What’s in a cup of coffee?

Ya Kun Kaya Toast — Kopi Upsize

I am not writing on the ingredients that make up this cup of Nanyang-style coffee. Instead, I am writing on something else that many of us might not notice. These are what I saw and felt.

This cup of coffee cost me SGD2.50, and I can get this in Chinatown Market for SGD1.20. However, some people do not mind paying double the price for this. Why is this so? What makes people go back again and again? I feel that it is the experience they are offering, and it’s a feeling that we can’t tag a tangible value to it.

The People

You can find local Singaporean elderly working in most of their outlets.

While they ought to be enjoying their senior years instead of working, they might need to work due to different circumstances. So it is excellent for the company to employ them and give them the dignity to have a decent job and earn their living. These team members also give us the familiar local feel that we have our meals in a “Uniquely Singapore” place.

Lastly, patrons to their outlets are helping to keep the business alive and continue to keep the employment going.

The Experience

“Kopi Siew Dai”, “Ta Kiu”, “Kopi Kosong”, and other familiar terms can be used in these traditional coffee joints. These are something that has been with us since our childhood, where the younger generation might not know. But, besides the terminology, what makes the difference is the people inside.

Most of the team members are very courteous when they are serving us. The familiar language and warmth that has been with us since we are young differentiate these joints from the other international brands. But, of course, there will be people who are always in a lousy mood and grumbling, which is also something that we have been familiar with since young.

The Drink

I learned from a coffee roaster that our regular Nanyang-style coffee is over-roasted. This is different from those beans that we drink in boutique coffee or international brands such as Starbucks or Coffee Bean. The way traditional joints prepare the coffee is other where they use socks instead of complex coffee machines with fanciful titles.

I am more fond of traditional coffee than the modern way of making coffee. I like the condensed milk compared to the foamed milk and the creative design made by those foams.

What’s in the Cup?

Looking beyond the SGD2.50 for a coffee cup, I see how we are spending to keep local traditions alive. We are also helping them keep the people in a job and earn decent pay for their daily living. Lastly, the workplace is also a place where they can interact with each other and keep each other “entertained”, taking care of each other.

Not limited to these traditional coffee joints, some of the drink stalls in the market are also giving us such experiences. It is the main reason why we go back to them consistently.



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Sunny Tan HC

Sunny Tan HC

Continuous Improvement | CX | DX | Ex- Technoprenuer | Project Manager | Vacathoner | Medium Writer