Looking for outstanding specialty coffee in Singapore? These are my favorite local coffee shops and coffee roasters brewing up a storm on the little red dot.
Having a partner who’s a coffee geek has its perks (random free tastings from barista friends) as well as drawbacks (having to allocate space in my luggage for coffee beans). More importantly, it’s opened my eyes to coffee culture around the world, from Seattle to Melbourne.
Here on home ground, I’m always visiting specialty coffee roasters in Singapore to get my fix. This guide is regularly updated with my favorite coffee shops, and I’ve also included nearby attractions for each spot (included in a handy map) so you can explore the city while you caffeinate. Let’s go!
1. Nylon Coffee Roasters
One of the more reputed pioneers in Singapore’s specialty coffee scene, Nylon Coffee Roasters is hidden away in the gracefully aged Everton Park housing estate close to Chinatown. Their hole-in-the-wall nook opened in 2012 and has since expanded to occupy two units. It’s a relief since the shop is constantly packed with regulars in the neighborhood as well as curious travelers who have heard about Nylon through word of mouth.
You won’t find any food or fancy drinks here, just black or white espresso-based drinks as well as various filter coffees, depending on what the crew decides is best at bringing out the beans they have on hand. Dennis and Jia Min, Nylon’s founders, even take annual origin trips to South America to directly source their beans from coffee farms. This passion translates into…really good coffee.
What’s nearby: Ji Xiang Confectionery at the next apartment block has the absolute best traditional ang ku kueh (“red tortoise cake”).
2. Tiong Hoe Specialty Coffee
With its displays of dusty vintage memorabilia and sacks of coffee beans piled in a corner, this place feels like a throwback to the sixties – which is only normal, since it’s when founder Mr Tan Tiong Hoe started his coffee roasting business. Today it’s a place where you can go full coffee nerd, with brews from an astounding range of globally sourced beans.
What’s nearby: Gillman Barracks is an old army barracks that has been converted into art galleries, with ongoing exhibitions and events. From here, follow the Southern Ridges nature trail all the way to Mount Faber Park (and board a cable car to Sentosa if you like).
Dutch Colony is one of the bigger names in Singapore’s specialty coffee scene, with three cafés around the city. The most centrally located one at UE Square offers only baked goods, so venture out to the one at Frankel Avenue if you want food – although in all honesty, their baked goods are a better bet for your money and calories.
While Dutch Colony has great house blends, I prefer trying their rotating single origin espresso roasts and even visited several times in a month for a berry-sweet La Candelilla Estate (Costa Rica). Their cafes have a great vibe and in a generous move, they provide power sockets at some tables so you can fill up while you work.
What’s nearby: The colorful shophouses of Joo Chiat neighborhood are a favorite spot for Instagrammers, and you can also try Peranakan (Straits Chinese) food at restaurants in the area.
4. Bearded Bella
The name may be quirky, but Bearded Bella is a cozy, calm cafe housed in one of Singapore’s historical shophouses. It’s also co-owned by 2016 Singapore National Barista Championship winner Regina Tay, so I was really excited to try it when it opened.
You can’t go wrong with the coffee: I tried both their house blend espressos and single origin brews, and all were wonderfully balanced, even with the challenge of customers mixing coffee with food. (Yes, the food is fantastic too.)
Housed in an old hardware store compound, CSHH is the flagship store of roaster Papa Palheta and houses a roastery, cafe, coffee bar, and workshop space. It’s a favorite among hip creatives but beyond that, the coffee (and food) inarguably has substance to match the style.
What’s nearby: Little India will jolt your senses with crammed five-foot ways, pungent aromas (often guiding your nose to delicious stews), old curmudgeons, and the brain-scrambling 24-hour shopping mall that is Mustafa Centre.
This lush cafe, with its shophouse setting and keen aesthetic, feels right at home in Singapore’s arts and heritage district. And since it’s one of the exploits of World Siphonist Champion + 3-time Singapore Barista Champion Ryan Tan, it’s got a winning menu to match. Recommended signatures include the Melbourne-born Magic, Corned Beef Scotch Egg, and any of their buttermilk waffles.
What’s nearby: Singapore’s main arts district with the Singapore Art Museum, National Museum of Singapore, and Peranakan Museum.
7. Toby’s Estate
This lofty converted warehouse by the Singapore River is one of my favorite spots to work. Toby’s Estate Singapore was the Australian roaster’s first overseas outlet, and its congenial atmosphere – and reliably satisfying coffee – is hard to match. If you’re staying at one of the nearby hotels in Robertson Quay, this is a great spot for a leisurely brunch before strolling down.
What’s nearby: Stroll down the Singapore River to Clarke Quay, Boat Quay, or even as far as Marina Bay. Feeling lazy? There’s a river taxi stop just opposite Toby’s.
8. Five Oars Coffee Roasters
Five Oars Coffee Roasters (FOCR for short) is the newest kid on the block, or at least on this list. The generously sized cafe is located right in Tanjong Pagar, the domain of white-collar workers, but it exudes a chill vibe thanks to its spare interior and open facade.