Sunday, 21 October 2012

Chye Seng Huat Hardware

Chye Seng Huat Hardware, Singapore

CSHH is the new flagship venue of the Papa Palheta group. Located on Tyrwhitt Road (beside Jalan Besar stadium), CSHH is a roastery, retail space and coffee academy. The Steeping Room - previously a pop up space at Bras Basah - makes a welcome return in the form of the Annexe, a dedicated area for coffee and food pairing.  

Papa Palheta cafes tend to have a very distinct decor, feel and atmosphere - CSHH is no exception. The original shell of the hardware store is intact, with art deco lettering and exposed light fixtures enhancing the effect. The interior is bright, airy and contemporary - a new lease of life for one of the old workshops that was here before. Combined with a large retail space, this is not unlike Barista Jam in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong - a venue I like a lot.  

As always, I started by ordering an Espresso. The blend used was a combination of 
Brazilian Coromandel, Guatamelan Antigua and Ethiopian Sidamo. In general, Brazilian and Guatamelean coffees have hints of chocolate, and low acidity, while Ethiopian sidamo has a smooth aftertaste. The shot had an intense aroma, with a dark brown crema, indicitave of freshly roasted beans. There was a syrupy mouthfeel that I typically notice in shots from third wave outlets - this is an indicator that the shot has been extracted for the correct amount of time. The intensity and robust body of the shot was evident from the first tasting - the combination of dark chocolate paired with a citrus, floral notes gives rise to a complex, long lasting bouquet with perfect balance. The aftertaste lingers, and I could taste it long after I had finished my shot. Some things are simply better in their places of origin - like eating chicken rice in Singapore, or drinking Guinness in Dublin, drinking a Papa Palheta blend in CSHH was a coffee experience to savour. There were more notes, flavour and mouthfeel in the last few drops than in any number of shots from other cafes.

I ordered a Cappuccino also. It arrived with beautiful latte art and dark brown foam - a nice contrast of light and darkness. There was a lovely foamy, light texture with an intense coffee hit a few seconds later. The espresso did not dominate in this drink, even though it was a strong shot - the milk and espresso work in conjunction, a 1-2 punch straight to the pallete, where one hits right after the other. They accentuate each other rather than fight for dominance on your taste buds. The layer of foam on top was the correct thickness also - a simple thing, but not something that every cafe gets right.

This was one of the few coffees I've had where the espresso was clear and distinct in the aftertaste - you know it's a cappuccino that was made with a very specific blend - not something that I see everywhere - Oriole, Jimmy Monkey and Nylon would fall into this category also. You know that it's a Palheta shot in your cup when you taste it. I want to drag people here and say "You see? THAT's coffee! That thing! Not what you did!".

Viva la revolution 

The retail space is large and well stocked, with Chemex woodneck products, Hario Buono kettles paired with V60 pourover rigs, Aeropress and syphons all on display. There were 5 bean varities available also, which can be bought whole, or ground on request. Professional espresso machines and grinders are available. This is significant - the staff are are baristas who use machines such as these each day, rather than sales people who may receive comission for recommending a particular type.

Some other notable points are the menu, which has a wide variety of brewing types, and clever pairings of food to coffee. Also, I like the pairing of Jungle Beer (brewed in Admiralty) and Papa Palheta coffee - this is entirely consistent with the creative approach of Papa Palheta. I have not yet tried the Annexe, where food, coffee and alcohol pairings are explored more fully, but based on the work that has been done in CSHH to date (and from one or two experiments that are being prepared at present), this is something to look forward to.

In short, it's some of the best coffee that I've had. Papa Palheta may be no more, but the same intense, robust and complex shots live on in a quiet street at Jalan Besar.

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