Balestier’s Best #2: Craving Coffee?

Listen to this week’s aromatic episode of Makan Kakis!

This week, in Part 2 of Shermay Lee‘s guide to the Balestier area, she recommends taking a stroll along Balestier Road after a hearty Chicken Rice meal at Loy Kee to discover a slice of Singapore history within a charming shophouse that has been purveying coffee beans and powder for more than half a century. When you step in, you literally enter a bygone era and can almost imagine rickshaws, not cars zipping by outside. Lam Yeo Coffee Powder Factory has been around since 1959 and till this day, remains a family business. They take pride in what they do and they keep their old, but classic interiors (original mosaic floor intact) neat and tidy. Cross Lam Yeo’s threshold and you’ll see rows of shiny tins of different coffee varieties.


Yes, you’ll see gourmet beans, like from Jamaican and Guatamala, but be sure to pick up a bag or two of the local coffee, as in authentic Nanyang-style Kopi, to take home instead. The difference with our local kopi is in the roasting. Historically, coffee beans used locally were considered inferior and thus needed the addition of sugar and butter or margarine in the roasting process to elevate the taste. Connoisseurs may scoff, especially at hydrogenated fat-laden margarine, but Shermay sees the beauty in this tradition that has made the formula, aroma and flavour so distinct to our part of the world. So why buy local? For obvious reasons, to support and preserve a Singapore brand that has stood the test of time. These days, there are so many hipster coffee places, but those serve a very different type of coffee. Lam Yeo sells really traditional kopi and is not a franchise nor part of a big chain. The Uncle and Auntie who operate the shop are very friendly and helpful, so when faced with the many local varieties, just ask for advice to make a choice that’s right for you!


Denise did, and walked away with a strong powder recommended by Auntie. Shermay, however, prefers buying the beans whole and grinding them herself at home for a fresh brew.

lamyeo6However you like your coffee, keep in mind next time you’re in Balestier, visit Lam Yeo, take a deep breath, step back in time and inhale those potent, toasty coffee aromas! But don’t just breathe, buy! 😉 lamyeo5

328 Balestier Road
Open: Mon – Fri 9am – 7pm; Sat 9am – 5pm (Closed on Sundays and Public Holidays)
Tel: 6256 2239

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