Caffe Vergnano 1882 Singapore serves authentic espressos – and wants you to drink them the way they should be.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Caffe Vergnano 1882 Singapore serves authentic espressos – and wants you to drink them the way they should be.

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A sturdy Belle Epoque coffee machine is the piece de resistance at Caffe Vergnano 1882 Singapore. It’s a chrome beauty that does all the heavy lifting at the first franchise here of Italy’s oldest family-owned coffee maker. What it does is deliberate, even tedious, but it’s what makes the cafe’s espresso intense yet perfectly balanced, with not a hint of bitter aftertaste. It slow-roasts the beans (sourced from top plantations around the world, from Jamaica and India to Guatemala and Ethiopia) traditionally – using 18- to 22-minute cycles so that each bean’s aroma and qualities are extracted fully, as opposed to what happens in the fiveto six-minute turbo toasting that coffee giants employ for fast-to-serve coffee. Founded in 1882 by Dominico Vergnano, Caffe Vergnano expanded from a single cafe in the small town of Cheri in Turin, Italy, to an empire now with 100 branches around the world. Aside from adding espresso-based concoctions (do try the Bicerin, a traditional Turin drink of espresso and cocoa topped with cream), a head barista and coffee workshops, nothing has changed much at Caffe Vergnano. Especially unchanged here is the way espressos must be drunk – the Italian way. Each cup is served with San Pellegrino sparkling water – an Italian brand (of course) which has become the popular option in Europe for drinking water with meals. Once the water has cleansed your palate, you slurp your espresso and let it coat your tongue before downing it. “We are in between commercial chains [like Starbucks] and thirdwave hipster joints [such as Common Man Coffee Roasters], with a focus on this traditional method of roasting beans,” says The Silo Alliance, a new local lifestyle company that obtained the cafe’s franchise rights. “We want to appeal to people who appreciate quality, how their coffees are made, and how they taste, as well as those new to the experience of having authentic Italian espresso in a bar-like setting like that of cafes in Italy.” The heart and soul of the brand is a special espresso blend, created for its 120th anniversary and only available within its cafes. It comprises singleroast Arabica beans from Brazil and Columbia, that when blended with Arabica beans from the Sidamo region of Ethiopia (known for coffee with floral aromas and hints of citrus fruits), results in a blend with a sweet hazelnut aroma, dark chocolate and nutty flavours with hints of spice in the espresso.

Coffee prices: $3 for a Babycino to $6 for an 1882 Bicerin. For the hungry, there’s a small but serviceable Italian menu ($8.50- $12.80). Coffee classes are $150 a person for three hours, conducted every first to third Sunday of the month; each class admits only four.