Saturday, 3 March 2012

40 Hands - Singapore

In this fortnight blog, let's start off with the concept of "destination based coffee". This is a term mentioned by 40 Hands owner during our interview. So what does it mean by destination based coffee? We saw this concept applied before in Cafe Creasion case. What it meant is that the cafe is open in a location that would have been labelled as unsuitable for a cafe. It also required their customers to make a trip to the cafe which is technically considered as "inconvenient".

So why is 40 Hands an example of destination based coffee?

Firstly, let's have a look at the profile of Tiong Bahru that 40 Hands is situated in. Tiong Bahru is a name that is made up of 2 words from 2 different languages. Tiong refers to tomb in Chinese Hokkien dialect and Bahru means new in Malay. The reason why it is named "Tomb New" is because the suburb contained a burial ground for the Cantonese and Hakka communities which was exhumed for the building of the new estates in 1930s.

During the early years, Tiong Bahru was a suburb for the upper class and it was also known as den of beauties "mei ren wo" because this is where rich men's mistresses are housed. Other beauties that were also living in the area include the nightclub singers and hostesses that worked in the nearby Keong Saik red-light district and Great World Cabaret.

Tiong Bahru is not just all about the ladies and the upper class. It is also known for its tradition. Have a look at one of the old shops that is along side the contemporary stores that are popping up on the street such as Bhutan and BooksActually.

There is also the Qi Tian Gong that is dedicated to the Monkey God which celebrate annually on the 16th day of the 1st and 8th Lunar months.

Tiong Bahru also feature one of the oldest housing estates in Singapore, in fact it is Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT, Housing Development Board predecessor) first public housing project. There are about 30 blocks of apartment that are built before World War II (pre 1942). These apartments are also known as "puay kee chu" or aeroplane houses in Chinese Hokkien due to its architecture resemblance to Kallang Airport Control Tower. 


Now have a look at the new public apartments that are built right next to it.

Because of its unique historical significance, Tiong Bahru 30 apartment blocks were granted heritage status and are reserved for conservation. Judging from the information on URA government site, if you were to purchase an apartment in the list, there are alot of DOs and DON'Ts when it comes to renovation time.

Finally another thing that is unique to Tiong Bahru is the naming of the estates, they are named after prominent chinese pioneers. For a list of all the remarkable people that Singapore named the street after. Check this blog Remember Singapore.

Now why is it destination based coffee? That is because the concept of a "western" cafe opening up in a traditional suburb such as Tiong Bahru seems conflicting. So why did the owner choose to build his cafe in Tiong Bahru? Read on to find out!

Cafe Name: 40 Hands

Owner name: Harry Grover

What's the idea behind the cafe name?
The cafe is called 40 hands because this is to illustrate the intensive amount of labor that is required in the making of coffee. The figure 40 is to tell us that is how many pair of hands that a coffee potentially has to go through from soil to cup. 

Coffee beans: 40 hands blend from Five Senses

Why this location?
Visited brother who was an expatriate staying around Tiong Bahru area and was craving for a good cup of coffee but failed to find one of liking. Harry who was originally from Perth, Australia, is used to the ease of access to espresso based cafes back home but found this is not the case in Singapore. Talking to other expatriates, he soon found out that they also indicated a similar craving for espresso type coffee. 

With his passion for coffee, he decided to open a cafe in Tiong Bahru. One was to serve the expatriate community living in Singapore and secondly is to introduce the cafe culture into Singapore. Working with Spa Esprit group, the cafe was born in October 2010. 

It was a coincidence that the shop 40 Hands is in, used to be a warehouse for coffee beans. I suppose this is what some of us call fate. 

Let me now show you why it is so destination based!
Block 78 Yong Siak Street
#01-12 Tiong Bahru

Monday - Closed
Tuesday - 0830 to 1830
Wed/Thurs - 0830 to 2200
Fri/Sat - 0830 to 2300
Sun - 0830 to 1830

If you are walking from the train station towards the cafe. First you will cut across a field then this is the path you will come up from.

If you are coming from the opposite direction, this is the path

To tell you the truth, I walked past the cafe when I was walking on the other side of the road and this is why.
There isn't a big signage or a shop front that is atypical of an Australian's cafe. Neither is it cluster with other cafes. It is tucked away in a corner, so if you are driving, go slow or you will miss it. However don't go too slow, because you might get honked!

What do you like working in a cafe?
Stoked to see the cafe full and buzzing. Passion for coffee and would like to share this passion with others.
Love turning concept into reality, which meant a lot of trialing of ideas in the cafe. 

The latest trial is the combination of coffee and beer. Pairing up with Archipelago brewery, a new locally brewed beer is born. It is available for a limited time only. So for those in Singapore or visiting Singapore, try it before you miss it. 
More information available here. 40 Hands Beer

What are your plan for the future?
Open up another cafe but more coffee focused and cater to the working class followers in the city. 

What is your favourite coffee?
Double shot macchiato 

While we were there...
Harry also introduced us to the cold drip (black coffee)
Is intensive and is great for those that like to enjoy espresso cold, which was perfect for a Singapore weather!
Not recommended for those that need to drink their coffee with sugar though. 

Also while we were there, we had the following
Double ristretto piccolo latte

Cappuccino with bean paste bun

Cappuccino Price Index: SGD $5
You might also be interested to know, the beans are all flown in from Perth and are used in 11 days to maintain freshness. 

One of the corner of the cafe - and I named it the Ninja Bean!

Now can you imagine yourself in the seat enjoying the cold drip coffee away from the Singapore heat!
That's all from me for this fortnight. See ya next fortnight. 

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