I’d heard good things about the coffee scene in Singapore, but it’s the kind of place we usually rush through on the way somewhere else. This visit was no different, with just 24 hours in the country before we headed towards Indonesia, though this time we prioritised the coffee. And I’m very glad we did.
Nylon Coffee in Everton Park was very special.
They just do coffee (rather like some of the coffee shops we’d found earlier on the journey in Vienna or Budapest), so the only question you’ll be asked on entering the shop is: “How do you want it?” (If you’re desperate for a cake or something else to nibble with your coffee, there is a bakery next door, by the way).
They roast their own beans, so your nose will guide you the last few yards to the coffee shop entrance, with the aroma wafting out into the street.
And their menu is pretty simple. It’s espresso, white, iced, long black or filter. And there are three sizes to choose from. They do a seasonal blend in the espresso machine (Central American beans in there for our visit), though there are more options if you go for the filter.
Who needs a more complicated menu than that?
No sugar is needed in coffee this good, so no sugar is offered and in fact there was no sugar in sight anywhere in the coffee shop. What a contrast to the coffee scene in many other parts of South East Asia.
Best of all, there’s nothing pretentious about this place. We got to meet Jiamin, one of the co-owners, and I immediately warmed to her attitude, especially when I mentioned that I hadn’t enjoyed my coffee in another venue in Singapore earlier that day.
“Coffee is very subjective,” she said, and you know what, I really think it is. A place I don’t like might be someone else’s favourite, though in our case it’s usually as much to do with atmosphere and welcome as it is the actual coffee quality.
So Nylon Coffee Roasters was one of my favourite coffee shops on the whole 25-country journey, even if it was standing room only, and there’s no wifi!
The fact that Nylon Coffee was so busy on the afternoon we dropped by shows what a destination coffee shop it has become for locals in Singapore, especially as it is tucked away at the back of a residential block well away from any main streets.
If you’re going for the first time, you might need a hand with directions, mind you. Once you find the arched entrance to Everton Park (just off Everton Road), you can avoid doing the tour we did of every retail outlet by nipping round the back to the right after the arch and then walking along the side of the block. After 100 yards or so, you’ll find Nylon. Believe me, it’s worth the effort.
Chye Seng Huat Hardware is a completely different type of coffee shop, actually more reminiscent of those trendy mums and toddlers places you find in Dulwich or Stoke Newington.
Again, we spent a while finding the way in to this place, pushing and poking the front door and windows on Tyrwhitt Street street before we realised the entrance is around the side, where everyone is sitting out on the terrace.
This is an old hardware shop near to Little India, which is how the coffee shop got its rather unusual name. It’s in an art deco building, with a lot of the fittings from the old hardware store giving the place a real urban coffee shop feel, as you would find in many big western cities.
Education is a big part of CSHH and they’re keen to show the whole coffee-making process, from the green beans to the coffee cup. So there’s different coffee stuff going on all over the premises, with a roaster, a workshop, an annex with a retail space, the coffee shop itself and more activities we didn’t get a chance to see upstairs.
But, like Nylon Coffee, there’s nothing preachy about the approach in CSHH. And they were happy to chat about their coffee and the coffee shop concept even though the queue was building up behind us.
The coffee was fantastic quality, again. And with two choices of espresso blends on the hopper, we had no option but to stay for a second cup.
Oh, and unlike Nylon, these guys do food. It was our choice for an excellent breakfast, though beware of the small tables if you do choose to eat (yes, we had a spill, which seems almost inevitable if you try to fit two cups and two plates on one table…).
So, coffee in Singapore is a fantastic experience, and we barely scratched the surface of the scene over there. If you really want to check out all the good coffee shops there, you’ll need at least a week. But if you only have 24 hours like us, we’d highly recommend Nylon Coffee and Chye Seng Huat Hardware.