My Crazy Cafe Spree

As per what was mentioned in my other blog, I went on a cafe spree on Tuesday, to discover the coffee culture in Singapore. All 6 cafes were highly recommended with another 2 regrettably, were closed on Tues. Hence I didn’t have the chance to visit Nylon and Strangers Reunion. Strangers Reunion was moving their premise to a bigger unit 2 doors down hence my timing couldn’t meet as I was flying back to China on Wednesday. Nevertheless, congrats to Strangers Reunion on their move to their new premise and hope I can try your coffees one day!

When I was doing the spree, I realized that I should not comment on each individual cafe experience as that will affect their business as most of them are budding businesses and young entrepreneurs. I definitely support young entrepreneurs coming out to start their own businesses, therefore the least the need now from the media are criticisms that will destroy their confidence. We all want the coffee culture in Singapore to grow right? But that said, sometimes they just need a little reminder when the popularity gets over their heads.

The taste of coffee itself varies from different places at different times. It depends on the types of bean use (even the same type of beans cultivated at different location has different taste! ), the way the beans are roasted, the type of espresso machine used, type of grinders, timing of every brew, method of frothing the milk, type of milk used, method of compacting the powder in the hoppers, etc and the list goes on. In my opinion as well as my barista coach, there is no such thing as the ‘best coffee’ in any geographical location. Coffees should be appreciated the way they are according to their roast and type and it is the responsibility of every barista to bring out the full potential of every brew.

The 6 cafes I’ve visited were (according to my visiting order):

1. Chye Seng Huat Hardware
2. Flock Cafe
3. Forty Hands
4. The Plains
5. Oriole Coffee Roasters
6. Oriole Cafe & Bar (I had my dinner appointment there since they opened till 11pm)

Below are my own opinionated observations in general and to be fair across the board, I ordered lattes at every joint:

1. Baristas – I’m not gonna comment much on this ‘cos every barista will develop their own habits while preparing the coffees. Some are professionally trained, some are trained in house. Those professionally trained will know that they are not suppose keep leftover milk but for commercial sense, I guess it can’t be helped sometimes. Other habits like the way they clean the hoppers, cleaning the steam wand, etc. So, I’m not gonna comment much on this cos the list will go on.

2. Milk Frothing – This is one of the most important issue I wanna bring up. Tolerance to heat on your palms differs from person to person. Sad to say the people who are still using a thermometer while frothing their milk are the bigger chains. That is why some coffees I drank yesterday were just warm… All hot coffees MUST be served HOT! Not warm!

3. Latte Art – I realized that there is a lot of focus on the art on top of the lattes I ordered. Definitely a plus to serve a cuppa in a presentable manner. But check out point 2 above; if you can’t even make a proper latte served at the right temperature, screw the latte art! Customers pay $4-$6 for a cup of latte, I would say maybe 5% goes to the latte art only. The rest of the percentage is for the substance of your coffee and milk and the effort to bring out full flavor of the beans!

4. Customer Service – Standing behind the coffee bar counter doesn’t mean you don’t have to smile and interact with your customers. Especially when you have a coffee bar or an island-type coffee bar where everyone can see you and what you’re doing. I remember sitting at one of the bar counter seat and waiting for someone to take my orders when there were like 4-5 staffs inside the counter. So I asked if I can place my orders (from one staff hovering in front me the whole time minding his own business), only to realize that I had to head to the other side and place my orders with the cashier (you can’t blame me, first time there and no signs saying orders have to be placed at the cashier). And I had to hang around there to wait for my latte to be brewed, and when i got it, not hot some more! After that I lost my seat at the bar counter and had to sit at some corners facing the wall. This is the problem when you get too popular, may not be the owners’ fault as most of the time is the employees not maintaining the SOP.

I guess that’s all I have to say, highlighting the main issues I’ve noticed. Anything else I’ll have to start charging haha… But some friends who asked me which one is good, I would say every joint put in lots of effort to present their coffees to their customers and making their cafes a cosy place for catching up with friends. But if I have to choose, and for someone who appreciates what goes on behind every cuppa; that is respecting the tremendous journey the coffee beans take to reach the espresso machines and making sure each brew brings out the full potential and flavor of these robust-full beans, I might have to give that credit to Oriole Coffee Roasters.

Keep up the great work guys! 😉

Big Roy