Sunday, 18 November 2012

Smitten Coffee and Tea Bar, Singapore

Over the last few years, Robertson Quay has been transformed from a quiet residental strip by the Singapore river, into an eclectix mix of restaurants and cafes. Every new apartment block seems to bring with it a new French bistro, or a Japanese teppanyaki grill straight from the winding alleys of Shinjuku. The overall effect is that the area reminds me of Clarke Quay, if the bars were replaced by restaurants. Hidden amongst the mix of eateries is a small cafe that is punching above it's weight - Smitten Coffee and Tea bar.

This is a roastery that seems to be bigger on the inside that it appears on the outside. The use of space is clever - by placing most of the seating outside, Smitten can function as a roastery, retail space and full service cafe. The fact that it is a roastery allows Smitten to compete with larger cafes - their coffee is always fresh, and they have their own unique blends on the rack. The retail space is very specalised - tampers, cone drippers, stovetop espresso makers, filter baskets, grinders, and knock boxes line the shelves - this is a good option for any aspiring home barista.

The espresso shot I ordered came with a dark brown crema, and the correct volume of liquid for a single shot. No surprises there - dark brown cremas are the product of beans which have been roasted recently. This was a nicely balanced shot, combining an underlying tempered robustness with tart notes. The astringency is fine, neither too bitter nor too overpowering, and the mouthfeel has more syrupy than watery characteristics. So far, so good.

The first thing that I noticed on the cappuccino below was the latte art - there is a distinct contrast of light on dark, and very defined borders. The foam layer is fine - the thickness is ideal, remaining intact until the last drops of coffee are consumed. It seems like something small to single out, but i'm surprised at how many cafe's get this wrong. The microbubbles in the foam added smoothness, and took the edge off the strong underlying espresso shot. The aftertaste does not linger, making this a "clean", mellow drink - the coffee hit is in the first few seconds. It's a balanced, well executed cappuccino with no issues.

There are also alternatives available for people who prefer brewed or pourover coffees. V60 and Chemex brews are availble, with beans from Brazil, Ethiopia (Yirgacheffe) and Tanzania (Kilamanjaro). There is also a selection of cakes and deserts available too.

This is the little cafe that could - it's punching above it's weight, and turning out some decent, consistent shots - this is a good choice for a lazy Sunday by the river.

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