Coffee Festival a big hit with 20,000 visitors

Visitors in line to enter Singapore Coffee Festival on Saturday (June 11).
Visitors in line to enter Singapore Coffee Festival on Saturday (June 11).ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
2015 World Latte Art champion Caleb Cha working his magic yesterday. Visitors could pay for their preferred latte art, and the money would be donated to the DaySpring Residential Treatment Centre which helps abused teenage girls.
2015 World Latte Art champion Caleb Cha working his magic yesterday. Visitors could pay for their preferred latte art, and the money would be donated to the DaySpring Residential Treatment Centre which helps abused teenage girls.PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Turnout at four-day event featuring over 100 cafes and retailers exceeds expectations

About 20,000 coffee lovers turned out for the inaugural Singapore Coffee Festival, a four-day event which ended yesterday.

This featured over 100 cafes, speciality brewers, coffee roasters, restaurants and fashion retailers across two floors of the F1 Pit Building.

Ms Goh Wee Wang, general manager (consumer) of Sphere Exhibits, the Singapore Press Holdings subsidiary which organised the event, said the turnout exceeded all expectations. "It was heartening to see such enthusiasm to support the Singaporean coffee scene. I believe we've achieved what we set out to do and delivered an authentic experience," she said of the event, which was presented by DBS and hosted by The Straits Times.

 

The festival, which was open to trade visitors on Thursday, and then to the public from Friday to yesterday, attracted a diverse crowd, from coffee industry players to hipsters, coffee enthusiasts and families.

Ms Zenn Soon, 33, manager and roaster at Strangers' Reunion cafe, was also pleased by the response.

"I'm surprised that the turnout was so amazing. I didn't expect so many people to be interested in a coffee festival, but then again, there were also food and beer and shops. There was something for everyone," she said.

2015 World Latte Art champion Caleb Cha working his magic yesterday. Visitors could pay for their preferred latte art, and the money would be donated to the DaySpring Residential Treatment Centre which helps abused teenage girls.
2015 World Latte Art champion Caleb Cha working his magic yesterday. Visitors could pay for their preferred latte art, and the money would be donated to the DaySpring Residential Treatment Centre which helps abused teenage girls. PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Over 10,000 people attended the festival on Saturday alone, prompting organisers to halt ticket sales at the door that afternoon and all of Sunday, to manage the crowds.

Around 5,000 people attended the festival yesterday, which made it easier for visitors to move around.

"The atmosphere was great, really vibrant, and it was fun to see everyone trying coffee and talking to the experts about coffee," said Ms Tammy Kuan, a housewife in her 40s who was at the festival with her husband and daughter yesterday.

Fewer people meant fewer queues, allowing visitors to stop by more cafes, brewers and food vendors throughout the day. Many stalls had sold out by yesterday afternoon.

Hungry Heroes, a pop-up cafe selling speciality burgers, mashed potatoes and fries, ran out of food by 6pm on Saturday, and by 4pm yesterday, despite restocking supplies multiple times.

"Our burgers have been really popular, and everything is made fresh. If we had known there would be so many people, we would have brought food which takes a shorter time to prepare," said Mr Z. Q. Loh, 31, head of Hungry Heroes' marketing.

A watermelon cake by local bakery Cream & Custard was a festival hit. Over 1,000 slices of the cake were sold, at $8 per slice.

Cold-brewed coffee - coffee brewed for 12 to 24 hours in cold water to release a smoother, less astringent flavour - was another festival favourite. Cafe Chye Seng Huat Hardware sold out its cold brew early yesterday afternoon, while Made Cold ran out of its entire stock of cold-brewed coffee by Saturday afternoon.

Coffee workshops, tasting sessions and discussions received strong attendance throughout the festival. Hands-on workshops by local cafe Common Man Coffee Roasters at its cmcr lab were especially popular, and were fully booked within two days.

Five Senses Coffee's Mr Jacob Ibarra holding the crowd's attention during a workshop at the Singapore Coffee Festival, which drew over 4,000 visitors yesterday.

Still, festival-goers queued to enter the viewing gallery for the workshops, where they could watch Common Man Coffee Roasters baristas teach classes on fundamental barista skills, latte art and other topics.

Mr Matthew McLauchlan, 29, general manager of Common Man Coffee Roasters, attributes the popularity of the festival and workshops to the strength of Singapore's coffee culture.

"Singapore as a coffee microcosm is fairly unique. It's looking to cities like Melbourne as a coffee market to emulate, while also drawing from its own rich local coffee culture, which is a natural starting point and makes coffee so accessible," he said.

Discussions about supporting sustainable coffee growth, workshops pairing coffee and chocolate, and latte art demonstrations by 2015 World Latte Art Champion Caleb Cha, which were held at the #LiveBettr Lab by Bettr Barista Coffee Academy and DBS, were also well attended.

Said Straits Times Editor Warren Fernandez: "We hosted this festival as we wanted to connect with a younger audience on a subject that is of interest to them. We're glad so many people came, and most seemed to have a good time."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 13, 2016, with the headline 'Coffee Festival a big hit with 20,000 visitors'. Print Edition | Subscribe