There are coffee shops strewn about all around Singapore serving specialty coffees.
I see more (non-Starbucks) chain shops in Kuala Lumpur — there’s an Old Town White Coffee everywhere — but more craft coffee purveyors in Singapore than anywhere else I’ve been. (Disclosure: I live in Arlington, Virginia and — as memorialized by GoRemy in the Arlington Rap we mostly have Starbucks.)
A few months ago I had a fantastic cup of coffee at Oriole Cafe & Bar at the Pan Pacific off Orchard Road.
Singapore is one of the heaviest coffee drinking countries per-capita. But the phenomenon of really good coffee in Southeast Asia is hardly limited to Singapore.
I’ve only tried Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee in the air (on Singapore, Asiana, and ANA in first class). It’s good but not my favorite and I don’t deign to know whether it’s the coffee beans or the altitude that causes me not to appreciate it as much as some coffee aficionados do. But it’s likely revealing that most of it is consumed in Japan.
Now, I fully acknowledge that my coffee preferences play a role in my thinking here. I like a deep, rich cup of coffee. I prefer a full bodied somewhat bitter flavor, so perhaps the prevalence of robusta beans in Singapore is related.
There are many other things I don’t understand about coffee, not at all related, like why you cannot get takeaway cups in Italy.
In high school I drank coffee in the morning, but it wasn’t very good coffee. In college in the early and mid-90s I drank Starbucks coffee. There’s little doubt in my mind that Starbucks served as a ‘gateway’ of sorts for me into better coffees. Rather than putting local craft coffeehouses out of business, they’ve grown as Starbucks has grown, introducing large numbers of people to specialty coffee in a ‘safe’ environment, many of whom go on to even greater specialization.
At home I drink coffee from a machine I picked up on deep, deep, deep discount — a $3000 retail machine purchased for less than $700 six years ago. I order my beans online and I usually order fresh roasted beans from Sumatra (and it’s not more expensive than buying beans from Starbucks — which I can’t do because those beans are too oily, and they cause problems for the machine).
I have near universally-good coffee not just in Singapore and in Indonesia but also in Thailand (not just ice coffee with condensed milk!) — and, oddly enough, in the Maldives. The coffee at the Park Hyatt Hadahaa is some of my favorite, anywhere.
I can bring quality coffee home. And when I’m in Asia it’s likely I’m not drinking just average quality coffee even for the region. Nonetheless is does seem as though average quality is higher there, and I don’t have a strong theory why that is.
Are you a heavy coffee drinker? Where do you find the very best coffee in your travels?
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