Jul 03 2012
UPDATE, December 2012: While the coffee still exists, it’s now being served at Chye Seng Huat Hardware and the address below is no longer current. Instead head to 150 Tyrwhitt Road, or contact them on 6396 0609.
Describing a cafe as a hidden gem sounds like such a cliche, but it really is a fitting description for Singapore’s Papa Palheta Specialty Coffee. In fact, Papa Palheta isn’t a cafe at all (they don’t actually have a license to sell food or drinks) but an independent coffee roaster with staff who’ll make you a “sample cup” of their perfect java for a tip.
A world away from the shopping malls filled with chain coffee shops, Papa Palheta is located in an residential neighbourhood along Bukit Timah Road. You enter from the back of the building where there’s an open door with “come on in to have the most important drink of the day” handwritten on it.
The ambiance at Papa Palheta is very intimate with only a handful of tables in the air-con sitting area and a small courtyard. Adding to the feeling that you’re having coffee in someone’s home is the fact there is no menu. To get a drink, find your way to the espresso bar where a sign will indicate the coffee blend of the day or ask the barista for a recommendation. They can make any espresso-based drink — cappuccinos, lattes, flat whites, long blacks — or drip coffee. Similarly, there are no prices and payment is on a tipping basis with a suggested amount of S$4-6 for a drink, depending on its complexity.
Papa Palheta also sells a range of premium espresso makers, grinders and other coffee-related gadgets that are displayed along the coffee bar. If you stop by when they aren’t too busy, the baristas can give you a demonstration of the different brewing methods like the French press, coffee dripper and syphon (the one that looks like something a mad scientist would use). Of course, Papa Palheta also sells their coffee and after all the trouble of finding the place you might as well take home a bag of their fair-trade beans. The coffee costs around S$15 for a 250 gram bag with different blends and single-origin coffees available each week.
At Papa Palheta it’s all about the coffee and no food or other drinks are available. If you’re looking for a more traditional cafe, try their partner Loysel’s Toy: The Coffee Crafters which brews Papa Palheta coffee but also offers baked goodies and sandwiches. Loysel’s Toy is also more kid-friendly and has babycinos (frothed milk) on the menu.
Papa Palheta topped the list of my choices for “Singapore’s best coffee shops”.
Papa Palheta Specialty Coffee
140 Bukit Timah Road (enter from the back)
T: 9799 0420
Open Tuesday–Friday 09:00-18:00, Saturday & Sunday 09:00-17:30
Closed every Monday for roasting
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