Taste the Café Cultures of the World in Singapore

How the humble coffee shop has evolved in the last 50 years from local kopitiams to French cafés, American barista joints and themed cafés

Issue: Aug 2015

50 years ago, the kopitiam was the go-to place but Singapore has since opened her arms to other café cultures
50 years ago, the kopitiam (coffee shop) was the go-to place for a cuppa, some snacks, and a little socialising but Singapore has since opened her arms to other café cultures

Singapore’s café culture had its humble beginnings in the kopitiam (coffee shop). Around since the 1800s, the early kopitiams were no more than makeshift stalls or wooden carts set up in the streets, villages, and plantations to serve drinks, snacks, and sometimes warm meals to the migrant population.

Today, if you want a cuppa, you will be spoilt for choice. Not only has the kopitiam of old endured, the melting pot that is this little red dot has embraced the café cultures of the world. Here is the roadmap to navigating the global café cultures that have found their place in Singapore (and your stomachs) in the last 50 years.

Try the Traditional Kopitiam for a taste of yesteryear

While cafés of the world have invaded Singapore, you can still enjoy the old-style breakfast and beverages from grandpa's and grandma's days
While cafés of the world have invaded Singapore, you can still enjoy the old-style breakfast and beverages from grandpa’s and grandma’s days – kaya toast, soft boiled eggs and coffee or tea
Photo credit: Toast Box (left) and Ya Kun Kaya Toast (right)

The heartland and food courts are awash with them. But if you want to experience old-style Singapore kopitiam and be assured of consistent quality, Toast Box and Ya Kun Kaya Toast chains are your picks. Both are modernised versions of the local coffee shop and offer coffees and teas the way grandpa and grandma enjoyed them as well as the traditional local breakfast of soft-boiled eggs and toast with kaya (coconut egg jam). A minor difference between the two is that Ya Kun’s kaya toast is thinner and more crisp, a style perfected by its founder Loi Ah Koon.

For an authentic experience, have breakfast there and make sure to order the brews served with condensed milk. That is how Nanyang (as Southeast Asia used to be called) coffee is best enjoyed.

Experience Paris' café culture in Singapore with this Valrhona Chocolate Soufflé that is light as air and oozes rich, creamy top-quality chocolate
Experience Paris’ café culture in Singapore with this Valrhona Chocolate Soufflé that is light as air and oozes rich, creamy top-quality chocolate
Photo credit: Miam Miam

Say Oui to the French Café

The Parisian café has been the centre of social and culinary life since it first appeared in the 1700s. There, people sipped grande crème (large cup of white coffee) or espressos (small concentrated cup of black coffee) and watched the world go by. Apart from providing a caffeine fix, these cafés also offered wine and full meals.

For reasons unknown, some of the French-styled cafés in Singapore today are Asian-run. Miam Miam and St Marc Café, for example, are headquartered in Japan while Paris Baguette is part of a top Korean bakery chain with 3,500 outlets worldwide. For a taste of Parisian café culture without the need to board a plane, Miam Miam offers Hot Café Au Lait (steamed milk with coffee) and light-as-air Valrhona Chocolate Soufflé baked to a golden brown and with topped with rich, quality, melted chocolate.

Have a cuppa with a Chococro and transport your taste buds to France
Have a cuppa with a Chococro and transport your taste buds to France
Photo credit: St Marc Café

At St Marc Café, the ubiquitous croissant comes filled with molten hazelnut chocolate made with cocoa beans from Ghana. Called Chococro, the café’s signature pastry is buttery, flaky, and oozing with bittersweet goodness - the perfect snack to go with the fresh brewed coffee that is prepared only when you order it.

Paris Baguette is known for its French pastries, breads, cakes, and sandwiches. Bite into their Fruit Pastry – layers of flaky puff pastry topped with a riot of tangy fruit - and you might be forgiven for thinking you are in the City of Lights itself.

The Affable American-inspired Coffee Joint

Thanks to Starbucks, modern coffee culture is dominated by American-style coffee chains featuring self-service coffees, teas, ice-blended drinks and sandwiches for quick, easy fixes. In Singapore, we have embraced these chains with such enthusiasm that many more from other countries have come to set up shop here.

Enjoy Blue Mountain coffee from its namesake region in Jamaica which produces one of the most sought after and expensive coffees
Enjoy Blue Mountain coffee from its namesake region in Jamaica which produces one of the most sought after and expensive coffees in the world with a Steak Sandwich or a Bacon, Egg and Cheese Bagel
Photo credit: Jamaica Blue

Jamaica Blue prides itself on its brew. Its coffee is made from beans from the Blue Mountain region of Jamaica which produces one of the most sought after and expensive coffees in the world. Apart from deli food like sandwiches, wraps, and salads, this café also an impressive menu that includes savoury tarts, pies, soups, pastas, risottos, and seafood dishes.

One of the United Kingdom’s largest and fastest growing coffee chains, Costa Coffee, still slow roasts their beans the way their founder, Sergio Costa, and his brother Bruno did when they started out in 1971 London. The café specialises in espressos and its variants such as cappuccino (espresso with hot milk and steamed milk foam), macchiato (espresso with a little milk), and americano (hot water added to espresso). Sandwiches, wraps, and cakes complete the meal.

Taking to Themed Cafés

Board games or pets - the concept of the café has extended beyond the a simple coffee joint to a place where you can indulge in your interests while sipping a cuppa or having a meal
Board games or pets - the concept of the café has extended beyond the a simple coffee joint to a place where you can indulge in your interests while sipping a cuppa or having a meal
Board games or pets – the concept of the café has extended beyond the a simple coffee joint to a place where you can indulge in your interests while sipping a cuppa or having a meal
Photo credit: The Mind Café (top pictures) and We are the Furballs (bottom)

As a reflection of our hunger for new-fangled dining experiences, themed cafés have sprouted up here in recent years. St Games Café is where you can play video games while snacking. At The Mind Café, you can play board games while you have a complete meal. For dog lovers, the We are the Furballs lets you interact with man’s best friend without having to commit to ownership. The petting café offers their own dogs for you to play with. Each session comes with a complimentary dink though this is a strictly above-12-only place and no other pets are allowed. In all these concept cafés, it is the social aspect that takes centrestage.

The kopitiam that was the mainstay of Singapore’s café culture has since made room for many more types of cafes. In just 50 years, the world’s cafés have come to make Singapore their home. Now, that’s something to drink to in this year of Singapore’s 50th!

Dine with us:

Costa Coffee
252 North Bridge Road
Raffles City
#01-45/45A
Singapore 179103
Tel: (65) 6337 9835
www.costacoffee.com.sg
Costa Coffee
68 Orchard Road
Plaza Singapura
#02-K1
Singapore 238839
Tel: (65) 6884 8553
www.costacoffee.com.sg
Furball Café
201 Victoria Street
Bugis+
#07-07
Singapore 188067
Tel: (65) 6509 1186
www.facebook.com/wearethefurballs
Jamaica Blue
1 Vista Exchange Green
The Star Vista
#1-32
Singapore 138617
www.jamaicablue.com.sg
Miam Miam
200 Victoria Street
Bugis Junction
#02-14
Singapore 188021
Tel: (65) 6837 0301
www.miam.sg
Miam Miam
3 Gateway Drive
Westgate
#01-21/22
Singapore 608532
Tel: (65) 6369 9065
www.miam.sg
Paris Baguette
4 Tampines Central 5
Tampines Mall
#01-32
Singapore 529510
Tel: (65) 6784 0775
St Games Café
201 Victoria Street
Bugis+
#03-16/17
Singapore 188067
Tel: (65) 6334 617
www.stgamescafe.com
St Marc Café
252 North Bridge Road
Raffles City
#B1-44M
Singapore 179109
Tel: (65) 6338 8043
www.saint-marc-sg.com
The Mind Café
109 North Bridge Road
Funan Digitalife Mall
#02-16
Singapore 179097
Tel: (65) 6334 4426
www.themindcafe.com.sg
Toast Box
9 Bishan Place
#01-35/36
Junction 8
Singapore 579837
Tel: 6354 3659
www.toastbox.com.sg
Toast Box
3 Gateway Drive
#02-02 Westgate
Singapore 608532
Tel 6465 9373
www.toastbox.com.sg
Toast Box
200 Victoria Street
Bugis Junction
#01-67 Parco
Singapore 188021
Tel: (65) 6333 4464
www.toastbox.com.sg
Toast Box
2 Orchard Turn
#B4-03/04
ION Orchard
Singapore 238801
Tel: (65) 6509 9603
www.toastbox.com.sg
Toast Box
68 Orchard Rd
#01-23 Plaza Singapura
Singapore 238839
Tel: (65) 6238 8581
www.toastbox.com.sg
Toast Box
252 North Bridge Road
Raffles City
#B1-44A
Singapore 179103
Tel: (65) 6339 4434
www.toastbox.com.sg
Toast Box
311 New Upper Changi Road
Bedok Mall
#B2-25/26
Singapore 467360
Tel: (65) 6844 9921
www.toastbox.com.sg
Ya Kun Kaya Toast
9 Bishan Place
Junction 8
#B1-26
Singapore 579837
Tel: (65) 6258 8102
www.yakun.com.sg
Ya Kun Kaya Toast
311 New Upper Changi Road
Bedok Mall
#01-12
Singapore 467360
Tel: (65) 6702 7166
www.yakun.com.sg
Ya Kun Kaya Toast
2 Jurong East Street 21
IMM
#01-50
Singapore 609601
Tel: (65) 6569 0977
www.yakun.com.sg
Ya Kun Kaya Toast
21 Choa Chu Kang Avenue 4
Lot One
#B1-K4/K5
Singapore 689812
Tel: (65) 6877 0828
www.yakun.com.sg
Ya Kun Kaya Toast
230 Victoria Street
Bugis Junction
#B1-11
Singapore 188024
Tel: (65) 6238 8904
www.yakun.com.sg
Ya Kun Kaya Toast
109 North Bridge Road
Funan DigitaLife Mall
#01-16
Singapore 179097
Tel: (65) 6336 0683
www.yakun.com.sg
Ya Kun Kaya Toast
252 North Bridge Road
Raffles City
#B1-80
Singapore 179103
Tel: (65) 6338 0026
www.yakun.com.sg
Comments
Write comment
Name (required)
E-mail (required, but will not display)
Comment
Irrelevant or inappropriate comments might be edited or removed.
By subscribing, you consent to the collection, use and disclosure of your personal data in this form by CapitaLand Ltd, its related corporations (collectively ‘CL’) and its authorised service providers for the purposes of sending you the Inside e-newsletter, related updates and other e-mail updates which may be related to your subscription with us.
 

Please input the anti-spam code that you can read in the image.



Follow us on:

  • twitter
  • instagram
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • google+
  • pinterest
  • flipboard