this small shop is very popular. Geisha Specialty Coffee is owned by a Chinese man who does not speak English very well. Luckily his wife and the other people behind the bar can, so you wont have to miss out on information.
Geisha Specialty Coffee is a small shop with a bar, three tables and two roasting machines in the back. The interior is minimal but somehow I would not want it any other way. Geisha Specialty Coffee does not need gimmicks, lounge-chairs and trendy music. All it needs is for it’s owner to roast like only he can. When I first entered the shop I did not think much of it, until I took a look at the menu. My eyes went wide and my heart skipped a beat. Yirgacheffe, Blue Mountain and Esmeralda Geisha on one menu! This was like opening Narnia’s magical closet and not seeing a talking Lion, but the best coffee’s in the world!
My Singapore Barista trail started out good. After tasting a pour-over and a surprisingly well balanced house blend espresso it was time to move on. I was on my way out when the owner suggested two shops that were not on my list: Nylon Coffee and Stranger’s Reunion. “Forget about the other spots,” he said, “yet visit these two gems instead.” I could not be more grateful for that advice! The day wore on and it became too hot for my taste. Being a Dutchman I like my weather wet, dark and cold, and so a humid 30 degrees is not my thing. Time for an Uber to the next destination on my Singapore Barista Trail: Nylon Coffee.
Singapore Barista Trail: Nylon Coffee
It took me about ten minutes by Uber to get to Everton Park. When we arrived, we drove into an area of apartment buildings with little hole-in-the-wall-shops at the street level. After searching for about twenty minutes I asked a shop owner if he knew where to find Nylon Coffee. It surprised me that he didn’t budge, he just smiled and guided me over to the next apartment building. Nylon Coffee does not have a neon-sign and if you weren’t paying close attention, you would easily pass it by without noticing.
Nylon Coffee might be the best hidden gem in Singapore. The shop has a standing table, some items you can buy and few seats, but it’s crowded with people who love coffee. The name originated from the two city’s in which the owners have lived: New York and London. The barista’s behind the bar know what they are doing and give solid advice on what coffee would suit your taste. No Yirgacheffe, Blue Mountain or Geisha, but self roasted beans from El Salvador, Colombia, Burundi and Ethiopia. Try the Mokanisa for a fruity and sweet pour-over. For an espresso take the Black Honey Washed Santa Petrona from Colombia. Nutty flavours, cocoa and maybe a hint of toffee will caress your palette. But be quick about it, the menu changes every now and then I got told.
Nylon Coffee surprised me a lot by the quality of their coffee and the friendly but expert staff. Was this already the pinnacle of the trail? Time flies when you’re drinking the best coffee’s a city has to offer. It was time for me to run to the next Singapore Barista Trail spot: Stranger’s Reunion. Thankfully it was close by and took a short meagre five minutes walk…and an additional ten minutes because this hotspot seemed hidden as well.
Singapore Barista Trail: Stranger’s Reunion
When you step through the door at Stranger’s Reunion it feels like night and day. Outside, the street was quiet en calm, inside not so much. Heaps of young people were chattering over coffee and lounge-music filled the room. The minimal interior consisted out of a concrete-look bar and floor, wooden tables en one sofa in the corner. Immediately a girls stepped up to me and asked if I wanted to sit and have a drink. She gave the menu and it looked like an ordinary menu: Espresso, Cappuccino and filter coffee methods. No information about the beans, flavours or processes, just the names.
I felt a pang of disappointment and decided to ask the girl if she could tell me anything about the beans they use. My disappointment was gone in an instant; she knew exactly what they were serving and how they would prepare the coffee. This was even more fun than reading it on paper; what a load of information by heart! And suddenly I ended up with a Kochene Yirgacheffe pour-over and a Don Claudio Costa Rica Syphon coffee. As expected the coffee was spot-on; vibrant acidities and sweet flavours filled my mouth and for a second I was in heaven again. Singapore just stole my heart.
By now my heart was racing from all of the caffeine surging through my body and I knew it was time to stop walking the path of the Singapore Barista Trail for now. But what a trip this has been so far: Famous beans, hidden gems and such friendly and expert people. I guess Singapore should not only be famous for it’s sports cars and rich people, but for its many coffee hotspots as well. I have visited once, but it feels like my Singapore Barista Trail has only just begun!