Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Coffee Roundup - 11 September 2012

My last coffee roundup was rather controversial because perhaps it was the first time someone actually did a writeup on the various coffee outlets in Singapore and ranked them, at least on a broad scale, into various tiers. The reason why this has been done is because, to be honest, it would be far too difficult to actually rank them 1-10, because, truth be told, alot of this whole "Ranking" business is extremely subjective. If you ask a food blogger what the difference is between a 7.5 and a 7.75, or a 1st or 2nd place ranking, he can only answer, sadly, that it's really all about impression. There isn't any art to it, really, except that it's all a matter of feel. But if I ranked coffee outlets from 1-10, it may create alot of unhappiness all around, and besides there are plenty of coffee outlets whose owners I consider my friends, and so - tiers is the way to do it.

Ranking Criteria

Primary Criteria

Quality - this goes without saying - the coffee has to have good aromatics, be flavourful and not be one-dimensional; well-extracted; the milk in a cappuccino or a latte has to be well foamed, i.e. microfoam. (Joints are rated from *** symbolising excellence, to * which symbolises mediocrity. ** = good).

Consistency - the coffee cannot be super good one day and horrible the next - there has to be some semblance of consistency. (same ranking system)

Secondary Criteria

Food - coffee always goes well with food, so I guess I will talk a bit about the food that the coffee joint offers. However this is not always the key consideration especially considering that there are joints which sell coffee without food. (same ranking system)

Ambience - a lovely ambience always helps. (same ranking system)


TOP TIER (In no order of merit) - excellent places

Nylon Coffee Roasters
Located at Everton Park, Dennis and Jiamin do a great job of ensuring that every cup is well-extracted. The flavours are complex, ranging from toffee, to spices, dark chocolate, milk-chocolate, etc. and the milk is done competently. No food here. Small set-up, seating for only 4-5 max. 
Quality: ***
Consistency: **1/2
Food: none
Ambience: *1/2


Strangers' Reunion
Located at Kampong Bahru Road, Strangers' Reunion is run by Singapore Barista champion Ryan Tan. The stranger's blend is one of the best in the country in terms of giving a very well-balanced, rounded cup, especially in a magic. Sometimes there are consistency issues but overall, pretty good. Waffles here are very good.
Quality: ***
Consistency: **
Food: **
Ambience: **

Toby's Estate
Toby's Estate, I believe, has emerged from its consistency issues that had dogged it previously. At its best, few places can hold a candle to it especially once they bring out their COE-grade coffees which are really sublime at times (the Guatamala El Tambor comes to mind). Suhaimi and Alvaro are very passionate about their java and it shows. The food is alright - good eggs benedict although the scrambled eggs can be a bit more creamy. Very nice ambience.
Quality: ***
Consistency: **
Food: **
Ambience: ***

Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar
Papa Palheta's new flagship and I must say the decor is amazing. Very good attention to detail, with a coffee bar right in the middle. There is beer served as well and a wide range of eats. The bakes look very promising. Coffee wise, a nice 'nuts and bolts blend' which is nice and jammy and far more interesting than the terra firma (in my humble opinion). 
Quality: **1/2
Consistency: **
Food: **
Ambience: ***

Smitten Coffee and Tea Bar / Henry's Congressional
Grouped the two together since they are really the same outlet run by the same folks, Darren and Hongyuan. Coffee's always on the bright side, fruity and tasty. One of my regular hangouts. Henry's congressional is great since they have a great range of bakes as well as draft beers - the coffee cake is delicious and so is the flourless chocolate cake, and they have lovely beers especially the jungle ale (also served at Chye Seng Huat by the way). 
Quality: **1/2
Consistency: **
Food: ***
Ambience: **




MIDDLE TIER - good places!

Jewel Coffee
My apologies for bringing Jewel to middle tier, but I somehow think their coffee doesn't really excite me anymore. Perhaps it's because I always order the same thing, but then perhaps their supplier doesn't provide then with the type of beans that only comes when you have a roaster. But I hear they are getting a roaster in which will probably improve things. Having said that, though, the food is excellent, and the orange flourless cake is delicious - and their extraction is always spot on and the milk too. 
Quality: **
Consistency: **1/2
Food: ***
Ambience: *1/2

Sarnies
I go to sarnies alot also, but the coffee is quite inconsistent. Pav is a great barista and personality but sometimes the coffees aren't quite up to the mark, some harsh or bitter tastes. When it's on form though, their blend is excellent. The food is great - muffins, bagels, scrambled eggs, all very good.
Quality: **1/2
Consistency: *1/2
Food: ***
Ambience: **

Liberty Coffee
Terence's start-up is a nice little indie joint at Rangoon road, and is pretty lovely. The Speakeasy blend is dark and full bodied and quite tasty as well. Pauline's cakes are too die for - especially the gula melaka pandan cake or the valhrona chocolate cake.
Quality: **1/2
Consistency: ** (they don't open all the time anyway)
Food: ***
Ambience: **

Papa Palheta / Loysel's Toy
Haven't been here in ages so perhaps it's not a fair comparison, but Papa Palheta deserves to be visited by virtue of being the outlet that started the whole 3rd wave coffee movement. Terra Firma is alright - if a bit boring. Consistency has been an issue.
Quality: **
Consistency: *1/2
Food: none - (except at Loysel's)
Ambience: **1/2 (where the happening people used to go)

Oriole Coffee Roasters
Wasn't that impressed with the coffee here to be honest - yellowbird blend didn't blow me away. They have nice eggs though, and a nice variety of local delights.
Quality: **
Consistency: **
Food: **
Ambience: *1/2


LOWER TIER - Still more catching up to do vis-a-vis- the rest

Jimmy Monkey
very inconsistent and I think something is lacking in their roasting- usually I get a very overextracted shot, and there's a sweetness that's lacking about it. The food is alright but the place gets very smelly sometimes.
Quality: *1/2
Consistency: *
Food: **
Ambience: *1/2

Highlander Coffee
Consistent coffee, but nothing exciting. I think the supremo blend hasn't changed in years. Guoli is a great fella though, love talking to him. If only they'd...innovate!!
Quality: *1/2
Consistency: **1/2
Food: *
Ambience: *


Forty Hands
The coffee has been getting worse and worse - have tried it a few times and it was always overextracted. Hmm. And the problem about 40 hands is that it's horribly overpriced. Good brunch though.
Quality: *1/2
Consistency: **
Food: **
Ambience: *1/2




NOTE: Before anyone thinks of serving a writ on me for defamation, please be minded that the above represents my opinions solely. Under the law of defamation, opinions are not actionable.

1 comment:

adel said...

Good list here! Cheers for the updates