This place is no longer a secret. In fact it is so well known and popular that I was contemplating for a long while if I should bother to write about it. But call it paying tribute. I love Papa Palheta.
Now the story goes that coffee originated in Ethiopia then spread to Egypt, Yemen and Europe. In 1727, Brazil craved a slice of the coffee pie and sent Lieutenant Colonel Francisco de Mello Palheta on a mission to French Guiana to procure coffee seeds. The French guarded their jewel zealously of course, but Palheta the Don Juan was the Achilles’ heel of the French Governor’s wife. Smitten, she presented Palheta, concealed in a bouquet of flowers, all the seeds and shoots that bloomed into Brazil’s billion-dollar coffee industry. Lieutenant Colonel Palheta, I salute you!
And like its namesake, Papa Palheta is a master of seduction and charm.
Papa Palheta is an independent specialty coffee roaster in Singapore single-minded in extracting the best in beans with their unique brewing and roasting techniques. The shop sits in a quaint black-and-white shophouse in an off-the-beaten track location. The entrance leads into a charming courtyard scattered with a few tables and benches that invite friends to an afternoon of coffee and banter. Inside, the shop has a roasting room, an espresso bar and a brew bar.
Papa Palheta is first and foremost a coffee roaster and distributor; the retail space is primarily a tasting bar. They serve coffee only, nothing else. There is no menu and no prices. Appreciation is built on goodwill; guests tip an amount between SGD4-5 per cup of coffee based on their discretion.
The espresso bar is simply set up; direct and approachable like their coffee. Behind their trusty Synesso espresso machine, the über young and friendly baristas prepare cup after cup of gorgeous espresso based drinks with their signature blend Terra Firma, a union of Brazilian, Guatamalan and Ethiopian beans painstakingly crafted for a complex yet balanced profile.
I always like to order a milk-based drink from the bar as the latte art is one of the best in town and the milk, wow. Steamed to a perfect textbook prescribed temperature of 65-70 degrees Celsius, the milk is a sensuous caress to the lips and tongue.
The guys here at Papa Palheta are purists when it comes to their milk-based drinks. They use regular milk only for its sumptuous mouth feel (sorry vegans and those on a low-fat diet) and vehemently object to the addition of sugar. And rightly so, when milk is steamed to the optimal temperature, the milk protein breaks down, making the lactose more soluble and hence increasing the perceived sweetness of the milk. Sugar is superfluous. Be it a double ristretto cappuccino or a piccolo latte, the ritual is standard – grind, tamp, pull, stretch, texture, pour, bring to lips, bliss.
The brew bar is in the adjoining room. Previously an extension of couch seating for the espresso bar, the brew zone is added this year, freshly retrofitted with furniture inherited from Papa Palheta’s pop-up coffee concept The Steeping Room. This room has lower seating and the design is nostalgic. Furnished with vintage teak furniture and antique collectibles belonging to the owner’s family, it’s a communal room that is as delightful as it is cozy.
Also in the brew room is a small merchandise section where coffee aficionados may pick up commercial and home espresso and brew gear such as Rocket Giotto, Chemex Coffee Maker, Clever Coffee Dripper, Hario Coffee Syphon, Keep Cups, Reg Barber tampers and other accessories.
The brew bar is my favourite spot. It’s where you get up close and personal with all the brewing action. Observing and conversing with the brew-meister (may I call you that Marvyn?) makes for a fun and interactive experience every time. The brew bar serves up coffee brewed with a variety of methods. Chemex. V60 Drip. Clever. Syphon. You name it.
A finely prepared cup of coffee deserves to be savoured as thoughtfully as it was brewed. From the elegant Guatamala Antigua, to the floral and tea-like Ethiopia Yirgacheff, and to the bold and robust Sumatra Triple Pick, every cup has a story to behold.
A place where old friendships are reinforced and new ones forged, it’s addictive.
See you there sometime. xxxPapa Palheta 140 Bukit Timah Road | +65.9799.0420 Written by Jack.D Photography by Jack.D