The historical Jalan Besar neighbourhood is pretty quiet on Sundays. The rows of post-colonial shophouses have settled into a relative calm after a week of relentless industry. There are ringing chimes and chanting of mantras by devotees at the Thekchen Choling Tibetan Buddhist temple at Beatty Lane. Soon the Sunday service will convene at the church opposite.
A few doors away an unassuming hardware store stands along Tyrwhitt Road, gleaming white with what appears to be a fresh coat of paint over its Art Deco façade. Peer through the square grilles of the windows and you might observe a rather different sort of hardware being put to use: an espresso machine.
This dramatic contrast might befuddle casual visitors but Singaporean coffee aficionados can appreciate the paradox: old-time Chye Seng Huat Hardware is now the coolest bean in town.
The original name of the disused hardware store (established in 1950) was actually Keat Seng Metals. Café founder Leon Foo (of specialty coffee purveyor Papa Palheta fame) came up with the new moniker after discussions with his landlord. Launched in August 2012, it has proved to be an auspicious one (‘Chye Seng Huat’ means “to flourish” in Hokkien) for though we arrive only a few minutes after opening, the café is already half-full.
How to get inside though? The front entrance is closed up, and if you’ve tried waving at hipster coffee types you know the sort of response you’re likely to get, much less through iron bars and glass windows.
A little detective work reveals a garage door next to the main building, slightly ajar. Beyond this iron side gate are customers reading their Sunday papers and catching up. Behind us, a trio of sport cyclists enter the sunny courtyard, park their bikes by the exposed wall, and saunter to the coffee bar in their spandex body suits. Something else to capture the customers’ attention besides the news, I guess.
Chye Seng Huat Hardware is divided into four major areas – the Coffee Bar (where coffee is made and served), the Roastery (where micro production methods result in unique roasting profiles for their beans), the Workshop (for barista training and classes) and the Annex (an experimental tasting bar for intimate coffee appreciation sessions).
Design-wise, a generous use of metal, wood and even brass for certain fixtures lends an authentic air to the café, recalling its prior incarnation as a hardware store. Smack in the centre of the café is the island’s first, well, island coffee bar. It’s an impressive sight.
Shaped like a teardrop, this 360° bar is where all the action is. At one end, a barista looking dapper in his well-tailored shirt and starched brown apron pulls shot after shot of espresso and pours precisely foamed milk into immaculate latte art. Steady, sure, no sweat. Elsewhere another barista carefully measures out single origin beans for filter coffee lovers.
Besides the espresso and filter coffees, Chye Seng Huat Hardware is known for their excellent cold brews. The small dark glass bottles the chilled coffee comes in help to protect its volatile flavours from light damage. Good thing too, for the cold brew method extracts the best of the beans used; in this case, the bright citrus notes of the Ethiopian Sidamo shine through with a clean aftertaste.
They even have coffee beer on tap for those who need an alcoholic kick to their morning (or evening) cuppa. Now everyone can drink coffee. (Wouldn’t be a bad motto, yes?)
Their nibbles aren’t to be sniffed at either. Their signature brownie is moist and dense with chocolate and walnuts while the banana bread is perfectly spiced with a light crumble. We hear their freshly baked madeleines are to die for too.
In between bites of cake and sips of coffee, we can’t help but nose around; the café is too beautiful not to. There are scores of vintage records neatly stacked away; these aren’t just for display as they have a functional gramophone. The songs you hear may well have been the same songs played back in the good old days when this café was still a hardware shop.
There’s nothing quite like the warm sound of vinyl. And nothing quite like a good cup of coffee. Fortunately for us, Chye Seng Huat Hardware has both in spades.
這間名為再成發五金（Chye Seng Huat Hardware）便是其中一間。
算是專業咖啡豆品牌 Papa Palheta 的分店之一。
Chye Seng Huat Hardware
50 Tyrwhitt Road, Singapore 207563
Tue-Thu 9am-7pm / Fri-Sun 9am-10pm / Mon closed