The Central Business District of Singapore is a juxtaposition. Modern office life takes place in futuristic high-rises, alongside historic stretches like the shophouses of Tanjong Pagor and sleepy riverside views like Robertson Quay. Shophouses are a remnant of the old Singapore: classic two story buildings with roots in the mid-19th century, designed to house a shop on the first floor and a residence on the second. This changing urban neighborhood has emerged in recent years as a hotbed for progressive coffee in Singapore, with many of the city's best cafes, and especially its best roasters, calling the area home. Quality local roasters drive quality coffee scenes, and the three shops below are great places to start your exploration of the exciting world of Singapore coffee.
This cafe is emblematic of the new Singapore coffee scene. Strangers' Reunion is in one of the Tanjong Pagor shophouses, and it's home to perennial Singaporean national barista champion Ryan Tan. With his team, Mr. Tan has converted the bottom floor into a coffee haven, a microcosm of the old and new Singapore meeting in glorious combination.
Strangers' Reunion serves up their own craft coffee roasts in a variety of styles from drip to syphon to espresso on a Synesso machine. Their coffee menu is seasonal, with a focus on direct sourcing and limited time selections, including blends specially crafted for Tan's various coffee competition efforts. Alongside more common origins like Ethiopia and Colombia, Strangers' Reunion also regularly features coffee from a farm in Chiang Mai, Thailand, with whom Strangers' Reunion has a special direct-from-farm relationship.
The space itself is spacious and inviting with tall ceilings and a cool breeze, a perfect place to beat the Singapore heat with a friend. Strangers' Reunion, you might have noticed, is an unusual name for a cafe. It refers to the way a coffee shop serves as a gathering spot, and reflects the company's vision to improve Singapore’s coffee scene collaboratively with like-minded roasters. Next door to Strangers' is a newer spot called Waffle Slayer–this is Ryan Tan's other brain child, where patrons are treated to a delicious sweet and savory waffle menu and a full compliment of espresso drinks, crafted on the shop's two-group Slayer espresso machine.
Nylon Coffee Roasters
Nylon Coffee Roasters in Everton Park also takes an unassuming location and transforms it into an exemplary coffee experience. The all-in-one cafe, roastery, and cupping room incorporates a minimalistic aesthetic that reflects their desire to have all the attention focused on their coffee. The cafe is mostly standing room only (aside from 4 chairs) with no wifi; the focus here is meant to be the coffee, not your smartphone.
The two founders, Dennis and Jia Min, know the challenge of finding time for a great cup of coffee–they came to the cafe business from backgrounds in investment banking and tech in New York and London. This duo has a sharp eye for details: each cup they brew gets measured by refractometer to achieve perfect consistency, and they're making espresso on a beautifully restored La Marzocco GS/2 espresso machine. Even outside of the actual coffee, their store is chalked full of fun details. The name Nylon comes from a combination of “NY” for New York and “LON” for London, and their playful logo is meant to make a black coffee lid look like a top hat atop their coffee cups.
Nylon Coffee Roasters has their Probat roaster setup in its own room adjoining the small cafe., and they're focused on a direct and involved model of green coffee sourcing, with the staff making regular trips out to visit their farms. From top to bottom, Nylon sets out to make you a special cup of coffee.
Common Man Coffee Roasters
Common Man Coffee Roasters occupies a large space near Robertson Quay, and have been consistently drawing crowds since opening in 2013. The sign outside even says that queuing for a table is quite “common”, if you'll pardon the pun. Their concept is to focus on making craft coffee accessible to the common man, so perhaps their popularity means mission accomplished. This place certainly has a pedigree, coming together as a collaboration between local barista hero Harry Grover (of 40 Hands and Kisau Espresso), Spa Espirit Group, a Singapore lifestyle brand family, and Five Senses, a leading Australian coffee brand based in Perth and Melbourne.
Inside the interior is wide and modern with seating both inside and outside. The menu offers breakfast all day, numerous lunch options, and various baked goods. Friendly baristas are kept quite busy, between crafting lattes at the wide Synesso espresso machine, and perfecting a wide array of different drip methods for customers.
Common Man Coffee Roasters roasts their own beans, mostly at another location, though they do some roasting on site with a Giesen roaster. Their coffee menu is in the “ask us” format, with a staff member will guide you through their current offerings, sourced via regular farm visits. Common Man Coffee Roasters also hosts a free public cupping every Wednesday from 2pm-3pm.
Kevin Otsuka is a digital marketing professional and coffee obsessive based in Tokyo. This is his first feature for Sprudge.