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.

 

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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.

 

Not Just Jakarta

Happy April, everyone! Some might notice that there has been a short halt in content up my website. The reason being I had to fly to Jakarta, Indonesia for a work & vacation thing this week with my family. I was initially planning to whip up couple of posts while I was there but it seemed impossible due to extremely slow wifi. It would’ve taken me hours to upload all these photos.

So I thought, instead of the other posts I had in mind, let’s have some travel talk! A short summary of my trip there could be interesting for those who have never been to Jakarta, or who have not been there in a while.

Jakarta is the capital of Indonesia, a hot southeast asian country that is made up of thousands of islands and have hundreds of different cultures and societies within it. Jakarta is the metropolitan city where businesses tend to go, where most people who live in the outskirts commute to work. Temperatures are hot, hot, hot! Right around 32 Degrees Celsius. However, it is different from Singapore, because the air is much drier and less humid. Hence, it isn’t the cloying, moist heat I was used to. Dry heat is infinitely better. But be sure to pack lots of light clothing.

 

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With the heat and smog of the city, the outskirts are actually much cooler in temperature. We went to ‘Puncak Gunung’, which is a pretty long drive to the countryside just outside Jakarta. This area is a mountainous region where tea plantations surround the entire base of the mountains. The weather there was cool and foggy, such a nice change from the city. It is a more rural side of Indonesia with more slums and poorly built housing, but in the midst of all that, there are tea factories and hotels to accommodate to the tourists that visit this area.

Here, we stayed at the Royal Safari Garden Resort & Convention. It’s a villa cum hotel that is affiliated with the Taman Safari (Safari Garden), close to that area. It’s a huge place with Safari themed rooms. Some rooms are more chalet like, others are more like apartments, with kitchens and a living room. We stayed at the “Giraffe Suite”, which was huge and comfortable. Plus, we had a great view of the mountains, during the day.

Puncak Gunung is a great place for hiking. The cooler air allows for a variety of plants and flowers to flourish. Which is why the mountains are covered with tea plantations. It was really cool visiting the gardens with gorgeous flowers and then going through rows and rows of tea plants. The whole area smelt like tea! For the daredevils out there, you can also parachute down the top of the mountain peak, sailing over all the plantations and greenery.

 

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When in Indonesia, it’s good to note that Wifi is easy to find, but most have very weak signals and are not very fast. Hence, why I couldn’t upload any posts, nor even watch Youtube videos whilst I was there. It’s better to purchase a SIM card with data as that data signal is often faster than the ones provided by wifi. I bought a SIM card that had 4GB data for just SGD$10, which more than suffice. I barely even used 1GB after 5 days. It’s completely worth it. I would suggest using “Telkomsel” as the service provider, as I managed to get 3G signal everywhere, even in the mountains. Whereas, my sister who chose a different service provider, though it had a larger data, had a much weaker signal.

The main Jakarta city is a great place to shop and enjoy some relaxation. Lots of massage parlours that offer amazing massages for only SGD$20, using high grade essential oils. Or you could opt of a salon wash and blow dry for just SGD$10. I would recommend trying out the new coffee places that are popping up everywhere, very similar to the ones in Singapore, only much much cheaper and with very distinct coffee beans.

I was so surprised at how Jakarta has evolved over the years. Shopping malls are not only huge, they are revamped and looking more chic than ever. They housed every brand you can think of under the sun. And the best part is that they are rarely crowded.

It seems that shopping is a tourist activity. Locals tend to indulge in shopping trips overseas, but not so much in their own malls. Indonesians tend to prefer exclusivity and foreign products that other locals can’t get their hands on. The malls that I visited such as the ‘Grand Indonesia’ was gigantic and rather empty, which felt like we had the mall all to ourselves.

 

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Here you will find many cool coffee places. My favourite being ‘Djournal’, with its super cute interior and amazing coffee. One of the best I have tasted, with a large latte being just SGD$3.70, I almost couldn’t believe it. I also visited ‘Blacklisted’, which was my least favourite but still very good and ‘Gambino Coffee’. Gambino has one of the BEST cold brew coffees I have EVER tasted in my life. So rich and smooth. UGH, I am obsessed! Needless to say, I had several cups in a day. Couldn’t get over the great quality and affordable price.

 

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I was honestly surprised at how “hipster” Jakarta had become. There were fairs at the mall atriums by young fashion students that were starting out their own clothing business with super cool, funky designs. Amazing cafes and restaurants. Plus, the shops were huge with large variety of items. Even when I stepped into Forever21 or H&M, there were so many designs I had never seen before, in full sizes, no lines in the fitting rooms and everything was cheaper!

And don’t even get me STARTED on the food!! In Jakarta you can eat like a GOD, and still the bill would amount to less than SGD$50. Everything is so delicious, from the fancy restaurants to the cheaper street food.

 

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Jakarta is, in my opinion, an underrated shopping destination. Most would go to Bangkok or Hong Kong. But these places have become rather expensive compared to the past. Right now, Jakarta is where it’s at. Much cheaper than Bali and a lot more satisfying, if you are looking for great shopping with well-known brands, amazing food and a buzzing coffee scene!