Caffeinated Festivities

As the hype finally died down, I thought it would be a good time to post my thoughts on the Singapore Coffee Festival that happened a couple weeks back on 9 to 12 June. I personally bought a one day pass the instant I heard that this festival was happening. According to what I read, the Singapore Coffee Festival was supposed to be a gathering of both niche and mainstream coffee companies and cafes, to showcase their beans and brews.

The location was inside the F1 Pit Building. Though the air conditioning was much appreciated as it was completely packed with people, I had expected an outdoor, fair-like event. It didn’t feel like a festival, more like an exhibition. The different coffee brands had booths and it was incredibly hard to navigate due to overcrowding in such a small limited space. Half the time, all I saw were the backs of people’s heads as I shove through the herd of people to even catch a glance of the booths.

My height was a definite disadvantage here.

I will summarize my Singapore Coffee Festival experience into 5 main points.

1. Local brewers outweigh the international ones.

There were the usual suspects such as Common Man Roasters, Chye Seng Huat and a couple of familiar coffee places popping up. Some international booths too, such as the “Roasted in Japan” booth consisting of three Japanese coffee roasters, Indonesian coffee beans and some Aussie ones. However, most were local and the international booths are less attractive. Some just selling their beans and roast without the facility of a coffee maker.


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In that case, there isn’t a significant different between going to the actual cafes and going to the festival. The only advantage would to try out all the popular coffee brews in Singapore all at one go.

This brings be to my second point.

2. It’s almost impossible to try everything.

To be honest, I couldn’t try as much coffee as I would like because the lines for all the popular booths were insane. But it did drove me to pay attention to the emptier booths.

But other than that, you will find that most of your coffee fest experience is just you waiting in line to get your cuppa. For example, the “Roast in Japan” booth took me about 30 minutes to get my hands on a cup of hand drip coffee, costing me $7. Food booths were equally crowded. Particularly the third floor as we had to purchase tokens in order to pay for the food.


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3. The token system was a total rip off

The second level had an area where majority of the food stall are located at. Nestled in the middle of the crammed area is a sprinkling of tables and benches, random hammocks and a small stage where local acts were performing. The cafe food was made fresh, which a plus. However, the confined environment of the Pit Building meant that the entire floor will smell like a mixture of every single food you can think of. And it will stick to your hair and clothing, all day long.

Ventilation was definitely an issue here. And the token system. Basically for the food stalls in that level, we had to purchase tokens in order to purchase the food. The lines for the tokens were so long that you would want to bulk purchase these tokens, resulting in wasted tokens, if you don’t finish them up. And unless you buy the right amount of food and drinks, you will end up with small tokens you can’t use to purchase anything.

I don’t understand the reason for this completely separate system, other that to exploit us for more money. The other booths in the levels below accepted cash, no problem. Just the food stalls, funded by DBS had this ridiculous system.

That aside, the food was decent. Mostly cafe food, such as burgers, fries, pasta… The usual suspects. Everything had to be purchased, not at all at reduced prices. So expect steep cafe prices.


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4. Coffee was the saving grace

Despite all that, coffee managed to save the day. I didn’t get to try as many as I would want, considering that I had to pay for entry. Latte art was practically non-existent due to the mad rush for coffee and long lines. Yet the beans spoke for themselves.

Cold brews are all the rage it seems. People love the cool, apothecary style bottles that houses the smooth brews. Cold brews are made by steeping the coffee grounds in cold water for 24 hours or more. This makes the coffee smoother, less acidic and less bitter as well. I prefer mine with milk and a little sweetened. Though the one I had from Two Bakers in French Vanilla was way to sweet, there are some which are sold completely unsweetened.

My favourite is Huggs Coffee, especially their Latte Gula. It was bomb! Their beans are nutty and lightly sweetened with gula melaka, creating a coconut after taste that’s so different and lovely. Plus they were on of the very few booths that were giving out free coffee. A close second would be Chye Seng Huat’s brews that were bold and more acidic in flavour, but still very aromatic and smooth.





Overall, it was a good caffeine driven event. However, it was a bit of a waste of money to be honest. Most of the cafes featured are in Singapore and you can visit them at your own convenience, without the giant crowd. The freebies are cute, but not enough to warrant the amount of money your will be spending on the food and drinks. Personally, I feel like the prices should be slightly reduced for the event. Also, the location is not ideal at all, a nightmare for anyone with a fear of crowds.

I wouldn’t go for the one happening next year. But I’m glad I went for it this year to form my own opinions on this.


Journey to the Tarts

If you’re thinking of beating the crowd by coming in at 10am on a weekday, just to get your hands on the coveted Bake cheese Tarts? Think again, buddy.

The system is completely unhackable.

For those who don’t know, BAKE Cheese Tarts is a bakery from Hokkaido, Japan that’s particularly famous for their oozy cheese tarts. They have taken the traditional way of consuming the humble cheese tart, by serving them warm and gooey, before the cream cheese has time to set completely.  The juxtaposition of ultra-soft textures on a crispy pastry cup made people go bananas, gaining them massive popularity.

Since then, they have branched out and opened outlets throughout Japan and the Asian market. Hong Kong lapped it up and now it has finally arrived on our sunny shores, creating massive waves of hype.

In natural Singapore style, as soon as the stall opened, the hype was deafening and the queues began. I went to experience for myself the insane queue and to see whether it was worth the hype.


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I thought I could hack the system by going there early but a queue was already forming bright and early at 10am on a Monday morning before most of the shops in ION orchard are even open. When asked, the people at the front have been queueing since 9am. Due to overwhelming response, the ION security has installed crowd control queue markers, designating two lanes in front of Watsons just for BAKE customers. Before joining the queue, a sign looms at the entrance warning you that there is no guarantee that you will be able to get your hands on the tarts because only a finite amount is made each day.

The whole thing was pretty intense.

The cordoned lines gained the stares of curious passers who later joined the queue due to sheer curiosity and the typical Singaporean kiasu mind set. Thus, the line continues to grow. Some join the queue not realizing what they were even queueing for. Most who walk by will whip out their phones to take photos of this phenomenon, so prepare to feel like a zoo animal.

Desperation is real with people at the back of the queue asking the ones in the front if they can spare them a box due to the limitations of only two boxes of tarts per person. This rule was made to ensure that one crazy buyer does not deplete the entire day’s stock. Those thinking of mass purchasing these tarts have to resort to these measures to get their hands on a third box, if they are unwilling to join the enormous queue again. Which is all fair in my book! If you want to get your hands on these tarts, you’d have to queue like everyone else.

It’s part of the experience, really.


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Once at the front of the queue, I had to wait until the ‘Bake Bouncers’ get a signal via walkie-talkie allowing me to move forward to the actual store. Before he lets me go, he handed me a card that said “Confirmed: 12 pieces per one person. Please keep this ticket with you.” Another ‘Bake Bouncer’ was waiting to greet me at the store front, and only customers with tickets can proceed into the shop. This is some serious VIP shit.

I couldn’t help but feel triumphant when I finally entered the store. It’s like a marathoner finally seeing the finish line. I wanted to pump my fist and high-five everyone.

These ‘Bake Bouncers’ don’t have the easiest job, facing the zombified, tart-hungry crowd. They told me they had encountered some pretty nasty customers. In fact, the one behind me was pretty damn mean. It’s like the Walking Dead or something. We should realise that patience is not just for those queueing. These kids have it rough too.


So, was it worth the wait?

The only thing that kept me going is the wafts of cheesy, buttery goodness that go as far as the end of the queue, goading people to keep going. The tarts have a crispy sweet pastry bottom and a light fluffy cream cheese filling. The ooze was not as prominent as I thought it was going to be, which was a bit disappointing. The flavours are very rich despite its light texture but the pungent, cheesy after taste kept me from going for seconds. I don’t think I could finish an entire box, so 12 tarts per person is actually reasonable.

It tasted pretty damn amazing. But I think partly because it tasted like PURE GLORY to me, after suffering through that ordeal. I gave some to my friends at work and they told me it was good, but pretty average.

Overall, it was definitely a delicious tart. However, it’s safe to say, I will not be queueing an hour and half for it again.

Maybe I’ll drop by again, next year.