They call me Mr Kiam Siap (Hokkien for miserly). And with good reason. For the last year, I’ve been bringing potential dates to these places, to make it look like I have more money than I actually have.
And ladies have come away impressed.
Whether you’re looking for that quiet place to work, or that great ambience, this is the ultimate list of cheap cafes that make you look rich, but don’t leave you too poor.
After all, who wants to pay $18 for eggs Benedict?
Sure, it looks Instagrammable, but beyond a quick scroll past, and then a later trip to the toilet, those $18 would be better spent elsewhere. Especially when it looks like a recession is looming.
But before we start, we want to add here our principles in sharing a great haunt.
These are not:
- chains such as Yakun
- hawker centres
Rather, they are ones that offer you great food and coffee, for a fraction of the price. Our requirements for this list has been:
- Coffee that costs below the industry average of $3.50 for an espresso, and $4 for a long black
- Cafes that have a heart
- Cafes with great service staff, that don’t chase you away (oh, you don’t want to know those cafes.)
Before that, we share how we’ve found these places, so that you too can find them.
Find the cafe that’s off the beaten track
Walk 5 minutes further from the mall, and you would probably find a lonely cafe, with the staff assistant sitting bored, behind the counter.
Mall rentals are expensive. And those rental prices are passed on to you, the consumer. But for those who dare to take a stall further away, they tend to have cheaper prices.
Find the cafe with a heart
There are increasingly many social enterprises that are popping up with cafes. Some of the players in the field include those like Bettr Barista, which offers youths from delinquent backgrounds the chance to be a barista.
Beyond just paying for your coffee, you might be pleased to know that your money is going towards a youth’s life.
Find the cafe in a religious organisation or charity
Charities do great work. And with the grants they get, and the (sometimes) subsidised rental, they get the chance to pass these savings onto you. Sure, their coffee may not be the fancy, strong smelling grounds you get from elsewhere, but it’s still worth having.
Bettr Barista (Yishun, Khoo Teck Puat Hospital)
Ah, I love Bettr. From the day I went for a training with them (and had at least 7 coffees, all on their tab), I’ve fallen in love with them.
Their coffee is made by baristas trained in their academy, and who are also youths with a troubled past. Knowing that your coffee goes a long way to supporting these youths, and helping them to see that there’s a life outside of crime, can help.
The Living Room (Bishan, Zion Presbyterian Church)
Walking into The Living Room, reminded me of my times back in church in the U.K., where there were the classic Health and Safety reminders around the church, and the classic – classic Formica tables.
I love it as a place to work, although it’s quite a trek from the main station in Bishan.
Huggs is the largest homegrown coffee chain. And whilst I did say that I didn’t want to include chains, Huggs is special. When you walk in, you will find a warm atmosphere. Smiling staff.
The coffee also offers a good blend and East and West, not forgetting its roots as a Singapore grown company. Here you will see your regular Kopi O at a price that’s close to the regular ones you have at Yakun.
Whilst they may be more expensive, Huggs Collective has a beautiful members lounge where you can enter to work and study. Whilst there are occasional students that make (quite alot) of noise, the lounge does make you feel rather special.
Brawn Cafe was started by Mayor Denise Phua, and later moved to Pathlight School, where it now currently takes in students as its waiters. This is a cafe without WIFI access so it does make it difficult to work here if you want to.
Finding a cheap cafe, is about finding somewhere close
Ultimately, finding a place with air-conditioning, saving you from the sheer humidity of the Singaporean sun, does need some paying for.
Whilst these prices may seem just $0.50 off the regular places you see at Coffee Bean, you would realise that the 50 odd coffees you have with different people would eventually translate to a $25 saving.
And there’s honestly nothing better than discovering your next hideout.
Who wants more Starbucks, crowded with your typical office worker?
Not me. You too?
Come along. There are better places to enjoy that deep conversation you’ve always been looking forward to.