A Day in the Life of a Kopi-Kia

By Catherine Ling - Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013

Making good local-style coffee requires not just steady hands but knowledge about beans, preparation and temperature control. Good Morning Nanyang Cafe owner, Byron Shoh, has been doing this for eight years, so an experienced eye helps. His cafe has been quoted in Time Magazine as “one of the 24 Best Kept Secrets in the World”.


The owner of Good Morning Nanyang Café, Byron Shoh, does it the old school way.


A good mise-en-place is essential – everything in the right place and within easy reach. Coffee and tea dust, sugar, condensed milk, evaporated milk, spoons, cups, saucers, pots, filters, water boiler and others.


Coffee and tea is prepared in the cloth “sock” filter. Here, Byron uses coffee from Indonesia.


The funnel-like cloth filter is probably the most iconic item in old school coffee and tea preparation.


Hot water is poured into the cloth filter, and the ensuing liquid is poured back and forth to get a good mix.


The filter is kept in the coffee pot over a hotplate warmer, but the temperature is kept so that the coffee never burns.


There is really nothing like a leisurely breakfast with local coffee or tea, and a good friend.


For many, runny soft-boiled eggs with soy and pepper are a must-have with a thick cup of “kopi” or “teh”, so they are an essential part of the cafe’s morning preparation.


The eggs are carefully steeped in boiling water that’s rested a few minutes. And then they are transferred to another pot to keep warm. Any eggs with cracks are removed.


The eggs get another minute in hot water before they are served. They turn out just right when cracked – beautifully runny but not undercooked.


Kaya toast is the other essential item that needs preparation. It also takes skill to slice through the thin slice of brittle toast – swift, broad, and sure-handed strokes of the bread knife with one hand, and the gentlest of pressure steadying the bread with the other hand. The cafe also offers unusual breads like orange peel ciabatta, which is the second most popular after this thin toast.


All the bread slices get a pre-toasting and is stored when cool in air-tight containers. This makes for faster toasting when the order is received. Big dollops of softened New Zealand butter and kaya are spread on the two halves of the bread after it is cut.


The kaya is made onsite in the kitchen, using more than 50 eggs in a single batch along with coconut milk, sugar and pandan leaves. Lots of elbow grease go into stirring of the coconut custard jam in the hot water bath. Clearly this could be called artisanal, but Good Morning Nanyang Cafe keeps it humble.


The kaya is a highlight here – eggy, well-textured and redolent with the fragrance of pandan and coconut. They make lots of kaya here, for the other branches too.


It is tough enough working full steam in the warm kitchen, and then you have plenty of washing up to do. On top of that, you have to keep serving customers and get orders right (teh si kosong peng? kopi gau siu dai takeaway?). But with Byron following his true passion, you’ll always get your fabulous coffee served with a smile.


Good Morning Nanyang Cafe is around the side of the Telok Ayer Hong Lim Green Community Centre at 20 Upper Pickering Street, #01-01, Singapore, Singapore 058284. Hours: (Mon – Fri) 7:30 am – 5:30 pm, (Sat) 8:30 am – 5:30 pm.