A third wave of coffee has crashed upon our shores in the last decade, and left a veritable froth of espresso bars in its wake. As the foam subsides, which cafés are left still standing? In this industry, longevity indicates both great coffee and a sound business plan, and we present five stalwarts that have served up first-rate cuppas for at least five years and counting.
We like to think of Highlander Coffee as the granddaddy of Singapore’s coffee scene. Established in 2004, when the term “third wave coffee” was still in its infancy, it got its start as a supplier of coffee and coffee machines to companies and other cafés. In 2006, owners Phil and Cedric Ho opened an espresso bar in a shophouse flanked by KTV lounges, facing the Singapore General Hospital. The back room of the café was soon pressed into service as the training ground for their Coffee Academy, where workshops on coffee appreciation, cupping and professional barista training are held, all at very reasonable fees. Today, Highlander Coffee has trained thousands of people, amongst them the owners and baristas of other cafés in Singapore and beyond. This is a terrifically understated, friendly café that has won a very loyal following for its dedication to a great cup of coffee. Well worth a visit (if not multiple ones)!
ORIOLE COFFEE + BAR
Coffee lovers sat up and took note when the owner and the head barista of Oriole Coffee took turns to claim the National Barista Championship from 2008 to 2010. In addition to espresso, Oriole Coffee offers coffee cocktails and taisho, Japanese cold-brewed coffee that is less acidic than regular coffee. They are also a supportive partner of the local creative scene, hosting popular music, art, storytelling and poetry events at their Orchard café.
Opened in 2009, Kith Café is another pioneer of the coffee culture in Singapore. Its first café was (and still is) a tiny, cosy space at Robertson Quay, serving up good coffee and nosh, but it has since expanded into second and then third (much more spacious) locations at Park Mall and Sentosa Cove. Other than its coffee, Kith Café is also popular for its bright and early opening times (7am at Robertson Quay, 8am at Sentosa Cove and Park Mall) and their family-friendly locations.
Opened in 2009, Papa Palheta is a coffee boutique that supplies the software (coffee beans, roasted onsite) and hardware (coffee machines) of coffee, while attending to the education of coffee amateurs and professionals. They also run three extremely popular coffee bars – two in Singapore (Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar and Loysel’s Toy) and one in Malaysia (Pulp) – which serve up gorgeous espressos, cold brews, beer-coffee mixes and coffee-infused baked goods in cafés straight out of a design magazine.
On quiet leafy Yong Siak Street stands 40 Hands, a sweet café in a narrow shophouse that has won fans for its delightful coffees and good food since 2010. As part of its recent makeover, 40 Hands branched out into coffee bean roasting, partnering an experienced Australian roaster (Five Senses Coffee) to found Common Man Coffee Roasters.