SINGAPORE, Oct 25 — What would wake you up in the morning? Many city folks cannot achieve full consciousness in the AM without a cup of strong coffee while those in the countryside may swear by the hearty, pre-dawn crow of a rooster.
Singaporeans can a dose of both at Old Hen Coffee Bar (after a fashion, since it’s the rooster’s mate that is referenced here rather than the cockerel himself).
Located at the quieter end of Farrer Park, the café is a labour of love by three Lim siblings — twins Ivan and Terry, and younger brother Mason.
The name of the café, of course, is instantly memorable and guaranteed to make you smile, though there’s no mysterious story behind the name. The brothers were trained at a barista school in Bangkok, and are emblematic of the new wave of young Singaporean entrepreneurs eager to create their own livelihood outside the typical 9-to-5 corporate career.
Old Hen Coffee occupies a tiny space on the ground floor of Rangoon 88, a five-storey SoHo building along Rangoon Road. Tiny but cosy, as you will discover upon entering the café. The décor is minimalist, with plenty of wood, metal and concrete.
Standing fan propellers and frames are disassembled and reincarnated as ceiling lights. Dried flowers in milk cans add to the serene ambience. The best place to people watch is by the large glass windows; sit on a stool or simply stand by the window bar — the idea is to make yourself at home.
The Lim brothers offer a specialty coffee menu comprising both espresso and filter coffees. Beans come from a variety of local and international roasters. During our visit, we had a flat white made from beans by Singaporean roaster Nylon Coffee and a brewed Kenya using beans from UK-based Workshop Coffee Co. Other featured beans from foreign roasters include an Ethiopian Biftu Gudina Co-op from celebrated Fuglen Tokyo.
Yet it’s hard not to notice almost everyone nursing their signature cold brew in dark glass bottles. These come in both black and white; the former is clean and refreshing, the latter is creamy without being cloying. There’s no better relief or thirst quencher on a hot tropical day in Singapore, really.
Cold brews tend to have a clearer taste profile due to reduced acidity, making these chilled coffees easy to drink. For those who are kept awake at night by late consumption of coffee, the lower level of caffeine in cold brews is a boon.
Non-coffee drinkers may enjoy Valrhona Dark Cocoa, Old Hen Coffee’s chocolate cold brew. Every sip is delicious and velvety. Tea lovers can try the Earl Grey Cucumber (a classic black tea blend with oils of bergamot and eucalyptus) or the Nymph of the Nile (organic white peony tea with Persian pink rose and Egyptian basil).
For a small place that is famed for their cold brew coffee, Old Hen Coffee has a more than decent food menu. From savoury (cheesy chicken burrito, sandwiches and wraps) to sweet (buttermilk waffles, red velvet cake, and their signature popcorn panna cotta — a whimsical concoction of vanilla pudding layered with chocolate sauce and topped with salted caramel popcorn), it’s easy to grab a bite that more than satisfies.
The cakes are from Kreme Couture Bakery while hot treats are made fresh in their kitchen. Your only problem may be deciding what to order. When there are only crumbs left on your plate, you know it’s time for another cold brew to wash it all down.
It’s hard not to notice a framed print on the wall. The print declares “Less is More” and that may well be the steering philosophy behind Old Hen Coffee. The café may not be large but it does more with its space, and offers more pleasure, than many other larger coffee shop chains. One thing is for sure: Old Hen Coffee will leave customers “clucking” for more. Another cold brew, anyone?
Old Hen Coffee Bar
88 Rangoon Road, Singapore 218374
Open Mon & Wed-Fri 12pm-10pm; Sat 10am-6:30pm; Sun 10am-10pm; Tue closed