SINGAPORE - The Singapore Coffee Festival 2017 opened to the public on Friday (Aug 4) at 10am at the Marina Bay Cruise Centre.
By 9.45am, a group of around 30 people were already waiting in line for the doors to open. By 3pm, slightly over 1,500 coffee lovers had turned up.
One of them was financial planner Vince Lim, 45, who was there with his wife. He said: "It's my first time here. I wanted to see what's on offer, what varieties of coffee there are."
The event, now in its second year, is organised by The Straits Times and presented by DBS Bank. It features more than 90 exhibitors, including coffee purveyors, equipment distributors and cafes, as well as workshops, talks and live entertainment. The festival opened on Thursday to trade and media.
Mr Xavier Teo, 40, founder of cafe Brawn & Brains, said the response to the products at his booth have been "great". His cafe is road-testing coffee beer and pourover coffee at the festival to see how customers will respond.
"It's our first time at the coffee festival. We wanted to push ourselves to do more things this year," said Mr Teo, who started the cafe in 2013. It now has two outlets. For his coffee beer, his house blend coffee beans were added to the beer during fermentation. It sells for $10 a pint.
One of the more popular exhibitors is the Shiseido Cafe.
The Japanese beauty company saw a continuous flow of visitors eager to sample its cheesecakes, cookies and other snacks, as well as make-up products.
A spokesman for the brand said its rose vinegar soda with vanilla ice cream, which sells for $6, has been specially created for the Singapore Coffee Festival. Festival visitors are also being given a sneak preview of eight new shades of lipstick that will be officially launched in September.
Also attracting crowds was first-time exhibitor Gryphon Tea Company, which launched its cold brewed sparkling tea at the festival at $7.50 each. Its executive director Lim Tian Wee, 48, said the turnout was "far better than I expected".
"It's Friday lunchtime and there's already a crowd. We're expecting the weekend to be crazy," he said.
Exhibitors and visitors who attended both this year's and last year's festivals praised the more spacious layout and greater variety of products on offer this time.
Common Man Coffee Roasters' co-owner Harry Grover, 36, said: "Last year our booth was more like a coffee kiosk. People would come just to grab a latte and go. This year, we're able to build a bigger booth showcasing more of what we do, such as our coffee roasting classes."
Comparing last year's festival with this year's, university student Alexis Sim, 24, said: "It's a lot better this year. It's more spacious and organised. Foodwise, there are more interesting choices, like chilli crab croissants and coffee pork chop bun."
The coffee was judged blind by a four-member panel of experts comprising head judge Lisa Matthews, Ms Marian Aguila, Mr Siraj Salim and Mr Terence Tan, using the standard cupping technique of spoon, slurp and spit.
"It's a good opportunity for people to compete... home brewers, professional baristas, it's open to everyone," said Ms Matthews. "People can gain experience (and) get better acquainted with the competition process."
Last year's winner Siraj already had a firm idea of what makes a good brew. "The winning cup will be complex - everything's there, the acidity, the mouthfeel, sweetness and finishing," he said.
The winner, who was announced at 10pm on Friday, will earn a trip to Seoul to compete in the World AeroPress Championship in November. The Singapore-leg of the competition (the Singapore heat) has been hosted by Common Man Coffee Roasters since 2014.
There was more to come later in the night, as the crowd was treated to an impressive fireworks display at 8.45pm at the DBS Sunrise Wharf.
"I came here for this because I'm not actually a coffee person," said wedding photographer Ethan Lai, 20, of the fireworks, which are sponsored by Mapletree Investments.
Another fireworks display will take place at the same time and place again on Saturday.
More than 2,000 people attended the festival on Friday as of 8.30pm.
The festival ends on Sunday. There are two sessions each day: brunch from 10am to 3.30pm, and sundown from 4.30pm to 10pm.
Housewife Cindy Tan, 50, who attended Friday's brunch session, said there was more than sufficient time to explore the various booths. "I think two hours is enough to see everything," she said.
Ms Fiona Chan, head of group strategy and analytics at Singapore Press Holdings, said: "The turnout has been better than expected - some people actually took leave to come for the festival on Friday - but we've been able to accommodate everyone very comfortably in the spacious venue. We are looking forward to more visitors over the weekend but we would encourage festivalgoers to buy their tickets online in advance in order to minimise their queueing time."
ST subscribers who flash their ST+ cards can get into the express queue for the festival. Those who download the SPH Rewards app from the App Store or Google Play can redeem a gift at the SPH Rewards booth on Level 2.
Those who subscribe to ST at the Singapore Coffee Festival stand a chance to win a prize on the spot. Lucky draw prizes include a Panasonic camera and an LG pocket printer.
Among the highlights for Friday's programme - the Annual Singapore AeroPress Championships at 6pm, and fireworks at 8.45pm at Sunrise Wharf.