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Sunday, 17 August 2014

Coffee Workshop / Tasting at Tiong Hoe Specialty Coffee (OpenRice event)

171 Stirling Road #01-1133 Singapore 140170
Tel: 6473 1133

Tiong Hoe Coffee has been around since the 1960s, and is a specialty coffee retail store providing freshly roasted coffee and green coffee beans for wholesale and home roasters alike. It has begun its very new cafe concept, done up completely with rustic furnishing edging towards the vintage Oriental side - think, white marble tabletops like those you were most likely to find in coffeeshops of the past.

For now, they serve aromatic and traditional freshly-brew coffee that comes with no price tags - you simply tip them for the delicious brew! They don't serve food currently but rest assured that plans to do so are definitely underway.

If you are looking to buy home some quality coffee beans, drip coffee makers and drips etc, they have a good assortment of each here on sale as well - making it possible for home roasters to enjoy quality coffee in the comfort of their homes as well.

Today, I am honored to be one of the invited ones here for the Coffee Workshop / Tasting session and the opportunity to meet other fellow Openricers.

The interior of Tiong Hoe Speciality Coffee Store / Cafe is a gorgeous treasure troves - of traditional coffee roasters and other ornaments (some of them are actually in good working order!)

Just like this coffee roaster on display here.

Or how about these mysterious beauties nestled near the front door?

Some flasks, pots and coffee-makers perched on overhead racks, adorning the chic, clean-cut decor of the store / cafe.

And a couple of Chinese paintings that actually brings one back in time, back to the days of traditional good old coffee, hand-brewed. No wonder one of us commented that this place looks more like a coffee museum!

You get instructions on how to grind your coffee right. And oh the gurney sacks?  They are exactly how the coffee powder are being delivered (one doesn't expect to see these lying around these days - with air-sealed bags and cardboard crates etc).

Thought these mugs dangling in the air were cute...

A chart on world coffee. The people here know their coffee, mind you! 50 years of roasting high quality and succeeding the heritage + legacy!

From 11.00am to 1.00pm, the store / cafe was closed so that we could indulge in a coffee appreciation session, conducted by the knowledgeable Juliana, our host for the day.

We were first shown a coffee wheel / chart denoting the wide range of notes one might discover in their coffee, for instance, floral, fruity, nutty or garlic etc. We never knew there was such an extensive list!

Next, we were asked to nibble on some dried fruits - level of acidity beginning from apple to orange to lime and lastly, lemon. These were to prepare us for the levels of acidity we may taste in some of the coffee later on. I began with the lemon - wrong move *grimaces*

First she explained to us the difference in coffee beans, and how some beans change over the years as they age. Like wine? Unlike wine though, coffee has 1000+ flavors / notes whereas wines have around 100+  Not easy to be a coffee connoisseur, I see.

She chose some Nicaraguan green coffee beans to demostrate roasting for us to see.

So now we watch this old-fashioned looking machine come to life, as Joanne filled it with coffee beans.

After the necessary adjustments, we began to smell a very aromatic and rich chocolatey smell filling the entire shop / cafe up.

The beans expanded as water was being drained from it during the roasting process. A luscious  burnt sugar smell now replaced the chocolatey fragrance. See the moisture causing the holder to have wet, sticky clumps along the side? We watched the steam rising up into the air and heard crackling sounds as the beans popped.

The entire process took less than 30 minutes, and now we had brown roasted beans. Then the beans were left to cool / rest.

Now Juliana takes us through the brewing process. We were informed that the skills and styles of each individual barista do cause differentiation of taste of the same beans brewed into coffee.

The selected coffee beans were poured into the drips filters carefully.

Then Juliana patiently explained each step of the art of hand brewing one's coffee, and a little insight into the beans she was currently brewing for us.

Hot water was now being added in a slow, circular motion. Juliana mentioned that hot, boiling water was not necessary - around 85 degrees ought to do the job. She did the same procedure for three different types of coffee beans - details mentioned in below section under "Coffee Tasting".

Now Juliana gives way to our fellow Openricer, *M, to have a shot at coffee brewing. Nervous at first but a very fast learner, *M demonstrated to us that it was rather simple to make a cup of good coffee.

It was time for us to have a taste of the aromatic brew assaulting our nostrils the entire day, tempting us but unattainable - until now.

Juliana poured freshly hand-brewed coffee into lovely shot glasses for us to have sips.

Eager to sip, we were able to restrain ourselves enough to snap photos of the color of this first brew - a cup made of Congo coffee beans. The taste was strong, with fruity notes (especially domineering was that of plums' sour and slightly savoury-sweet hints), and leaving a rather acidic aftertaste.

The next cup was of Ethiopia beans - with floral and nutty notes in its lighter, less acidic flavor. One could see that the coloring was lighter as well.

Juliana had us trying to describe the different notes we tasted in each cup without referring to the notes, but none of us were able to detect all the notes accurately (all being non-avid coffee drinkers yet). It was interesting.

Next up, we tried the Indian monsooned beans - a very "coffee" flavored coffee, with slight hints of spicy / smokiness, and a rather meaningful story behind its name.

In my excitement to taste the Nicaragua beans (the same ones that Juliana used to demonstrate roasting), I did not manage to take photos. Anyway, the color and flavor were noticeably lighter, with distinctive floral notes in them.

Last but not least, after all the exotic dark coffee, we were treated to a cup of creamy, rich Piccolo Latte that still managed to convey quality beans in the milky concoction and pretty latte art.

Tiong Hoe is definitely every coffee lover's dream come true - come on down for high quality coffee beans with many varieties available to suit every different individual's preference. They are also a one-stop supplies store for all coffee lovers.

Finally, some very lovely parting gifts of Gachala coffee beans - I couldn't wait to try them at home.

Thank you Tiong Hoe and Juliana for the very lovely beverages, enriching us with coffee knowledge, and thank you Openrice for the invite!

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