Thursday, December 07, 2017

Specialty coffee journey :)

Chye Seng Huat Hardware (CSHH)

Well, it is never too old to learn something new in life! In fact lifelong learning is applicable to everyone and what you learn can be anything that interest you. As for me, I found the specialty coffee interest in less than 2 months ago when my cousin brought her parents and myself to experience another level of coffee brewed products at Chye Seng Huat Hardware (CSHH).

The Roastery at CSHH (Pic source: CSHH website)

C-Platform Island Bar at CSHH (Pic source: CSHH website)

The Annex retail shop - CSHH Singapore

There, I experienced visiting the cafe that houses the Roastery, Coffee Bar, and C-platform, giving a unique experience to see how coffee was being roasted and prepared, plus the Annex coffee retail therapy shop where you could find different types of coffee products, accessories, and equipment.

"My mother told me to choose my coffee wisely" - CSHH

As per advised above, we tried 3 different types of specialty coffee there.

Latte - CSHH

1. Latte - the common drink that people usually order (or otherwise Cappuccino) - at SGD $5.50 per cup. The taste, foam texture and decoration was very good although it did not offer much significant thing compare with other types of coffee we ordered.

Cold Brew Black - CSHH

2. The Cold Brew (bottled) - Black at SGD $7 per bottle. Looked more like bottled cough syrup, I found this rather unique as they prepared and sold it readily over the counter and brewed it daily. And the taste was so much fruity and nice. It was not like the bitter coffee that you would usually have in your mind when it regarded to coffee.

Nitro coffee on tap from CSHH - Anyone??? ;)

3. Cold Brew Nitro Black Matter (coffee on tap) at SGD $7 per glass.

Cold Brew Nitro on Tap from CSHH

And this was how it looked like. Does it "WOW" you by its look??? And with the way how it was being produced (by using Nitrogen), it looked very much like beer on tap, wasn't it??

I was feeling overwhelmingly impressive when tried the last two items that we ordered that day. Like I mentioned earlier, the bottled cold brew tasted so fruity. I could not believe that it was coffee. It was resembling very much like fruity tea.

I found the price they charged was fine as it offered good coffee plus the unique taste and experience. Only that the location was a little bit hard to reach (we came by taxi that day), but the visit was definitely worth it.

Ombe Kofie in Pluit - Jakarta, Indonesia (Pic source: Manual Jakarta)

Then, about two weeks ago when I went back to my hometown in Jakarta, I finally visited Ombe Kofie - a small cafe located not too far away from where I stayed, very cosy, tidy, clean, and I felt very homey.

Jason Leo - the man behind the Ombe Kofie (Pic source: Ombe Kofie Instagram)

I'd seen the photos taken by my high school friends who visited this place very often, and heard a lot about it. It was just that in the beginning I was not really understand why people loved going there.

Regular White with complimentary Kue Rintak (Bangka's specialty) and nuts from Ombe Kofie

My knowledge about specialty coffee on my first visit there was totally zero. So I found that a cup of Regular White coffee cost at SGD $4.5 was pretty expensive for a living standard of average Indonesian. But to be honest, I fell in love with the cosy feeling the place had.

Homey feeling blended nicely with my sleeping clothes :P - Ombe Kofie Pluit, Jakarta

At that point of time I was enjoying the decor very much. And it made me thinking, why wouldn't I create one place like this? You did not have to spend much to have such decor - just wooden furniture, peranakan style tiles, indoor plants, comfy pillows and some sofa. But you need good and workable coffee machine and its accessories (which does not come cheap), plus someone who knew how to make a good coffee. Hahaha... So after visiting the two places above, I was thinking of learning how to prepare the specialty coffee when I came back to Singapore.

Main waiting area at Bettr Barista Coffee Academy

I searched online the WSQ (Workforce Skill Qualification) course related to coffee and I found one called WSQ Specialty Coffee Course from Bettr Barista. I chose the WSQ course because I'd received a letter earlier on from the Workfare Singapore that I was eligible for 95% subsidy for any WTS-eligible training courses, which valid only until 31 Dec 2017. And as Singaporean above 25 years old, I was given SGD $500 training grant yearly from the Skill Future Credit. The grant had be given since January 2016 to encourage individual ownership of skill development and lifelong learning. For this course, after the 95% subsidy and $500 grant, basically I paid nothing. And I was available for the training period given for that course. So, why not???

Nice coffee and banana cake for the morning break - Bettr Barista Coffee Academy

So I finally attended the 2-day classes plus one hour practical exam held on the third day. Oh my!!! I felt very grateful attending this course because I have learned so much about the specialty coffee. Although I learned hospitality industry for my diploma, the lesson regarding the specialty coffee was not exist during that period of time. What we learned was more on the commercial coffee (those regular coffee served in restaurant after having meals, where we only had to press the preset buttons on the coffee machine - no calibration required, no coffee bean grinding - only coffee powder was used, and so on).

Part of the notes content - Bettr Barista Coffee Academy

In Bettr Barista Coffee Academy I learned many basic things about coffee. On day 1 we learned more about theory starting from the history of coffee, coffee cherry, harvesting, processing, roast profile, brewing, coffee characteristics, elements of brewing, how to brew coffee with different coffee methods, how to store coffee, and so on.

Steeping / Full Immersion brewing method using Clever - Bettr Barista Coffee Academy

How training was conducted inside the class - Bettr Barista Coffee Academy

Other coffee brewing devices - Bettr Barista Coffee Academy

We also had practical hands-on experience using different brewing equipment such as:  Clever and French Press. The teacher showed us how to brew using the Aeropress as well. Coffee-to-water ratio, grind size, brewing method, brewing equipment, water, and filter medium were the brewing elements required to produce a good, consistent cup of coffee.

Espresso station set up - Equipment and tools the Barista used everyday - Bettr Barista Coffee Academy

On day 2 I learned more on practical such as: setting up the station, preparing Espresso (knowing its parameters, understanding extraction, etc.), preparing Cappuccino and Latte including how to steam the milk and build the right type and level of foam for both beverages. There, I overcame my fear of using the steam wand and holding the milk jug when heating the milk.

With my training mate - Bettr Barista Coffee Academy

I also gained knowledge about the different name of equipment and tools in the Espresso station setup, parts in the coffee machine and doser grinder. We were taught how to calibrate, adjusting the  grind size of coffee bean so it could fall at the right Espresso parameter required (within 20-30 secs to yield 25-35 ml per shot). It was quite challenging though and wasted lots of coffee while calibrating. That's why each cup of specialty coffee was charged exorbitantly!!!

Standard Espresso drinks - Bettr Barista Coffee Academy

From the class I also had a better understanding the difference between Americano and Long Black; Espresso and Ristretto; and the difference among Cappuccino, Cafe Latte, Piccolo Latte, and Flat White, and so on. So from then onward I would be able to know what I order when I visit a specialty coffee cafe. And I would try many other espresso beverages other than Cappuccino :)

Beautiful Latte art - Bettr Barista Coffee Academy

Well, within 2 days don't expect me to produce such a beautiful latte art as per above picture. Hahaha... I even encountered problem during exam today when pouring the steamed milk into my Espresso cup :D Latte art was not included inside the course content. If you are interested to learn that, you may apply the 2-hour Barista lab course to hone that skill. There are many more other courses available and you can check their website if you are interested to know more about it.

For me this was a good skill and knowledge to learn and applicable to daily basis use. The next time I visit specialty coffee cafe, I would have higher expectation from the coffee that I paid and other extraordinary experience from the coffee.

The world largest Starbucks opened on 6 December in Shanghai, China (Pic source: Qz.com)

Yesterday China just opened the world largest Starbucks in Shanghai.

"Located in Shanghai, the new outlet measures 30,000 square feet (2,787 square meters) and is called the Starbucks Reserve Roastery Shanghai. It’s the company’s second such Roastery, with the first launching in Seattle in 2014. The Roastery stores mark the company’s attempt to move upscale and add variety to its existing chain.

The Shanghai store, which is twice the size of the Seattle Roastery, will offer coffee beans from over 30 countries that can be roasted on premise and then enjoyed by customers. Some of the beans are from China, like the Yunnan Reserve blend, which will be available only at the store. It will also include three bars where baristas prepare coffee in a variety of different ways (pour over, Chemex, Siphon, Clover), and pastries from Princi, a bakery with outlets in Milan and London." - Source: Qz.com

China, which used to have more traditional old generation tea drinkers, has attracted the younger (more wealthy) generation to change the habit into drinking the upscale specialty coffee like what Starbucks offered. Time has changed. Clocks keep ticking. We have to move on with the new trend and adapt to it. 

Live the life of your dream :) (Pic source: Google.com)

This new interest (visiting specialty coffee cafe) would be the add on to-do-list the next time I visit other countries - to see how far they have developed their interest in offering the specialty coffee cafe experience and to feel their unique difference. And who knows one day I can make my dream into the reality?? :)

Monday, December 04, 2017

Places to visit in Singapore (Special post for Bhutanese)

Beautiful Singapore :)

Many Bhutanese have a good opportunity visiting Singapore. Although mostly come for official duty, training, or conference, many come for vacation and other personal matters. If you have only limited time to stay, let me introduce you some 'must visit place' in Singapore :)

1. Merlion Park

Sangay at Merlion Park - Singapore

Take a photo with the Merlion (half fish, half lion), the iconic symbol of Singapore. Its head represents the Singapore's original name - Singapura - which means lion city in Malay language. It was first built and placed at the mouth of Singapore River back in year 1972, and 30 years later, it was relocated 120 m away from where it was, to the opposite of the beautiful looking Fullerton Hotel (used to be a Singapore Post Office building), overlooking the Marina Bay area.

Luzee with background of Merlion and Esplanade Theaters on the Bay - Singapore

If you want, you can takeaway food from the nearby restaurants and have a picnic, sitting on the stone seat provided. Admire the bay view from there. You can also see many renown buildings such as Esplanade Theaters on the Bay, Art Science Museum, Marina Bay Sands, Fullerton Hotel, Singapore Central Business District (CBD), Singapore Flyer, and so on. During the National Day (9th August every year), it is the perfect place to watch the fabulous fireworks. 

Luzee with Merlion overlooking the Marina Bay Sands and Arts Science Museum at night - Singapore

You can visit the place throughout the day but it is recommended to visit during evening time where the sun has slightly gone down and the weather has changed cooler. Sometimes afternoon heat can be unbearable!!! Night view is marvelous too!!!

Merlion Park location map (Pic source: Google Map)

Nearest MRT: Raffles Place MRT (EWL/NSL), Downtown MRT (DTL)

2. Chinatown

"As of June 2017, the island's population stood at 5.61 million. ... Singapore is a multiracial and multicultural country with ethnic Chinese (76.2% of the citizen population), indigenous Malays (15.0%), and ethnic Indians (7.4%) making up the majority of the population." - Source: Wikipedia.org

Eat, shop, pray, and experience different feel and culture in the heart of Singapore town. 

Sithar and I at Buddha Tooth Relic Temple - Chinatown, Singapore

For Buddhist, you can visit the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum - a four-storey high completed with rooftop where the large Vairocana Buddha Prayer Wheel is located. Must visit the forth storey where the gold sacred Buddha tooth relic stupa with the sacred Buddha tooth are located. Museum is on the third storey. Please take note that it opens from 7 am to 7 pm everyday and wear appropriate attire to enter.

For Hindu believer, you can visit the Sri Mariamman Temple - the oldest Singapore's Hindu temple built in 1827. Currently the temple serves as an important focal point for community activities and acted as the Registry of Marriages for Hindus at the time when only the temple’s was authorized to solemnize Hindu marriages.

Sangay at Chinatown (souvenir shopping heaven) - Singapore

It is a great place to shop souvenirs from Singapore. There are many shops in the area. It is advisable not to immediately buy the items that you want. Instead, look around from one shop to another and find the best bargain!!!

Sonam with my besties tried Chinese New Year special food (Lo-Hei) at Chinatown, Singapore

Overcome your hunger by visiting the Chinatown Complex hawker center (at 2nd storey). You will find various Singapore local food stalls there. From kopi-O (black coffee) to Char Kway Teow (fried rice noodle with cockles), and special Lo-Hei - mixed pickles, vegetables, and sauces topped with salmon or abalone - a must eat food during Chinese New Year period. 

Chencho, Choeku, Pema, and Kuenley tasted Mala Hotpot at Chinatown, Singapore 

Or you can taste the Chinese Mala Hotpot, the original taste of Chinese Chong Qing food cooked by Chinese origin Chefs, at the People's Park hawker center, completed with bottles of cold Chinese beer - Xue Hua (Snow) brand. The spiciness of the food will remind you of ema datshi in Bhutan hahaha.... :D

Song Fa Bakuteh (Pork Rib Soup) and other delicious sides :) (Pic source: Google.com)

If you want to have a cooling place to shop, just walk to Chinatown Point. You can find Daiso, Uniqlo, NTUC FairPrice Supermarket, and many other shops inside. You can try the local Singapore food at Song Fa Bakuteh (peppery spicy pork rib soup) at the 1st storey there (next to McDonald's).

Chinatown at night during Chinese New Year 2015

It is open at anytime but recommended to visit at night as the air is cooler and lighting will add beautiful view. If you happen to come during Chinese New Year (January-February) or Lantern Festival (September), you will see beautiful decoration as shown at the above photo.

Chinatown - Singapore (Pic source: Google map)

Nearest MRT: Chinatown (NEL/DTL)

3. Farrer Park/ Little India (Mustafa Centre)

Passu near Mustafa Centre during Deepavali time - Little India, Singapore

Bhutanese loves Mustafa Centre so much!!! Hahaha... as they love shopping. It is opened 24-hour so if you have something to buy but it has already been so late, you still come down by taxi to this place to shop. You can find almost everything here but I don't think they sell Uniqlo there hehehe... The nearest shopping mall from there that you can shop for Charles & Keith, Uniqlo, Daiso, etc. is City Square Mall. Just take MRT to Farrer Park and find the exit to the mall.

Deepavali time at Little India - Singapore

Approaching Deepavali, the main road in this area will be decorated with many lighting and Diwali decorations. Visit at night to capture its beautiful lighting.

Bhatura feast at Komala's Vegetarian Restaurant with Uden, Luzee and Tshering

There are many Indian restaurants available at the area. If you are vegetarian, I recommend you one restaurant joint, located at the opposite of City Square Mall, called Komala's Vegetarian Restaurants. There are 2 in the area but the one near the mall is easier to find. They have a giant Bhatura served with chick pea curry, lime and onion. It's delicious!! ;)

Jaggi's Northern Indian Cuisine - 37-39 Chander Road, Singapore

Curry Fish Head from Banana Leaf Apolo Restaurant at 54 Race Course Rd

And if you are not vegetarian, Jaggi's serves delicious Northern Indian cuisine (their garlic butter Naan, butter chicken, and Palak Paneer are my favorite!!!), while Muthu's Curry and Banana Leaf Apolo are famous for their curry fish head. You will get good Indian food in all these places :)

Farrer Park - Little India MRT map (Pic source: Google map)

Nearest MRT: Farrer Park (NEL) or Little India (NEL/DTL)

4. Clarke Quay - Nightlife

Chill our night out at Clarke Quay - Cheers!!! ;)

If you want to know how Singapore nightlife feels like, you can get down to Clarke Quay and chill yourself up at a pub, restaurant, bar, or even disco. Just order a bottle of beer or a glass of wine to chill up and listen the noise and crowd the places bring.

Uden and Sonam at Clarke Quay

Or else, just sit down at the riverside watching people flying out with their bungee at the opposite site or the passing by boats filled with tourists. On weekend sometimes juggler or entertainer will pop up and give a show to earn some money. It was a good place to relax and enjoy the cool night breeze.

Clarke Quay (Pic source: Google map)

It is within a walking distance from Chinatown area. If you happen to have enough time to spend after having enough shopping or feeling full from your dinner at Chinatown area, you can just walk along the main New Bridge Rd all the way until you see the beautiful lighting near the bridge. Or if you are too tired, Clarke Quay MRT is only one station away from the Chinatown MRT (NEL).

Nearest MRT: Clarke Quay (NEL)

5. Marina Bay Sands and Garden by the Bay

Marina Bay Sands at night (Pic source: Google.com)

If you take flight to Singapore and sit at the window seat (left side), sometimes you can see the unique feature building - Marina Bay Sands - the three sloping towers with boat-like structures - from the above. It faces Singapore river with many tall buildings at the surrounding.

Luzee inside the Marina Bay Sands Singapore :)

It contains hotel, restaurants, theater, exhibition halls, shopping mall, Casino, etc. If you curious how it looks like from the inside, you can easily reach there by MRT.

Beautiful click from the Marina Bay Sands Infinity Pool - Singapore :)

What I see from the pool - Singapore night view

If you are lucky enough to stay at the hotel itself, you should take the opportunity to swim at the infinity pool at level 57 (they only allow the hotel guest to swim there) and watch the beautiful Singapore view from the above. Evening time is the best time to do. Take a lot of picture there as the view is priceless!!! Well otherwise, you can also go up to their Observation Deck and pay SGD $23 per pax to see the Singapore view from top or dine and/ or drink at the SkyPark restaurants and bars.

From Singapore Flyer to Garden by the Bay - Singapore

Luzee visited Garden by the Bay, Singapore

It connects to the Garden by the Bay as well. Just check and follow the direction sign from inside the
MBS building. Usually I go there during night time when they have a free Garden Rhapsody light and sound shows (at 7.45 pm and 8.45 pm daily). Lying on the grass and watching it give a relaxed feeling after a whole day out.

Marina Bay Sands map (Pic source: Google map)

Nearest MRT: Bayfront (DTL/CL)

6. Sentosa Island

Siloso Beach at Sentosa Island - Singapore

Many Bhutanese who visited Singapore had not been to the beach before. If that is the case, Sentosa Island will be the next place to visit. From Vivo City, go up to level 3 and take the Sentosa Express (monorail) using the EZ-link card cost at SGD $4. Get down at the last station - Beach Station - and walk or take the beach tram to the destination of your choice. They have many different beach to visit. Siloso Beach is nearer and more crowded so I usually bring the Bhutanese towards that direction. You can also take other transport like bus and cable car.

Feel the beach with your feet - Sentosa Island, Singapore

I always recommend them to remove their footwear and roll their pants up. It feels good to walk barefoot on the sand and feel the cold/ warm sea water splashing on your legs. The weather can be super hot in afternoon time, so wearing cap and sunglasses may help.

The big Merlion at Sentosa Island - Imbiah Lookout

From there, we move on and walk to see the other parts of Sentosa Island. Such as the Imbiah Lookout to see a big version of Merlion, entrance to Universal Studio (if you have time, you can spend a whole day playing the ride inside), Casino (foreigner needs to bring their passport to enter and there is dress code to apply - no short, flip flop, and singlet), and so on.

Dechen and I outside the Universal Studio of Singapore - Sentosa Island

If you come with kids, you can bring them to SEA Aquarium to watch the underwater world, to Adventure Cove Waterpark to experience different water rides, to Kidzania for kids to experience role play of the adults' world, etc. Check out their website for further details.

Sentosa Island map (Pic source: Google map)

Nearest MRT: Harbour Front (NEL/CL)

7. Orchard Road - Shopping belt of Singapore

Passu and I in front of Wheelock Place - along Orchard Rd. - Singapore

Orchard Road - a 2.2 km long boulevard - the retail and entertainment hub of Singapore city, a favorite place for tourists and shoppers. You can reach this road from both Orchard and Somerset MRT. Walk along the row of shopping malls from Wheelock Place, Ion Orchard Mall, Wisma Atria, Ngee Ann City, Takashimaya Department Store, Cineleisure, all the way to 313@Somerset and Orchard Central. You can find almost any branded stuffs that you are looking for, taste any kind of food from many restaurants, and so on. Just make sure you have enough money to spare to go back to Bhutan ^^"

JJ and Passu with big Christmas tree outside Ion Orchard Mall approaching Christmas 2016 - Singapore

Approaching Christmas, this road will be decorated with Christmas decoration and lighting. Visit at night is recommended for you to capture beautiful photos together with many outdoor Christmas trees and decorations.

Singapore local coffee joint - Ya Kun Kaya Toast - Must try!!! :)

When you are too tired to walk, take a coffee break at the Singapore local coffee joint - Ya Kun Kaya Toast. It's my favorite!! Order the Kaya Butter Toast set where you can get the crispy toast with chunk of butter and coconut jam, 2 pcs of half-boiled eggs, and a cup of Singapore style Kopi (coffee w/ milk) or Kopi-O (black coffee with sugar).

Passu at Library@Orchard - Orchard Gateway, Singapore

If you happen to be a book lover and library enthusiast, you can visit one of Singapore libraries there - Library@Orchard - the two-storey library at the Orchard Gateway (near Somerset MRT). You can experience the unique features and modern looks that it offers :)

Orchard Road map (Source: Google map)

Nearest MRT: Orchard (NSL) and Somerset (NSL)

If you notice, I put the map of each location as most tourist places in Singapore is near from MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) station. It is advisable for you to go around Singapore using MRT as it is fast, easy (you need to purchase EZ-link card though - can use it to take bus as well), and convenient. EZ-link card can be purchased at Passenger Service Center at MRT station and any 7-eleven convenient store across Singapore.

Singapore MRT map (Pic source: Google.com)

Singapore is such a small country. You won't get lost there. You can get free WiFi at many designated areas (including MRT stations) and conveniently browse the Google and Google map website or download its Apps to locate where you are and places you are looking for.

With Luzee and Sonam Pelden at Bugis :)

There are many other areas and places I did not mention above like Bugis, City Hall, Singapore Zoo, River Safari, Night Safari, Jurong Bird Park, museums, Lau Pa Sat (alfresco dining at CBD area), and many more. It is up to you to visit the rest of the places and also depend on where you stay in Singapore (which places are nearer from your side). Those I mentioned was where I brought most Bhutanese in Singapore from their previous visits.

With Palden and Sithar visiting Singapore Zoo and River Safari - Singapore

Tashi and Karma enjoyed Singapore local food at Lau Pa Sat :)

So, if you plan to visit Singapore soon, hope this post can help you to plan where to go during your visit here. If you have any questions, you can leave your comment here and I'll do my best to assist you. Hope you enjoy Singapore!!! :)

P.S. With this post, I could reminisce the memories that I had with many Bhutanese I met in Singapore since 2013 - mostly I met them for the first time in these photos. However, many have become my very very very good friends. I am grateful for the fate that it brought to all of us and the friendship that we have maintained until today. Thank you, thank you, and thank you SB and thank you everyone for the beautiful friendship that we have :)
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