I finally made it back to Nylon Coffee after eight long years

Let me just say upfront that, sometimes, I’m a terrible customer.

I was looking back at some old photos and realised that the last time I visited Nylon Coffee Roasters was eight years ago, all the way back in the September of 2013.

The Wife was in Everton Park, queuing up for some ang ku kueh, and since we were in the neighbourhood, I decided to head over to Nylon to buy some freshly-roasted beans and also to see how their shop has changed over the years.

The walk to Nylon was very similar to that of Tiong Hoe’s Stirling Road shop, cutting across old (but repainted!) HDB flats and through void deck corridors. I couldn’t recall the way, so I let Google Maps show me the way until I saw a group of people in the distance, waiting outside one particular shop.

Bingo.

As I reached the shop, the first piece of furniture I saw was their signature crate/bench, this time incorporating their new logo and an obvious typo caused by peeling paint. I don’t know about you, but the first word that came to mind as I saw it was “Covfefe”.

So, to the folks at Nylon, if you’re not too comfortable about the indirect association with a certain former POTUS, you might want to take out your paint brush and get it fixed. Or, if you have a liquid paper pen handy, that would work as well.

I’m not sure how many times they’ve changed their logo over the past eight years, but comparing their old one in 2013 and the current one in 2021, I have to say that my preference lies squarely with the former.

The mustached man with a monocle and top hat look of their takeaway cups is so much more distinctive and intimate than the minimalist and industrial-looking N-dot-dot logo. Or maybe that’s what they were gunning for, and if that’s the case, then they hit the mark.

It was Thursday afternoon, just after 1pm, but the place was already quite crowded, with a queue stretching outside the main door, safely-distanced of course. The shop had definitely changed from the last time I visited.

Firstly, it was much bigger, and occupied more than twice the floor space, and secondly, there were proper indoor seats, including a long bench with bar stools. Their Probat roaster was in full-view behind a glass door and their merch and beans were displayed on a well-lit shelf, just in-front of their coffee bar and cash register.

I only saw two types of beans available and asked the staff if they had more available, including perhaps some Ethiopian ones. The reply was, unfortunately, no. And in fact, the bags on display were the last few available from their entire stock, because their imported green beans (coffee, not taugeh) were stuck in a port somewhere in China, en-route from the farms that they source from.

The boss (or at least I assume he was the boss, because the baristas were all checking in with him on their brews) sounded quite frustrated and shared that they might have to close within the next week or so, because they would have completely run down their entire inventory by then. Yikes!

I told him that they shop looked quite different from the last time I visited and described how small and compact it used to look. Even under his mask, I could tell that he was visibly surprised when I mentioned that it was eight years ago, and he enthusiastically described the various expansions and renovations done since then.

The shop was too busy for me to chat further with him, but I did find out that they do their filter brews using Kalita and Clever drippers. I picked up a bag each of their Columbia and Rwanda single-origin beans and queued up at the cashier.

As I was paying, the cashier asked if it was my first time buying Rwanda beans, and since it was, he explained that there was a small chance that some beans may smell of potato after grinding, and advised that I grind in small amounts each time to double-check.

I thought that I had misheard since his voice was muffled by the mask he was wearing, because I had never heard of ground coffee smelling like potato. After some googling, it turns out that “potato taste defect” is indeed a real thing, affecting a small but not insignificant amount of beans grown in Rwanda and some other parts of Africa.

I learnt something new that day.

Thankfully, my particular bag of Rwanda Musasa Dukunde Kawa was not affected and I managed to quickly dial-in the beans using the trusty V60 Tetsu 4-6 recipe. The tasting notes on the bag stated “mandarin, red currant, dried apricot, honey” and both The Wife and I could taste red berries in our cups.

The flavour was bright and there was good body and balance. We happened to order kway chap from Lao San for breakfast one morning and were pleasantly surprised that it went especially well with the Rwanda, making the coffee even more flavourful. My best guess is that the soy sauce in the chap interacted somehow with the coffee to enhance its taste.

In less than two weeks, we finished the bag and proceeded to open the Columbia Altamira, which was supposed to taste of “currants, red grapes and chocolate”. I used the same brewing variables as the Rwanda, and could immediately make out the full-bodied and dominant Ribena notes, though there were no noticeable traces of chocolate.

The aftertaste lingered for quite some time and both The Wife and I agreed that it was a very nice cup of coffee. It was a solid 9 out of 10 for us, only just slightly behind the fantastic Ethiopia Uraga Gomoro from Tiong Hoe, and was definitely something that we would buy again when available.

In fact, I was so impressed with it that I decided to actively try other beans from Columbia, to see if this was an outlier or if it was a good representation of coffee from that origin. We’ve been focusing on African coffee recently, especially those from Ethiopia, but it was time to expand our horizons.

Based on updates from Nylon’s social media pages, it appears that they’ve finally sorted out their supply bottlenecks and are back to their regular roasting schedule. There are still a few other local roasters that I’m planning to explore, but once I’m done, I’ll definitely loop back and get more coffee from them again.

This time, I promise it won’t take another eight years.

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