Many of us love coffee. Like the plethora of delicious grub you can find in Singapore, coffee variations are aplenty. With so many cafés and coffee specialty shops around, it comes down to the knowledge and skills of a barista to ensure we get a good cup of java in hand.
Regardless of how crazy or ridiculous our requests are, baristas usually rise up to the challenge and do their best to fulfill them. Take for example the Singapore Unicorn Frappe, where a barista re-created a version of its US counterpart as requested by a tourist, and it turned out surprisingly tasty (according to them).
While such challenges are fun for baristas, you can be sure that there are also some requests and questions from the other end of the spectrum: the weird ones.
We spoke to baristas from 6 popular cafes in Singapore. Here are some of the strangest questions they’ve been asked as a barista.
“Mix Beer With Coffee, And Serve It Hot”
A customer once told us to mix beer with our Oriole coffee and serve it hot. He mentioned it would taste good and recommended for us to try it.
Another odd request was to blend butter with our batch brew. Butter is a pretty strong flavour itself so blending it with a brew would change the taste and texture of the drink substantially.
One of the trickiest things that we have to handle as a barista is when we have to settle a bill in the midst of calibrating coffee. The coffee calibration process is complex and it’s critical in creating the flavour profile or the perfect shot based on the beans that we have. When we settle a bill in the midst of calibration, we have to restart the whole coffee calibration process to ensure that we retain the exact precision required for maintaining the quality of our coffee.
– Siti, Assistant Restaurant Manager of Oriole Coffee + Bar
“Do You Grow Your Own Beans?”
I once got an order that went like this: “Can I get a latte with teddy bear?” We thought coffee just got more complicated – where were we going to find a teddy bear? But all she wanted was teddy bear latte art.
We’ve also gotten requests for Civet poo even though we don’t sell Kopi Luwak.
Otherwise, no question is too awkward to ask a barista when you’re buzzed on coffee! The one exception would be to not ask a barista in Singapore whether they grow their own coffee beans. I’ve been asked that before and no, nobody in Singapore grows their own beans.
– Abby, Barista at Symmetry
“Can You Mix Half Of This Blend With Half Of That Blend?”
I’ve got a couple of strange requests before. First one would be, “You guys serve 2 espresso blends right? Can you make my latte with half of this blend and half of that blend?”
There’re two kinds of espressos: single origins (SO) and blends. Blends (made up of multiple SO coffees) are blended to achieve a specific flavour profile that the café or barista is going for. When you ask for a mix of blends, it defeats the purpose of having those blends that the barista and café want you to try. Essentially, an analogy would be going to Subway and asking to mix Chicken Teriyaki with Meatball Marinara sandwich – which will be a very weird request.
Other questions include “can you crack some sea salt into my long black?”, “Is your coffee acidic or alkaline?”, and “Is your coffee good?” – Would a barista or a specialty café say that their coffee isn’t good?
– Avin, Chief Caffeine Dealer at Percolate Coffee
“Can I Have Cappuccino With No Foam?”
I’ve been asked for a cappuccino with no foam, and coffee with butter. But the silliest one so far is “why isn’t your coffee as good as Starbucks?”
I’ve also been asked to reheat half-drank coffee, which is not advisable mainly because of hygiene purposes. We can’t use the steam wand (which we use for steaming milk) to reheat any coffee. Even if we do, we will literally create another chemical reaction that will make your coffee taste burnt. It’s not advisable to use the microwave as well, as there could be accidents.
On another incident, we had a customer who sent the coffee back a few times because it tasted too sweet for her. However, no sugar was added to the coffee at all. The sweetness came naturally from the beans. So that was something we had to manage in terms of customers’ expectation.
Like many misinformed customers, she had the impression that coffee only tastes bitter. She didn’t expect that coffee can also be naturally sweet, acidic, or fruity. After a one-to-one ‘coffee education’ session with her, she was really happy to get the same cup of coffee she returned.
– Lucky Salvador, Head Barista Trainer at Common Man Coffee Roasters
“Hi, Do You Serve Non-Coffee Coffee?”
It took me awhile to realise the customer meant decaf.
I’ve not gotten too crazy a request so far. I’ve been asked if savoury, flavoured lattes exist but that’s about it.
Thinking back, an unforgettable experience I had was with this particular customer who thought our coffee was a gimmick. He had ordered a single shot latte, and then later came up to talk to me about how he thought our coffee is a gimmick because he couldn’t taste or smell the coffee at all. He later went on to pee all over our toilet – literally all over the walls, sinks, everything.
Personally, I don’t really think there are questions that you should never ask a barista. I like to share and talk to customers about coffee. However, you will be hard pressed to find specialty coffee stores that will serve coffee with butter.
– Kenneth, Chief Alchemist at Compound Coffee
“Is Pour Over Coffee A Coffee?”
I’ve received a couple of weird requests over my course as a Barista. There was the 10 shot Venti Caramel Machiatto order (which is a lot of caffeine within that serving of machiatto), and another one where the customer handed me a container of freshly minced ginger to add into her latte.
While I welcome customers to ask me anything, there were questions like “is pour over coffee a coffee?” And yes, it is coffee.
– Shaun, Head Trainer at Bettr Barista Coffee Academy
Catch Them At Singapore Coffee Festival 2017
Now that you’ve heard from the baristas, catch them in action at the Singapore Coffee Festival 2017! They’ll be part of over 100 different exhibitors ranging from Singapore’s most loved cafes to pioneering coffee players around the world. We guarantee that you’ll be spoilt for choice!
You could also take the chance to pick up some goodies like socially conscious coffee, organic snacks, and all natural skincare products from The Good Market. One of the highlights of SCF 2017, The Good Market, brought to you by DBS, features seven social enterprises that will be showcasing and selling their wares. Do good for our planet and communities in need as you delve into the café culture and shop there!
Make your SCF experience an even more memorable (and meaningful) one and take on the “Live Kind” Passport challenge! Collect stamps when you complete easy and fun tasks in this sustainable living challenge brought to you by DBS, and earn yourself a free cup of coffee. Register here: https://www.asiaforgood.com/webform/live-kind-dbs.
Singapore Coffee Festival 2017
Date: 3 August – 6 August 2017 (Thurs – Sun)
Venue: Marina Bay Cruise Centre
Tickets: $18 to $22
Tickets are available at the Singapore Coffee Festival website here!
This article is written in collaboration with DBS Bank.