Butter Coffee: Should Kopi Gu You be Boffee?!

By Thammika Songkaeo - Wednesday, Aug 13, 2014

I recently watched a documentary about the world’s fastest-growing conglomerate coffee stores, and then oppositely went for my cup of coffee at Heap Seng Leong. Challenging myself to Kopi Gu You (yes, coffee with butter), I imagined myself saying, “Skimmed milk, without whipped cream, grande.” I replayed visions of a personalized cup of coffee in this kopitiam, but decided that I would play by the kopitiam rules: I would ditch my egotistic customizations and accept the identity of the coffee as it should be.


Kopi Gu You with lotus bun.


The decision was one of the best kopi decisions I had ever made. I learned that a salted caramel coffee taste can exist without specks of salt or spoons of caramel. A thin square of butter atop a steaming cup of coffee suffices to create the nutty toffee flavor of luxurious caramel deepened by salt. Best of all, my Kopi Gu You came at $1.10, about four times less than the cost of a similar tasting coffee at “hipper” outlets. 


Of course, when people hit up coffee shops with more flare, they’re not looking for just the coffee, but also the other things associated with the cup. Not uncommonly, young people explain that they choose larger chains because of the lifestyle associations. A third year university student, Anastasia Lim, explains, “I associate my coffee with the people in big European cities. I think they’re holding the same cup [of mocha or latte] as well, and they’re busy, like me. I’m busy, like them. It’s just cool. I don’t think they’re holding Kopi-C or Kopi-O.”


Lotus paste oozing warmly from the bun


A look into the advertising of these shops show more, such as their idea that they’re providing Singaporeans the “authentic” (insert country name) experience – an act that will profit those who cannot go abroad, in particular, they claim.


Whether or not that is true, there is one thing we can be certain about: a $5 or $6 cup of coffee every day is not financially sustainable. At Heap Seng Leong, I found my salted caramel taste not only for just above $1, but was also able to fulfill my entire stomach with their snacks – for less than the price of one cappuccino at a fancier place. Seriously, if we gave Kopi Gu You a hipper name like “Boffee” for “butter” plus “coffee” and tweaked the presentation, I’m sure we’d see more of it. 


Mr. Shi, the kopi guru, reaching to make a delicious cup for a client.


Heap Seng Leong

Blk 10 North Bridge Road, #01-5109

Daily, 4 am to 8 pm