Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Miscellaneous Food: Black Coffee

I am partial to a good coffee, although I don't drink it often: when presented with the opportunity to have a rich, strong yet creamy cappuccino or latte, I can never resist. I've been very fortunate that in my travels, whether to San Francisco, Rome or Sydney, I've had many opportunities to sample and appreciate some really great coffees.

That's partly why I always cringe when my Australian cousins visit town and ask, with a knowingly significant emphasis, "where can I get a good coffee"? The reality is, we haven't many that I could point them to. Until a few years ago, I'd have said, we haven't any, but luckily that landscape has changed.

Black Coffee Dessert Bar is definitely on top of my shortlist (literally) when considering truly independent, quality-driven and best of all, local entreprenuers who are changing the way that Singaporeans experience western-style coffee and it's really about time. After all, we've all had bad coffees, the bitter, migraine-inducing New Jersey diner coffeepot-on-a-hot-plate type stuff that just wasn't worth the caffeine boost.

In fact, Singapore has been engulfed by chains like Gloria Jeans, Tully's and Coffee Club (or whatever they call themselves next), largely I suspect because of the goldmine Starbucks got everyone believing in, about the same time that they convinced everyone that a cup of coffee-au-lait should cost in excess of $5. So in a sense, it's no wonder that a good caffeine hit has been both an elusive and confusing experience for the average consumer.

It's also, in part, a result of Singapore'a corporate coffee culture, the fact that a coffee has become a codeword for an unneccessary meeting and the coffee itself, a convenient drink to supplement a short but heavy lunch. In reality, a good coffee should taste like a marriage of a rich, delicious flavour coupled with a full body and a luxurious mouthfeel, and the coffee experience should be one of enjoyment and contemplation, the same ingredients needed to make a good one.

This is because a good coffee is a complex romance, starting with the high altitude, moderate climate, abundant rainfall and volcanic soils that produce some of the world's finest gourmet coffees in places like Guatemala, Hawaii and Columbia, then continued through the legacy of farmers who grow, pick and market the beans and actualized through the passion of qualified baristas who roast and percolate them to the right acidity and tease out fresh milk foam into imaginative "latte-art" patterns. It takes a pretty global village.

The founders of Black, whom I know from school, have clearly not just done their research into the complex art of coffee making but also into the kind of atmosphere where you can enjoy your daily dose. Tony, the barista, gives me a quick lesson in how to get the best brew- their beans are ground fresh to order for every single cup and the same with the milk, poured and steamed for each cup. The remaining milk is thrown away so that each cup gets fresh milk- this gets a huge thumbs up for quality and service- I doubt any other joint in Singapore is as careful and passionate.

The cafe itself is just as meticulous- the staff are friendly, the signage clever and the vintage furnishings and music were specifically chosen for a hip, yet informal setting, which is a great change from the Raffles Place area, where it is located toward the back of Chevron House, a stone's throw away from the MRT.

Black, which prides itself on being a coffee and dessert bar, serves a variety of other beverages, such as a selection of teas, iced and authentic Italian hot chocolate and fruit mixes. Black also serves dessert and alcohol over the day (if you're lucky, there will be warm slices of luxurious home-made Valronha chocolate bananana bread - they are wonderful) but it is in the evenings when it becomes a venue for music sessions and parties. With little publicity and within a mere few months of its opening, Black went on to win a mention as one of the "Top five bars, restaurants, coffee shops" in The Monocle Singapore Survey 2009, probably a testament to the appreciation of its rare product and standards.

Black Coffee Dessert Bar
16 Collyer Quay #01-11/12 Hitachi Tower
Monday to Friday 7am-8pm
+65 65344220

1 comment:

Ilona said...

Will try this out next week. Thank you!