Culture

Thousands of caffeine-lovers head over to the Singapore Coffee Festival

Crowds of people joined in on the fun at the Marina Bay Cruise Centre this year at Singapore’s one-and-only largest coffee festival.

Observer+ Photo: Ariel So

Approximately 20,000 people visited the second-annual Singapore Coffee Festival this week from Thursday to Sunday (August 3-6) at the Marina Bay Cruise Centre.

Coffee-enthusiasts filled the entire scene, excited to get their hands on some coffee sampling. The four-day event was organized by The Straits Times and presented by the DBS Bank.

“Coffee Addict? KopiPass.” Observer+ Photo: Ariel So

According to the event page, there was a total of more than 100 exhibitors including coffee vendors, equipment distributors and cafes – along with numerous talks, workshops, and live local music performances.

The coffee festival featured local expertise in speciality coffee as well as Singapore’s both well-loved and rich kopi heritage. Coffee-related items for purchase included a variety mix of brewed drinks, beans, machines, and other gadgets.

Venue of the Singapore Coffee Festival. Observer+ Photo: Ariel So

Although last year’s event was held at the F1 Pit Building, this year’s visitors met with surprise to discover the festival with a more spacious layout of 11,500 square meters, spread across two floors onlooking a waterfront view.

Sunrise Desk overlooking waterfront view. Observer+ Photo: Ariel So

Even Warren Fernandez, Straits Times editor and editor-in-chief of Singapore Press Holdings’ English/Malay/Tamil Media group, said he received mostly positive comments from people about the event improvements, according to The Straits Times.

“It has been a great weekend, filled with some good coffee, food, music and conversation for all. We promised that this year’s event would be bigger and better, and most people I met agreed it was. So, all in [all], a good outcome for us at The Straits Times, and every reason for us to look forward to next year.”

Warren Fernandez, Straits Times editor and editor-in-chief of Singapore Press Holdings’ English/ Malay/Tamil Media group

Meet-and-greets with well-known guests

Event-goers swarmed around the Straits Times Lounge to listen to a range of talks highlighting notable social enterprise founders, corporate executives, and entrepreneurs – including DBS regional head of group research Timothy Wong and Singtel Consumer Singapore chief executive Yuen Kuan Moon.

Straits Times Lounge. Observer+ Photo: Ariel So

The festival featured two of the Straits Times’ highly-renowned columnists, Sumiko Tan and Ignatius Low, authors of the newly-published books, respectively Sundays with Sumiko and Life Is A Mixtape.

Other meet-and-greets consisted of a lunchtime talk and book signing by Eisner award-winning graphic novelist Sonny Liew and dining sessions hosted by Straits times Life Editor and veteran food critic Tan Hsueh Yun.

Diners had the chance to partake in Yun’s eight-course dinner. Yun’s cookbook Hunger Management sold out at the Straits Times Press booth on Sunday (August 6), according to The Straits Times.

Food critic Wong Ah Yoke and ST Deputy Managing Editor Fiona Chan at last year’s askST session of the Singapore Coffee Festival. The Straits Times Photo: Tiffany Goh. Taken on June 12, 2016

Music, fireworks, and Barter Market

On both Friday and Saturday (August 4-5), live music and fireworks were displayed at the Sunrise Wharf, where the Common Man Coffee Roasters determined their top three coffee brewers at the 2017 Singapore AeroPress Championship.

An artist both singing and performing live music at the Sunrise Wharf on Saturday, August 5, 2017. Observer+ Photo: Ariel So

A Barter Market was held over two sessions on Saturday (August 5), allowing people to trade anything but cash with talented artists for their work. These artworks included calligraphy, photography, poetry, cartoon prints, and handwritten postcards.

One of the calligraphy trades at the Barter Market. Observer+ Photo: Ariel So

Artwork of an artist offering to draw others “AS A CUP OF COFFEE” at the Barter Market on Saturday (August 5). Observer+ Photo: Ariel So

Rather than placing price tags on their products, artists could offer various commodities in exchange for other items, such as a personalized drawing, funny jokes, coffee, hugs, and/or even handshakes.

In particular, photographer Axel Serik, 26, from Montreal and living in Singapore, offered to trade his astonishing photos for “artwork, photos, food, alcohol, powerful jokes, interesting objects, [and] cat treats.”

Photographer Axel Serik posing with one of his photos and chalkboards at the Barter Market. Observer+ Photo: Ariel so

Having been part of the Barter Market for the past three years, Serik commented on how this year’s market was “bigger” and “more interesting” because it was part of the coffee festival.

Serik allowed people to listen to his “soundscapes” – music that he created himself from combining acoustics with natural sounds from the surrounding environment, such as from his “kitchen.”

Axel Serik offered previews of his soundscapes. Observer+ Photo: Ariel So

One of the more interesting but perhaps mind-blowing materials Serik used for his soundscapes consisted of “peeing” in order to create “water droplet” sounds. Just from a simple listen, a person probably would have never guessed.

However, Serik has received countless of praise from listeners at the Barter Market. He hopes to get his soundscapes officially released by the end of this year.

As for photography, Serik said he aims to inspire other people through his photos in order to bring attention to things that most people ignore – such as the old man he once took a photo of but whom no one else bothered to look at.

Axel Serik’s photograph of an old man sitting on the floor. Observer+ Photo: Ariel So

“Most of the [photos] I take are [of things] that normal people avoid.”

– Axel Serik, 26, Photographer

Serik added that he wanted to encourage others to take up an interest, rather simply “hang around” like he used to, before photography became his profession.

Other artists, such as Singaporean poet Jedidiah Huang, 22, expressed similar sentiments about hoping to inspire others. Huang exchanged a poem with every person willing to trade in a self-made item.

Local poet Jedidiah Huang, 22, typing up poems for people, next to his chalkboard titled “The Poetry Machine”. Observer+ Photo: Ariel So

“Because the whole point of me writing poetry for people, right? There’s this idea that poetry is [an] exclusive activity. Like you’ve got to be part of some elite class [or that you must] have talent, but I want to break down that conception. I think anyone can enjoy poetry. I think anyone can read poetry.”

– Jedidiah Huang, 22, Singaporean poet

After a full six hours of writing poetry, Huang shared how joyful he was to receive various presents, ranging from handwritten cards, tissue-folded roses, drawings, calligraphy, and even a printing silkscreen.

He said his favorite gifts were actually ones from people who thought they “didn’t have anything to give, but after a bit of encouragement, decided to try.. decided to write a poem.. decided to draw something.”

Coffee-Brewing / Tasting

Over at the Zone Espresso, coffee purveyors set up their own booths, with vendors ranging from cold brew expert Lorgan & Sons, cold drip master Boyle’s Coffee, to worldwide pioneer in premium portioned coffee Nespresso.

Two staff members from one of the coffee vendors at the event on Saturday (August 5). Observer+ Photo: Ariel So

Working for three days straight, Nespresso barista Terence Pang, 22, from Singapore, commented on how eager people were to learn about coffee, as they partook in latte art workshops and coffee machine tutorials.

“Actually, a lot of people are interested in learning. Because the people who come to this coffee fest, right? They all have minimum [or] at least very good knowledge about coffee. They have actually reached the minimum skills required to acquire latte art. Some people actually make the art better than [I do].”

– Terence Pang, 22, Nespresso barista

Pang has been a barista for already approximately a year. Able to teach latte art and equipment-use to more than 30 people per day at the Singapore Coffee Festival, Pang said that he enjoyed serving people coffee because he could “brush off” his skills at the same time.

Although Pang admitted that working for the whole event was “quite tiring,” he said that the festival was a “worthwhile experience” because he had the chance to interact with people who both loved and appreciated coffee.

Pang added that visitors were actually familiar with coffee brewing and tasting terms. People often knew what they were drinking, using words such as “whiny,” “fruity,” and “floral,” instead of simply “bitter” or “sour,” he said.

Workshops on coffee sustainability, food, and cafes

Other coffee-related “Lab Sessions” were programmes teaching people about the latest equipment on the market, coffee sustainability, consumer satisfaction, and tips on how to turn a coffee cafe into a chain store, self-curate flat whites, and/or make coffee cocktails.

Event-goers could also learn about organic coffee, sustainably sourced chocolate, healthy snacks, and all-natural skincare products at the DBS Bank’s lounge of The Good Market, presented by Asia for Good by DBS Foundation.

The diverse array of cafes and restaurants at the festival included The Coffee Academics, Antoinette, Hyde & Co., Pulse Patisserie, Ninja Bowl, The Pourover Bar, Abbie’s Coffeehouse, and Butterknife Folk.

An event-goer holding a cone of colorful ice-cream from one of the cafes on Saturday (August 5). Observer+ Photo: Ariel So

There was even a creative “local Kopi center,” designed as a modern take on the local kopitiam, allowing people to enjoy kaya toast, kopi-o, and other treats from Ya Kun Kaya Toast.

Local Kopi center filled with children and family at the Singapore Coffee Festival. Observer+ Photo: Ariel So

Visitors’ Satisfaction

Many visitors spoke highly of the event, saying that their experiences were definitely worth it.

When asked about what their favorite part of the festival was, both event-goers Chelsea Fuchs, 20, and Peter-Jan Kwek, 21, from Singapore, immediately responded with the word: “coffee.”

Kwek had read about the festival through The Straits Times newspaper, but both him and Fuchs were amazed to find such a tremendous crowd on Saturday evening.

After having a total of four and five cups respectively, the two of them both described the “Nitro Brew” as their “favorite” cup of coffee. Fuchs, considering herself a “coffee-addict,” explained why she loved coffee.

“[Coffee] is nice. Painfully acidic. [Drinking coffee] is a good feeling, almost masochistic.”

– Chelsea Fuchs, 20, Visitor of the Singapore Coffee Festival

The only thing was that both Fuchs and Kwek wished they had the option to purchase sample sizes for coffee, as Fuchs noted that “buying a full cup” was already more than fulfilling.

Nonetheless, content with their coffee-sampling experiences, both Fuchs and Kwek agreed that they would be happy to return to next year’s Singapore Coffee Festival.

Singaporean event-goer Zeke Wong, 20, with a goodie bag that each visitor received from the festival. Observer+ Photo: Ariel So

Live graffiti left by visitors on Saturday (August 5). Observer+ Photo: Ariel So

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