Staff efficiency, hip music, tempting varietals served in eye-catching porcelain: no box goes unticked at ION’s irreproachable market leader. But what really clinches its top spot is the unsurpassed level of customer comfort. Whether you’re sprawling on a sofa, perching on a pouffe, plugged in to their Wi-Fi or perusing their well-stocked library with a frothy cappu gem, an appointment with the Dr amounts to the total coffee experience. DCC is a temple to this hallowed drink, its broad-based appeal drawing in fanatical followers and floating voters alike: come show your devotion. Daily 10am-10pm. I12 Katong #01-02, 112 East Coast Rd (6604 9913).
Though genial manager Leon Foo is keen to emphasise this is a select bean retailer first and tasting spot second, he’s gone to some lengths to generate a seriously comfy ambience at Papa’s oddly located bolthole. Let an armchair swallow you up, gazing fondly at the old-school radios and period furniture as you sample a South American speciality brew, and chat with the delightful staff who donate part of the proceeds from every sale to charity. If you look up ‘labour of love’ in the dictionary, it now reads ‘Papa Palheta’. Closed for roasting on Mondays. Tue-Fri 9am-7.30pm; Sat 9am-9pm; Sun, public holidays 9am-7.30pm. 140 Bukit Timah Rd, Hooper Rd entrance, behind Shell petrol station (9799 0420, www.papapalheta.com).
There’s a distinctly European flavour to Phil and Cedric Ho’s Outram Park shophouse empire – consciously or not, they’ve re-created the aura of a Parisian café despite the Caledonian name. While pioneering the dual role of coffee house as integrated educational facility, they don’t blind you with their science; instead for six years Highlander has served up a full-bodied blend via built-to-last imported machines. Nice-price sandwiches and snacks, muted radio tunes, well-stacked magazine rack and smiley baristas seal that endearingly casual, continental vibe. On a gaudy roadside terrace rammed with massage parlours and KTV bars, a chilled-out coffee bar of this quality is the last thing you expect to find. Mon-Sat 9am-6pm (closed public holidays). 49 Kampong Bahru Rd (6226 1686, www.highlandercoffee.com). MRT: Outram Park.
Charismatic former publisher and friend of TOS Keith Loh is a man who knows his coffee: his victory at February’s National Barista Championship should be all the proof you need. The affable entrepreneur has pulled out all the stops with his Orchard roasting boutique – named after a tropical songbird, it’s designed to get coffee aficionados ‘tweeting’, a theme that extends to the nest-like lighting. Oriole might not flaunt the slumber-down cosiness of Dr Café or the surprise factor of Papa Palheta, but its aura of polished professionalism – complete with Ella, a roaster named after curvaceous chef Nigella Lawson – is all-pervasive. Here’s a café that pulls off a tricky balance: stylish and sophisticated, yet far from elitist. The coffee, needless to say, is amazing. Mon-Sat 11am-11pm; Sun 10.30am-11pm. 6 Somerset Rd, #01-01, Pan-Pacific Serviced Suites (6238 8348, www.oriole.com.sg).
We heard this loveable Aussie franchise was called ‘Dimbu’, after a little-known Aboriginal language, until the Government requested they add a ‘lah’ to make it more Singaporean. Okay, that might be an urban myth, but what we do know is that the cappuccino at Dimbulah’s banker-magnet holds its own with the very best in town: a deep, dark, seductively sweet Queensland arabica brew that, in their words, makes a ‘kickass coffee beyond compare’. And who are we to disagree? As city-centre cafés go, their fabulous staff, divine wraps and baguettes, and tempting choc morsels ensure that Dimbulah rules the roast at lunchtime. City branch: Mon-Fri 7.15am-7pm. #01-31 Chevron House, 30 Raffles Place (6235 6107, www.dimbulah.com). MRT: Raffles Place.
Not avowedly a coffee shop, this one – it’s a tiny riverside eatery right next to Pulau Saigon Bridge – but if you can find a more sympathetic locale to sweat out your Sunday-morning hangover over breakfast, we haven’t seen it yet. The well-intentioned, rather scatty service can frustrate, but your patience is rewarded by a cappuccino that’s as rich, classy and immaculately presented as the local residents. Well, some of them. Daily 7am-7pm. 7 Rodyk St, #01-33 Watermark @ Robertson Quay (6341 9407; email email@example.com/sg). MRT: Clarke Quay, then a 10-minute walk.
These days startup cafés can’t just serve a delicious ‘cuppa’; they need to be a ‘F&B consultancy’ and coffee academy, too. It’s all very well coming third in the National Barista Championship, but if your joint’s got all the atmosphere of a recently renovated funeral parlour, and insists on blasting out both freezing air-con and Bon Jovi, we’ll head up to Ann Siang, thanks (see below). Nearby outlets may provide a happier, creamier ending, but we can’t fault their presentation – at this pan-Asian franchise your lovingly leaf-topped cappu gets served up in an angular, eminently photographable cup. Mon-Sat 9am-6pm. Temple St (6897 2822, www.cuppachoice.com). MRT: Chinatown.
Pretentious, moi?! Here’s an idea that will either baffle you or blow you away: a photo gallery-cum-café offering an ideal spot for eyeing up the beautiful young things of Club Street bistro-world. The location and staff are beyond reproach, and the cappu a serviceable post-prandial fix, but the reading material – comprising nothing but photographic magazines – won’t appeal to the unconverted. Time will tell whether shots has a shelf life in this most coveted of postcodes, but for now its scrupulously punctuated, quirkily conceptual charm is drawing in the snap-happy caffeine fiends. Mon-Thu & Sun 8am-11pm; Fri & Sat 8am-2am. 8A Ann Siang Hill (6224 8502, www.shots.com.sg). MRT: Chinatown.
A typically Singaporean level of customer attention awaits you at Kampong Glam’s contender, where you might find yourself greeted effusively by up to five wait-staff before getting to sup your frothy solace. But while cappu quality rarely rises above the whipped-up and workaday, the magazine selection and atmospheric setting opposite the Gotham City-esque Parkview Square should ensure you get your kicks regardless. Sun-Thu, public holidays 11am-11pm; Fri, Sat & eve of public holiday 11am-1am. 17 Bali Ln (6392 2263, www.thecoffeenations.com.sg). MRT: Bugis.