Coffee, Tea or Me?

Coffee, Tea or Me?

The list that contains the undeniable love of coffee, tea and other beverages.
Xing Wei Chua
Xing Wei Chua

Was informed by a friend about Venture Drive Coffee’s newest outlet at Alexandra Village, and decided to check it out. Occupying a space that is half of the usual size of a HDB shop unit, Venture Drive Coffee’s latest outlet is definitely smaller than their space at their former location at Vision Exchange. Their current space at Blk 123 Bukit Merah Lane 1 also puts them diagonally opposite Rookie’s Coffee Shop at Blk 124 Bukit Merah Lane 1; the latter of which also serves specialty coffee with a limited selection of bakes. Whilst Venture Drive Coffee is now decked in a largely black colour scheme with a industrial-themed decor, the space does feel a little haphazard with most of the dine-in seats located outside the shop — the interior is largely dedicated to the retail section where one will be able to grab their roasted coffee beans to-go, as well as the espresso counter and a coffee roaster.

Serving simply just beverages at their new space at Bukit Merah, the menu comprises of espresso-based coffee and hand brews featuring beans from various origins. For those who are not into coffee, one can also opt between the beverages listed in the Single Origin Chocolate sections of the menu, as well as the Ceremonial Matcha Latte and Tea by the Pot as listed in the Specialty Tea section of the menu as well. Going for the Flat White — 8 Oz, it is noted that the cuppa pulled was done with a single shot of espresso; we heard that they did so as there were other patrons which had provided them with feedback that the roast is actually fairly strong if done as a double shot. Featuring a blend of beans from Costa Rica, Colombia and Ethiopia, the Opus 27 Moonlight Sonata Seasonal Blend is said to carry notes of chocolate, hazelnut and moonlight flower as stated in the menu — this explains how the cuppa turned out to be one with a light body, whilst having a earthy flavour profile. The overall cuppa lies towards the milkier end, but this was well-pulled considering how smooth and creamy it was.

Having been established far later than most other cafes that are part of the third-wave coffee movement, Venture Drive Coffee may not be a name that is as recognisable as some of the industry veterans but this
really puts Venture Drive Coffee as one of the underdogs in the cafe scene here. That being said, we were really into how they seem to carry a slightly different vibe to the cafe scene with its somewhat rowdy outlook yet with a clean and minimalistic approach while at it - all that whilst being knowledgeable in the craft; something which they have carried since their days at Vision Exchange. Whilst Venture Drive Coffee may no longer be situated at Vision Exchange (the building being located at Venture Drive, hence the namesake), their name would probably still live on as an establishment that takes prides in serving up their very own locally-roasted specialty coffee.

Visited the new KYŌ Kohee situated at 144 Robinson Road within the Central Business District of Singapore within somewhat of a walking distance from Tanjong Pagar MRT Station. The Japanese-inspired takeaway coffee bar is situated just a couple of doors away from the recently re-located The Betterfield that is also at Robinson Road. Being a coffee bar with a Japanese influence, the interior can be said to be kept as simple as possible, with a dash of wooden accents around to maintain an aesthetic that makes the interior feel warm and close to nature. The menu features mainly beverages here due to the concept that KYŌ Kohee is intended to be — patrons can opt between specialty coffee, non-coffee beverages such as Chocolate Milk or a Cold Brew Royal Milk Tea, as well as a selection of Japanese brewed tea (think Sencha) and Matcha offerings as well. For those who are looking for a small bite or something sweet, they do also offer Affogato and Croffles as well.

The Iced KYŌ Coffee is undoubtedly their signature offering here; also the only item here they bears the namesake of the shop itself. Using beans that are roasted by Allpress Espresso, the Iced KYŌ Coffee can be said as an item that seemingly resembles that of a coffee “milkshake” that is made undoubtedly by folks who seem to know quite a fair bit about coffee — nothing like the sickening sweet concoctions that commercial outfits love to serve up, but one that really puts the effort in showcasing the flavour profiles of the coffee used here. Saw them preparing our order and was pretty intrigued by how they had used a frother for the shot of espresso before pouring the espresso into the cup of chilled milk — the process seemingly helps to aerate the espresso to give someone of a texture that is still liquid, yet also resembles somewhat of a micro-foam; provides a thick texture that once stirred into the chilled milk, gives the beverage a distinct nutty and earthy flavour profile with the milk providing a further depth of the said flavours of the coffee. A very interesting condition, and also one that we actually really quite enjoyed.

Whilst being a coffee bar, we were impressed with how the folks behind the counter are actually as knowledgeable in teas as well and does do their Senchas pretty well too — was recommended to have the iced version of their Sencha Yabukita and we were also pretty taken by how the tea seemed to exude a light, but evident hint of the tea that was easy on the taste buds; a very light and refreshing drink that seem to open up the appetite as well without being particularly sharp (or as I would call, a rude awakening). With the lifting of more of the restrictions that were previously in place to curb the spread of COVID-19, the opening of KYŌ Kohee is pretty timely for the office folks returning back to their workplace — a new spot to check out to grab that daily cuppa!

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Glad to have finally headed down to Rookie’s Coffee Shop after a couple of times when they intended trip just kept getting axed due to other plans that just happened out of the blue whenever I wanted to make a visit. Situated at Blk 124 Bukit Merah Lane 1, Rookie’s Coffee Shop is actually situated along the same row of shops as Lina’s Confectionery (their Kueh Salat is to die for) and KEK Seafood (aka Keng Eng Kee Seafood — my absolute favourite for Coffee Pork Ribs); the hole-in-the-wall coffee shop sorta reminds me of a vibe similar to that of Prodigal Roasters meets Double Up Coffee if you may, especially with its clean aesthetics with that slightly funky, playful and laid back vibes. Rookie’s Coffee Shop is that sort of space meant for the serious coffee lover — whilst offering espresso-based coffee, there is a heavy emphasis on coffee served using the Aeropress; so much that there are actually more choices of beans for such coffee as opposed to their espressos-based offerings. Those looking for something to munch on can opt for either the Lemon Bar or the Chocolate Chip Cookie — the only two food items that they serve.

Opting for the Lemon Bar, the Lemon Bar comes in well-sized square that comes with lemon curd, and a base that is pretty much akin to that of the crumbly New York-style cheesecake base at the bottom. Reckon this would have worked especially well with the Black and the Aeropress coffees — the lemon curd’s punchy zing definitely did provide quite a kick, while the crumbles gave that nice textural contrast against the smooth cure; all that with a slight buttery touch. They were brewing their espresso-based coffee using beans roasted by Little Big Coffee Roasters; a local roastery that also runs a cafe at Biopolis. Using single origin beans from Panama, the White here was especially well-brewed; smooth and creamy, whilst carrying a light body and an earthy flavour profile that works as a gentle, leisurely cuppa for the mid-day wind-down.

Rookie’s Coffee Shop is pretty much a hidden gem; one of those that serves a pretty mean cuppa in a neighbourhood where there are a few cafes in existence across several estates, though only few with such a strong emphasis on the execution of their coffee. No doubt this spot wouldn’t be a haunt for those looking for hot food and comforting brunches that attracts the typical cafe lovers, but this is definitely somewhere one can go to for a serious cuppa in a light-hearted, friendly and neighbourhoodly setting with a short chit-chat with the barista as you wait for your order to be completed. A spot that I actually would keep in mind to visit when I am in the area again; wishing the folks behind Rookie’s Coffee Shop all the best in what is to come!

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It seems that Everton Park is seeing much of a revival of the vibrant cafe scene in the neighbourhood after the first initial wave of cafes had come and go there for the past couple of years — Handcraft Coffee is the latest addition here; opened by the same folks behind Grace Espresso at [email protected] along River Valley Road, they are located just right beside Pickle Bakery, which makes them a convenient coffee pick-up spot just after getting some of the stellar house-made artisanal breads next door. Being more of a hole-in-the-wall meant more for takeaways, Handcraft Coffee serves up only specialty coffee brewed from the espresso machine and hand-brewed filters; patrons can choose to have their coffee around the standing bar beside the espresso machine, or by the cushioned bench just right beside the entrance.

Opting for the White — 5 Oz, our coffee was brewed using the Kedir Bali beans roasted by Sweet Blossom Coffee Roasters; a coffee roastery that is established just right across the border in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. Felt that the White — 5 Oz here is particularly well-pulled; it’s smooth, creamy and came with a clean finish — carried a rather unique flavour profile where it comes with a mellow, fruity body, but ends odd with an earthy undertone. Pretty impressed with how this went.

Everton Park may be synonymous with great coffee and artisan bakes, with the likes of Pickle Bakery, Nylon Coffee Roasters, The Better Half and Patissier Woo being located at several corners within the HDB estate. Being located at a shop space facing Neil Road, Handcraft Coffee works more of a convenient coffee pick-up for those who do not have to time to wind around the estate in search for their cuppa — a good alternative to Nylon Coffee Roasters especially if the crowds to get a little crazy there.

Heard all about the new Pinhole Coffee Bar which had recently opened its doors pretty recently along Purvis Street — the coffee bar is situated right next to Jai Thai. Being a spot that focuses on their specialty coffee, expect a whole menu revolving around filter coffee where they feature single-origin beans roasted by various coffee roasters locally or beyond. Those who are more into espresso-based coffee will also be able to find the standard range of coffee beverages such as that of the Black, White and Espresso being available on the menu here; there is also a tasting flight which they have dubbed the “Hello, Good Morning” here, while non-coffee options include chocolate, artisanal tea and a tea ferment as well. For bakes to go along the cuppa, patrons can opt between the cookies and lemon loaf; both of which being the only bakes available on the day of our visit to Pinhole Coffee Bar.

For our choice of the filter coffee, we went with the Rwanda Umbumwe roasted by local coffee roaster, Cata Coffee (cafe-hoppers from water back in the day may be familiar with them being the coffee programme running alongside The Bakery by Woodlands Sourdough when they were still at Serene Centre). The tasting notes for the beans that we have picked includes hints of “pink guava, raspberry and white florals” — noticed that rather floral note in its body, while there was a rather alluring smokiness with a clean finish, which I found to be rather intriguing.

There seems to be an uprising of specialty coffee bars opening of the late, especially with the likes of abseil and Haven Coffee which have opened rather recently. With lesser specialty coffee options within City Hall these days, Pinhole Coffee Bar is a great addition to this part of the island — a rather centrally located cafe that emphasises on coffee; somewhat a great alternative to the crowded Narrative Coffee Stand on the other end at Bras Basah. A spot that coffee lovers should definitely check out.

Christmas is just round the corner, and Old Hen Coffee has just released yet another batch of beverages for the festive season. Joining the Peppermint Cocoa which had made its appearance during the same period in prior years is the Gingerbread Coffee — a newly introduced limited-time only special for this season.

Described to be brewed with “quintessential holiday spices like ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon”, the Gingerbread Coffee does carry a spiced note that is pretty similar to that of the Spiced Pumpkin Latte that they have released as a special for the Halloween season, though the Gingerbread Coffee is significantly less sweet — pretty much to an unsweetened version of their iconic creamy cold brew with evident hints of cinnamon and ginger. Personally still prefer the Peppermint Cocoa over this one given how festive it tastes, though the Peppermint Cocoa does lack the caffeine component that the Gingerbread Coffee has.

With Old Hen Coffee releasing a new bottled brew for every season of the late, I am looking forward to see if they will be coming up with any new creation for the Chinese New Year season that is coming next after Christmas, considering they do release the Orange Mocha annually in line with the festivities. Let’s just cross our fingers for now and hope for some new and innovative flavours for their bottled brews to come …

Tanjong Pagar has been quite the enclave for new cafe openings of the late, with cafes such as COTTA, Delicatessen, Alice Boulangerie etc. that had recently opened their doors here — abseil is one of the latest ones that had moved into the neighbourhood within Eon Shenton; the same building also houses Double Shot Coffee just a few units away from abseil. Focusing mostly on coffee offerings, the vibes at abseil reminds us of Platform. at Telok Ayer Street with its minimalist and clean decor meant to replicate that of a living room with curtains, floor lamps and some flora in corners of the space. Patrons can get to choose between espresso-based coffee, as well as a range of filter coffee brewed using beans from various origins — non-coffee drinkers can also choose between the few tea options that they have to offer, and patrons can also opt for a Dacquoise to complete the experience.

Had the abseil — the signature beverage here that actually comprises of espresso, osmose water and cream; the beverage comes served in a format similar to that of a macchiato with the cream atop. Served also with a straw, we were recommended to first take a sip of the cream, then use the straw to have the coffee beneath before mixing it up for the complete experience. Whilst the cream is smooth and carried a sweetness typical of that to macchiato-esque beverages served in bubble tea shops, the coffee comes with a medium body and a fruity flavour profile — personally would have preferred to have the beverage as-is, taking a sip of the cream and the coffee as and when we fancy rather than mixing it up as incorporating the cream into the coffee didn’t really make much of a difference except to dilute the cream, which quite defeated the purpose for us.

We also paired the abseil with the Earl Grey Dacquoise — the nut meringue sandwich came light and crumbly with a thick layer of Earl Grey cream that is spiked with orange peels for a zesty touch. The folks behind the counter shared that it was an apt pairing with the coffee to create this Yuan Yang-esque feel where coffee meets tea; something which we cannot agree more with.

Perhaps abseil might be stronger with their filter Coffee selection; that is something which we can only comment on when we try it the next time we come around here. But that being said; the relaxing environment and the lo-fi beats — it is undoubtedly that zen spot that soothes the soul, and that sort of spot I would look forward to just sink into to enjoy some vibes to take a slower pace whilst in the bustling Central Business District of Singapore.

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We also went for the Coffee Jelly Latte during this particular visit because we had always been wanting to try their coffee menu and this had always stood out for us whenever we skimmed through the menu here. While the body for the Latte here is more of the nutty sort, we quite fancy how the coffee jelly adds a nice chew and a refreshing note to the latte with its cleaner notes of coffee without all that milk — really fits the latte very well and a drink that seems overshadowed by the more attention-grabbing ones such as the Pei Pa Koa Latte with Peach Gum.

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Had visited Seng Coffee Bar quite some time back when they had first opened their doors and tried the Cempedak Creme Brûlée during that visit — was looking for somewhere to sit around since there was some time before dinner and thought why not settle here.

We tried the Secret Darkness Cold Brew — the packaging suggests that it may be a limited-time only special released just for Halloween. Look past that attention-seeking black aesthetic of the liquid contained in the bottle and this was a beverage set to impress — a concoction involving coconut, hazelnut and chocolate, it is almost akin to a chocolate milk with the body carrying evident notes of hazelnut, though it is how refreshing the coconut was at the start that made the beverage particularly intriguing.

Was going around Bukit Merah Central as spotted this new coffee stall named Star Coffee — turns out, this is one of the few coffee stalls at a hawker centre that is dedicates themselves to serving up the traditional Nanyang Kopi with a modern twist.

I was actually pretty intrigued by the stall since I have spotted an espresso machine in the stall — pretty much reminds me of stalls such as Kopi More at Golden Mile Food Centre, Lim’s Cafe at Chinatown Complex Market and Generation Coffee at Tekka Centre. Ordering my cuppa, I noticed how the owner-cum-barista here first uses an electric coffee bean grinder to prepare the coffee grounds to be used for the cuppa, before pulling the shot via the espresso machine just like how one would expect for a cup of espresso-based coffee at a specialty coffee joint serving gourmet coffee. The result is this cuppa that has a particularly thick crema; almost akin to the likes of the Kopi served at Kopi More — something that may be more common these days given the number of stalls taking this approach on serving up Nanyang-style Kopi, but still pretty much something one would not expect to get in the traditional brewing methods of local coffee.

Frankly speaking, even opting for the “normal” level of sweetness (patrons can also opt for either “more sweet” or “less sweet”), the Signature Coffee here has a rather harsh body that felt a little too bitter — rather off- balance even when compared to the likes of coffee served by other stalls adopting a similar approach in brewing their cuppa, even despite the addition of condensed milk at the normal level of sweetness. While I do appreciate the effort and thought behind the modern take, this is a cuppa which I would say that doesn’t quite work for everyone. Perhaps they can look more into the technicalities of coffee brewing to refine their cuppa further to achieve that balance of flavours that would make it an easier drink to have overall.

For those looking to give them a try, they are running a promotion till 15 October 2021 where they are serving their Signature Coffee at $1 — a rather decent opportunity to decide if their cuppa is one that suits the tastebuds.

Amoy Street Food Centre may be closed for upgrading works, but Mad Roasters ain’t resting on their laurels — apart from their Joo Chiat location being still up and running, they have also recently started operations with their pop-up operations at Moonstone Bar, as well as a brand new outlet at Depot Heights Shopping Centre, which is also their very first individual location with a cafe-esquire setting. Decorated rather simply, the interior design seems to suggest function over form, though we still found the slightly tropical theming somewhat welcoming despite its simplicity. Apart from serving up their usual Cinnamon/Chocolate Babka, they do also serve up two new savoury items at Depot Heights Shopping Centre — the Grilled Cheese Brioche, and the Avocado Brioche Toast.

I have pretty much abstained from ordering flavoured lattes for the most part; while my past visits to Mad Roaster were for their Flat White and cold brews, I have heard quite a fair bit about their Honey Butter Latte and decided to have one in its iced form this time round. Sure enough, it did not disappoint — it does carry that familiar, once trendy flavour profile of Honey Butter amidst the cuppa. For those who can’t really picture it, this was similar to Kopi Gu You (i.e. Butter Kopi) but in a form of a Flat White/Latte, though it does come with an additional dash of pretty gentle sweetness that gives sufficient contrast to the savoury notes from the butter which also gives the coffee a rather smooth mouthfeel. And when we speak about coffee, one can never leave out the logo art of the stickers pasted on their coffee cups/cup sleeves here — they are still that social enterprise actively involved with featuring logo art designed by refugees; a sticker dedicated to the story of the refugee is also pasted at the back to create awareness as well.

From just simply a hawker stall, Mad Roaster had come a long way, especially given how it has rode through the waves of COVID-19 being an operator of a hawker stall in The Central Business District. Nobody quite knows what else the pandemic will bring, but this is definitely an exciting phase for the folks behind Mad Roaster whilst staying true to their roots of not just being yet another name in the F&B scene, but also one that cares for the community at large.

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Old Hen Coffee/Kitchen’s bottled brews have always been a favourite amongst many ever since they had first opened their doors — probably one of the pioneers for white cold brew coffee while the local cafe culture was still emerging. Since then, they have experimented with few limited edition runs — fans of their bottled brews may recall flavours like their Peppermint Chocolate (during Christmas season) and Orange Mocha (during Chinese New Year); the Spice Pumpkin Latte is one of the newest additions to the seasonal specials here — perhaps Old Hen Coffee/Kitchen’s take on Starbuck’s PSL (i.e. Pumpkin Spice Latte) in the all-familiar bottled brew format.

Will leave the labels on the bottle to do all the talking (scroll left for the description), but do expect that this is a bottled latte rather than a bottled cold brew — not quite as rich and creamy as their Cold Brew (White), but think of it as an unsweetened cold brew base, with a lightly sweet finish from the pumpkin and a hint of spice from the nutmeg without being too overwhelming; a balance between all components with a clear note of caffeine that makes it unmistakably a latte.

It’s been quite a while since Old Hen Coffee had released a new flavour for their bottled brews save for the Cold Brew (Oat) when they had changed the branding and bottles of the cold brews — glad that they are actually still looking into creating new concoctions for the seasonal specials. Perhaps something to make that trip to Old Hen Coffee/Kitchen for if one is a fan of their bottled brews and wouldn’t miss out on the new flavours that they have to offer.

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Up, down and everywhere around for food.

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