Think you’re a coffee expert? Could you tell the difference between a cheap and expensive blend by just taking a whiff? We took three of our coffee-loving colleagues and put them to the test.
Ok, while this may be an extreme case of coffee-tasting, plenty of people island-wide are picking up, or have picked up, a serious coffee addiction. If you’re a cup of joe novice and looking to attain the title of coffee snob, here’s how you can be on your way to roasting your own beans!
1. Diversify your picks
If your go-to drink is a Starbucks frappe, it’s time to branch out! There are plenty of drinks you can try when starting out with coffee – you don’t have to start long blacks and flat whites. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, try out a Mocha – a mix of chocolate syrup, milk and espresso. Chye Seng Huat Hardware makes deliciously sweet, rich mocha at a reasonable price point.
If you prefer your coffee bitter, opt for a Ristretto – a variant of the Espresso with half the water. Dutch Colony Coffee makes an excellent ristretto, with a slightly nutty taste and a velvet sheen. As you grow your coffee love, you may want to check out Sarnie’s – where all their drinks are brewed with ristretto, which gives them a strong flavour.
Don’t get us started on all the variations of coffeeshop kopi.
2. Attend a cupping session
After you’ve started trying out the variants of coffee, you can expand your knowledge and rub shoulders with coffee experts at a cupping session. A short session that allows you to taste coffee and compare tasting notes with other connoisseurs, this is one way to grow your knowledge about the many varieties of coffee available and their tastes.
Common Man Coffee Roasters offers free cupping sessions the first Friday of the month from 3-4pm. As you grow your coffee knowledge, you can try attending more advanced classes, such as Common Man’s Sensory Skills & Coffee Knowledge class, or Central Perk’s Barista Workshop to increase your expertise.
3. Get to know your barista
It’s not always easy to have a chat with the barista at your local Starbucks, so maybe a smaller coffee joint will work better. Try Penny University on East Coast Road, the aforementioned Highlander Coffee, and Artistry cafe (closed). Baristas at smaller cafes tend to be more willing to speak to you about their creations, especially when it’s off-peak hours.
Head over to the counter with your drink and ask them about where their coffee comes from – this is a good way of establishing your interest in the drink. Follow up with questions about how they brew their drinks – do they roast the beans in-house or buy them from suppliers? You can even ask the baristas what their personal favourite drinks are! Not only will this give you some firsthand insight into the world of coffee craft, the recommendations baristas make may well lead you to find your new favourite blend or beans.
Cr: Seth Lui
4. Buy locally-produced coffee
If you’ve been buying your coffee from the supermarket, it’s time for an upgrade. While coffee connoisseurs are divided on the actual amount of time coffee can be stored, they agree that it should be no longer than a month. If that jar of Nescafe Gold has been serving you well for more than four weeks, it’s time to throw it out. Depending on your palate, there are several places for you to get locally roasted coffee. If you like blends or are looking to sample coffees from Asia and Africa, check out Papa Palheta – their coffee is served at Chye Seng Huat Hardware. Prefer something sweeter? Check out Yahava Koffeeworks, that stocks a range of coffee blends from Sumatra, Rwanda, and Columbia.
As your coffee knowledge grows, you can begin to branch out to different varietals, like the blends of Nylon Coffee. They stock espressos and brewed coffees and have tasting notes printed on their packaging. With the roast date stamped on the packaging, you can enjoy fresh coffee – the purveyors say within 4 weeks of the given date. You can even buy coffee beans and grind them to create your own blend, but more on that later.
5. Get some coffee paraphernalia
Doesn’t matter if you get a hand grinder or a professional one. When you start purchasing coffee grounds, you’ll want to start getting from bean to cup as quickly as possible in order to preserve the freshness of the drink. Simple hand grinders can cost upwards of $50, while the fancier mechanical ones are slightly more expensive. If you want to experiment with your coffee making technique, you can try using a Moka Pot to brew your coffee. Not only does it look fancy, coffee brewed in Moka pots has a heady aroma and a more full-bodied taste, according to experts.