Specialty coffee shops are a new addition to the culture of Singapore, but have taken over rapidly since they started popping up back in 2010. Tiong Bahru, a sleepy residential neighborhood, is now a hipster destination, crammed with cafes, bookstores, and international cuisine. This explosion of “cafes to be seen at” has expanded beyond Tiong Bahru to other neighborhoods and competition is fierce. Half of the cafes that opened their doors in 2011 have now closed them. It seems that to survive and thrive in Singapore’s coffee scene, businesses need to offer something unique to customers. Here are the most exciting cafes that I expect to stick around.
CSHH Coffee Bar or Chye Seng Huat Hardware
This hidden cafe is my personal favorite and the first place that I got my caffeine fix in Singapore. I was staying at a hostel in Little India and CSHH was wonderfully, right around the corner. From the outside of the cafe, you’d think you got your directions wrong. It’s on a quiet street, near some temples and Chinese eateries, and looks like an old shop with tinted windows. This is because it used to house an old hardware shop and the cafe’s name is an homage to that. Once you go inside though, it’s no workshop. The decor is modern and sleek, yet comfortable. Patrons sit at a horseshoe bar with a perfect view of the baristas at work. There’s also a roastery to see the entire process that goes into your latte, a section upstairs full of coffee gadgets and art, and an outside bar that opens in the evenings and serves craft beers.
Recommended order: Iced latte and signature toasted banana bread with espresso butter.
Although a chain, Mellower Coffee has an independent feel to it and the smell of rich coffee when you walk in lends a cozy, unhurried atmosphere. There are two floors to hang out on and the second floor has bean bag chairs and power outlets, which makes it the perfect place to spend all day. The coffee doesn’t come cheap though. so it may be best to only have a cup or two.
Recommended order: Sweet Little Rain, an Americano that homemade cotton candy drips into. You can’t make this stuff up.
Dapper Coffee wins for the most hipster and imaginative creations: Gold Brew and Unicorn Tears. Gold Brew is a play on words for cold brew and when you shake it up, gold shimmers throughout. Unicorn Tears….well, apparently there’s no caffeine and it’s made of “pure tears of joy”. But, it’s bright blue and fun to drink, so we’ll go with that. The cafe itself almost looks like a dive bar; dim, mysterious, and full of bustle. This certainly isn’t a cafe to read your book at, but rather a place to go with a group of friends.
Recommended order: Earl Grey Yuan Yang, earl grey tea and coffee on ice, and the crab macaroni and cheese.
Plain Vanilla Bakery
Yes, Plain Vanilla is first and foremost a bakery (and an excellent one at that), but it’s one of the loveliest places to grab a coffee in the Tiong Bahru neighborhood. The cafe has a large, open entryway with communal tables, teal bicycles with wicker baskets parked out front, and hanging plants surrounding the storefront. Inside the cafe are more tables and delectable baked goods, like brownies, shortbreads, and tarts, on display. The perfect place to spend a sunny afternoon relaxing by yourself.
Recommended order: Iced flat white and salted ricotta and nutella cupcake.