Issue 13: Coffee

by thomandaimee

I have no memory of how we started drinking coffee. In fact, we grew up drinking tea (especially with dim sum breakfasts). Though, our parents never stopped us from sipping on their cups of coffee at a tender age. Maybe it was the introduction of Frappuccinos and flavoured coffee beverages from the mass coffee spots such as Starbucks that got us into drinking coffee. But I do not remember, because coffee and us go way back.

First of all, I’m going to make this clear: we are no coffee snobs. Really, we do appreciate a good cuppa but if you ask us if our coffee was single estate (what the hell is that anyway), we are not that anal. As long as the caffeine does its job, we are happy birds. So if you are expecting to learn about the degree of the roast or what soil the coffee tree grew in, we don’t speak coffee like the hipsters down Everton Park. With all due respect, we admire those who pursue the art of coffee. It’s a passion I wished we had.

However, I did visit the local library to do a little research and it was like opening a can of worms. The amount of information to digest was immense – from its history, botanical classifications (Arabica or Robusta), grading systems, countries of origin to coffee characteristics, cupping, roasting, grinding and different brewing methods. (You can even choose your beans based on seasonality!) Basically, I could regurgitate whatever I read but what would be the point really? You can always flip any issue of Kinfolk or visit your nearest cafe to know the details of your cuppa.

Coffee used to be a drink to perk up mornings, now it’s all about it being part of a lifestyle. Every week, I hear at least three new we-roast-out-own-beans cafes are opening in different parts of Singapore. But with such enthusiasm comes exposure to much more important matters: coffee and its effects on the world and slave trade. We are not foreign to the terms fair trade or sustainable farming. As with all types of agriculture, it’s always a business first. If there is demand, there would be supply.

Here’s a good example: Kopi Luwak (civet coffee, or more famously known as the coffee made out of beans from animal shit) is one of the most expensive coffees in the world. What started as a novelty and appreciated by coffee connoisseurs became an environmental disaster and helping hand to animal cruelty. Just read this article in Guardian to understand how much an innocent-looking cup of coffee isn’t all that wholesome anymore. Even your convenient Nespresso cup of coffee is contributing to global wastage with its capsules.

I’m not sure how many of the so-called hipster coffee-enthusiasts joints actually care about the provenance of the beans they use. It’s just so easy to cash in on trends without the actual passion of serving really tasty coffee without the sense of guilt. Why care so much for just coffee? Well, because you might not have it soon. As much as we don’t have the same amount of obsessions as hipsters (okay, we are not mocking them but how else to refer them as? Erm, indie folks?), if they are bringing about a wave of green coffee, then I guess the influx of cafes isn’t such a bad thing after all.

I shall go make a cup of coffee now.