It's raining. Finally. What a relief, after weeks of boiling hot and sticky weather. I was early for my next meeting, so I got myself a cup of local coffee at a local coffee shop, colloquially called a kopi tiam (literally coffee shop in local dialect). It's that kind of cheap brew that gives you a strong kick with a sharp aftertaste, but require much sugar and sweet milk to be palatable. In the past, people used to roast these cheap beans themselves in the back alleys of their shops, adding sugar to caramelise it as it roasted. Poor man's coffee is now a national institution, a staple of every middle class Singaporean. The copious amounts of sugar and milk had recently made me reconsider my daily affair with it. But I grew up on these beans, and I still enjoy them from time to time. Especially today. It's a perfect intermission, between appointments, set within a perfect theatre of life that is the Singapore heartlands. Sitting here at the local establishment, watching the rain fall, watching people coming and going, ears plugged into music aptly titled "Rain", it was bliss of the mundane, the ordinary. The elderly man at the next table waved at the staff, asking her to dry the plastic chairs. He sat down, staring out in space, waiting, like the rest of us, for the rain to abate. At the table in front of me, a middle-aged lady, hair drenched, just sat there, playing Candy Crush to pass time. Further out, an old lady came to someone at a table, thanked and returned him his umbrella, and walked off with her own. Presumably, she borrowed it from him, got home, got her own umbrella and came back to return his, so that he won't get wet in the rain. A brief moment of that elusive kampung spirit, that spirit of helping one another, looking out and caring for one another. A beautiful moment of humanity, as rain falls. I'd been too busy. I live for moments like this, but had been too busy to even have the opportunity. A stark reminder for me, now that my projects are winding down, that I too need to wind down, stop, chill and watch life happen as the rain fall, in slow motion.
A few hours later, meeting done, where to next? Let's go to this new cafe called Apartment Coffee. One of those with hipster vibe, 3rd wave coffee kind of place. Not too far from here. There's so many cafes here, in Lavendar Street, Jalan Besar area. This new one, is lovely. Fitted out like someone's minimalist home, you walk into a space of pure white. Airy, calm, spacious, and the lovely aroma of roasted beans the moment you enter. They do mostly drip coffee here it seems. Not my favourite, so I go for the flat white. It came in a heavy clay pottery cup, hand-made. Enjoyable, but the milk was a tad creamy, to the point it covered the taste notes of the beans. But the space... it was lovely to sit at the bar, and observe the baristas do their craft. Fascinating to see the mysterious chemistry that happens, to deliver a nice cuppa. A refined experience. A sublime experience.
So...... two coffees in a day, but couldn't be further apart in terms of the worlds they inhabited. One, a hyper local joint peppered with rain and scenes of daily life. The other, a nice luxurious little bubble of a new generation, construed as a place of coffee meditation.
Two coffees, worlds apart. In my city, Singapore.