Every week, the extensive Big Read series from TODAY covers current trends and issues

Every week, the extensive Big Read series from TODAY covers current trends and issues

This week, we'll explore what's happening in Singapore's growing coffee landscape and what its next frontier might look like. This is a condensed version of the full feature, which can be found here.

Singaporeans have a strong love for coffee, enjoying everything from a $1.20 kopitiam (traditional coffee shop) brew to a $6 iced latte or signature brews that can cost as much as $20 or even $85.

Coffee enthusiasts tell TODAY how far they go to get their coffee fix and how much it means to them, although others also say it's just a normal habit.

In a fiercely competitive market with an expected annual demand growth of 3.2%, many international chains and local operators have done their best to grab a piece of the coffee business pie.

One international chain describes Singapore as an "extremely complex market," while experts suggest that coffee businesses should find their unique value proposition and introduce innovations.

Consumers and businesses also tell TODAY about new trends in the coffee scene, from home brewing to subscription models, specialty capsules, and plant-based alternatives.

For example, every time marketing manager Martin Chu travels abroad, he often plans his entire trip around the coffee shops he intends to visit.

"There are actually times when I plan my entire trip around the coffee shops in the vicinity," said the 29-year-old.

Mr. Chu, who started drinking coffee about seven years ago, still remembers the cup that changed his life.

"Until 2016, I actually hated coffee altogether. I just felt it was something bitter that was not worth appreciating."

Then he had a "Juliette" coffee from Panama—first in a local cafe that has since closed and then a second time in a coffee shop in Hong Kong.

"I really felt notes like honey, lychee, grapefruit... It was at that moment that made me truly love coffee and subsequently embark on a coffee journey," he said.

In 2021, the coffee enthusiast even worked as a barista during breaks from his regular job. Once, he also spent $20 on a single cup of coffee at a local cafe because it was brewed from a rare type of coffee beans of which only 2 kg existed in the world.

"It was a $20 cup, and I'm embarrassed to admit that I just spent my money on it," Mr. Chu said, adding that the experience was worth it.

Statistics show that Singapore's coffee culture is gaining momentum, even though coffee shops come and go, and Mr. Chu is not an exception.

While Mr. Chu belongs to the growing group of coffee consumers who prioritize high-quality and experiential specialty coffee, there are others who find pleasure in enjoying traditional local coffee, known as "kopi," without extravagance.

For 65-year-old retiree Tay, Nanyang coffee has been his staple drink for the past five decades.

Mr. Tay, who preferred not to provide his full name, told TODAY in Chinese that he drinks one to two cups of kopi (Malay-style coffee) every day. As he has high blood sugar levels, his preferred coffee is "kopi-o kosong"—black coffee without sugar, which usually costs between $1 to $2.

However, Mr. Tay, who typically enjoys a cup of tea at Ya Kun Kaya Toast on weekdays, said he wouldn't go all out on coffee.

Speaking about the coffee scene, he said, "The whole world has changed. People are now drinking insanely expensive coffee."