** PAPPA PALHETA HAS NOW MOVED to Tyrwhitt Rd, near Little India and is run out of the Chye Seng Huat Hardwear building**
I have never forgotten the article I once read on a horribly long and delayed train journey back in Blighty. A.A. Gill, for the Sunday Times, wrote that to successfully drink from a Starbucks china coffee cup, you must first dislocate your jaw in much the same way a python does when it’s preparing to eat its prey. His point is the mugs are horribly thick (it had special resonance with me at the time, as I was drinking from hideous British Rail polystyrene cups that didn’t keep anything hot).
My point is slight different from A.A. Gill’s and certainly less imaginative: Starbucks doesn’t make the best coffee.
Cue the star of the local coffee scene here in Singapore, Papa Palheta, which may now be an oldie, but it’s still a goodie and is my favorite place to go for fairly central, proper coffee. Hidden away down a dusty track somewhere behind Newton, this little coffee house/cafe is the original sampling arm of the Papa Palheta coffee bean roasting company.
They actually roast the beans here on-site which, due to some strange technicality, means they are unable to transform these same beans in to coffee you can drink and pay for. You can drink it; but you can’t officially be charged for it (before any would-be-Scots get too excited, please remember that there is no such thing as a free lunch. You are expected to, and jolly well should, put a tip in the Tip Box. I think $5 a cup is a good starting point).
The tip/payment business is actually a red herring; it’s a quirk…for sure, but it’s the coffee that you really come here for. It’s all they serve (don’t even think of asking for a cup of tea) and they know everything about it. I mean everything. They know where the beans come from, when they were picked and how they were roasted. They even know the exact temperature the milk has been heated to (the optimum temperature apparently, in order to bring out its natural sweetness which negates the need to add sugar to the coffee).
I was a bit confused when I first came here with LS, who laughingly accused me of being very suaku (country tortoise): there’s no price list, just two rooms serving coffee; there are no familiar shouts of ‘who’s next?’ or ‘double tall choco loco latte'; the vibe is cool; menus are for muggles. I also bogged it by asking for sugar and got the milk lecture as detailed above.
Oh, and there is no food served here, (some funny licensing quirk, in addition to the one already in play that forbids any formal payment for the hot black stuff) so eat before you come.
So…go, be cool, don’t ask for sugar and support and share.
Directions: A bit tricky to find on your first visit, it’s very near Newton Circus. Just drive down Bukit Timah as if you are going towards Tecca and you will pass Auto Bahn on the left, with lots of lovely cars parked outside. Start slowing down. You will now see an Esso petrol station. Turn left down an unlikely looking dirt track immediately after Esso. The track has a name and is called Hooper Road.
PP is on your right and you will see their smart branded awning. Park anywhere.