Consider the scene in Singapore, a global hub of food, architecture, urban design and nightlife. You’ll need a nice cup of coffee first before you take it all in, so why not a visit to Geylang Drip City? To learn more we spoke with the team at GDC about their focus on single origin coffees from Africa, unique pour-over program, and the distinct corner of Singapore their cafe inhabits.
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This interview has been lightly edited and condensed.
Introduce yourself to our readers—tell us about your cafe!
Geylang Drip City is Singapore’s dopest coffee bar experience; we’re located in Geylang, the heart of the island-state’s Red Light District and also the last cheeky bastion of old-world grit in a country known for it’s shiny sterility.
Our food and beverage menu is deliberately small and tightly curated featuring single origin African coffees, high quality comfort food, and easy in-house desserts.
We pair the whole coffee experience with our emphasis on attentive hospitality and really, really good hip-hop playlists.
What equipment do you use in your shop?
Being an independent coffee shop meant that we needed to bootstrap where we could and we found a great deal for our espresso machine which was previously used for Australian Barista Championships so there wasn’t a lot of wear and tear despite being a four-year-old machine. It also helps that the muscular design of the Black Eagle blends in well with our sense of aesthetic and brand persona.
For our drip pour-over program, we have a preference for plastic CAFEC Flower Drippers as it brings out the latent qualities of the coffee as intended by the producer as well as it’s operational ease of use due to it’s relatively faster flow rate.
We get our grind on using the industry gold standard; the Mahlkönig EK43S because our owner/weekend barista is the same height as Nate Robinson.
Which roaster or roasters do you serve?
We personally source our coffee selection from locally-based green importers like 2nd Mile Specialty who are as passionate as we are about African coffees and we work on a hybrid service model with local roaster Community Coffee where we define the roast profile for the coffee as well as its applications.
This allows us to take ownership over our coffee quality, identity and inventory management but at the same time outsource competencies that we may not have right now to reliable partners.
What is the neighborhood like where you’re located? What’s some other cool stuff nearby?
The Geylang neighborhood we’re located in is infamous. Simply put, this is not an area people would conventionally associate with the specialty coffee movement; especially not in Singapore.
But if you take the time to really get off the beaten path there are some really cool businesses in the area like Hip Xiong Photo Studio, which is probably the country’s only wetplate tintype portrait studio, as well as The 8th Floor Creative Space, a pottery workshop located in an industrial building. The ceramic drinkware for our pour-overs at Drip City was also custom made by the 8th Floor folks.
We firmly believe in doing our little part to contribute to what we call the micro-economy of Geylang.
Did you close during a mandated Coronavirus shutdown, and if so, for how long?
We opened in February 2021, which meant that we didn’t have to go through the six weeks mandated lockdown (called a circuit-breaker in Singapore) during the first wave of COVID-19 in 2020.
However, our government’s “unique” middle of the road strategy for the Delta variant this year meant that we had to fluctuate between dreadfully slow takeaway-only periods interspersed with short bursts of dine-in periods with limited capacities for parties of only only.
This creates a lot of operational challenges but we’re counting our blessings that we are at a stage where our lean and agile model allows us to be nimble and to adapt quickly.
How has Coronavirus impacted daily work at your cafe?
There are obvious pivots to digital commerce, which contribute significantly to our revenue but our concern when it comes to COVID-19 impact on work is around talent and their purpose. It’s been hard trying to keep morale high; most of us chose to work in coffee because we believe that social interactions over this beloved beverage is a precious positive moment in someone’s day that we want to participate in.
When you take that away, hospitality talent starts to question their value and their professional purpose. At the same time, inane rules like the banning of music in cafes and restaurants (which is uniquely Singaporean) compound those feelings of hopelessness and the deafening silence in the shop is a stark reminder of the times we live in.
What’s something cool or unique about your cafe you want folks to know?
We’re likely to be the only coffee bar in the country that exclusively serves single origin African coffees on both espresso and drip pour-over selections. We do this with the intention to showcase two things; firstly the historical context of coffee as an originally African crop and product and secondly the wonderfully diverse spectrum of flavors that can be found on the African continent.
Our current selection is a tasty washed Kenyan, a gorgeous floral Ethiopian, and a funky natural anaerobic Rwandan. We do our best to select coffees with very distinct profiles from one another as the diversity helps a lot with consumer education.
Is there a community organization or charity you’d like to shout-out as part of this feature?
First one goes to Geylang Adventures; they provide local guided tours in the Geylang neighbouhood but more importantly, they tirelessly work to shine a spotlight on the migrant worker underclass living here as well as the social issues they face.
Secondly we’d like to give our Memphis homies Cxffeeblack a shout out for constantly being an inspiration to us and a source of educated discourse on coffee-related history. The Internet has allowed us to connect with this amazing mission-driven group of coffee professionals halfway across the world.
Remember, COVID is temporary but drip is forever!
Photos by Geylang Drip City, used with permission