Savvy Consumer Tips : Your Daily Coffee

Filed Under (coffee, food, tips and tricks) by rinnah on 27-08-2012

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Hello folks! Happy Monday! :D

It’s been quite a while since I last posted a “savvy consumer tip” – the last one was over a year ago! So as I was sipping on my morning cuppa, I thought it would be fun to share with you a simple savings tip I practice. :)

If you’re like me and most other people, you’ll probably have a regular dose (hit!) of caffeine in the morning. You might have it at home, or on the way to work or at the office. Maybe you might have even more than 1 cup a day.

KT's Grill Cafe Mocha
Cafe mocha at KT’s Grill, Universal Studios Singapore

When I first came to Singapore, I no longer had the luxury of preparing and eating breakfast at home as I rent a room with no access to a kitchen. So, out of necessity, I began to buy my coffee (or tea, depending on how alert I felt in the mornings) from the local bakery downstairs near my office. No doubt it wasn’t Starbucks or Coffee Bean where the smallest/cheapest size goes for an average of SGD 6.00 or more but I was still spending SGD 1.20 a day on my coffee.

Doesn’t seem like much, but it did add up when I did my math. My cup a day habit cost me between SGD 35.00 – 40.00 every month. That’s like the cost of one lipstick every month (or in my case, one skincare product a month).

I told myself that all I really wanted was a cup of coffee in the morning. It didn’t have to be premium coffee as long as it woke me up. So, the next time I dropped by the local supermarket, I picked up a multi-pack of 3-in-1 coffee premix. 30 sachets for just SGD 6.90, which is more than the number of working days in any given month. The bonus was that the brand was throwing in an additional 5 sachets for free.

Cost of switch? Just the initial cost of buying my 3-in-1 mix = SGD 6.90
Savings? SGD 1.20 (weekdays) x 35 = SGD 42.00 – SGD 6.90 (initial cost) = SGD 35.10
In the long run? Assuming 1 year duration on average = SGD 420.00 (SGD 35 x 12)

Now, I’m only advocating that you do this if it makes you happy. If you need your daily Starbucks shot, or cannot stand the taste of premix, by all means go ahead and keep on doing what you’re doing. :) I’m happiest when I get to save money and still get what I want to make me (relatively) happy without feeling deprived.

Vanilla Cafe

Filed Under (coffee, dessert, food, western) by rinnah on 06-08-2012

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I had no idea about the existence of Vanilla Cafe until my colleague told me about this “must-try” cafe that was pretty near our office. As it turns out, I’d been going to the coffeeshop just 2 doors away to pack my economy rice lunch every week without knowing it!

So on a humid and rainy Friday afternoon, we made our way to Boon Tat Street to check out Vanilla Cafe.

vanilla 01

Vanilla Cafe is tucked away in a small row of shophouses, facing the green lung area just behind the mosque at the intersection of Boon Tat Street and Telok Ayer Street (see the Google map below for exact location). No wonder then that I’d passed by it before without really noticing it.

The cafe is popular with the working people in the area, if the crowd I saw throughout my meal there is anything to go by. Both the indoor and outdoor dining areas (an open space in the middle of the shophouse) were packed from about 12.20pm onwards and if you arrived later than that you wouldn’t be able to get a seat without reservation in advance.

vanilla 02

I decided to go with the Norwegian Smoked Salmon Egg Mayo sandwich (SGD 9.90) which was recommended on the menu and on several online reviews of the cafe. The ciabatta bread was nice, not too thick and lightly grilled. The smoked salmon overpowered the egg mayo filling though and overall, the result was a good, but not fantastic sandwich. It was served with a side of salad leaves and a light dressing of oil and vinegar.

For SGD 1.80, you can top-up and get a choice of house-blend coffee or tea or soft drink. For SGD 2.80, you can top-up for the soup of the day.

vanilla 03

Since it was raining quite heavily by the time I finished my sandwich, I decided an order of dessert wouldn’t hurt and tried the mini brownies with french vanilla ice cream (SGD 9.50). The ice cream you get is originally rum and raisin, but since that’s not really my favourite flavour, I asked them to switch it to french vanilla. The brownie and ice cream combination was again nothing new, except that Vanilla Cafe’s brownie had a rather crisp edge – as if it had maybe been left in the oven a tad too long.

Overall, foodwise Vanilla Cafe is pretty average for me. Maybe I’d set my hopes up too high after reading some good reviews online. The other thing that was a bit of a downer for me as well was the space/layout of the cafe as well. In order to maximise space, the tables toward the front of the shophouse were quite packed together and it got rather distracting every time a server walked up and down the narrow aisle with drinks and food for other tables.

I might go back for a return visit, but not anytime soon and definitely not during the lunch hour rush.

Vanilla Cafe
3 Boon Tat Street #01-01
Singapore 069612
Tel : +65-6423 0366
Web : www.vanillacafe.com.sg
There is a 10% service charge.


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Tokyo Rusk Company’s Premium Almond Rusk

Filed Under (coffee, food, japanese, snacks) by rinnah on 13-04-2012

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Rusks. When I hear of rusks, I think of Farley’s Baby Rusks that my mother fed me as a child. Today, I rekindle my affection for rusks with the Tokyo Rusk Company’s Premium Almond Rusk.

As I work in a Japanese company, my Japanese expatriate colleagues frequently travel back to Japan either for work or to visit their respective hometowns. And one of them (who sits nearby) was nice enough to buy some to share in the office.

How do I begin to describe a rusk? Firstly, the cute slogan on the packaging caught my attention :

“Hand made delicious and beautiful rusks comfort our hearts and wrap us in sweet dreams.”

Cute, no? :)

tokyo rusk company premium almond rusk

The rusk I got was in the Premium Almond flavor and it tastes like a chunkier, sweeter version of almond biscotti with the delightful crunch of toasted bread with sugar sprinkled on top. Fear not if you think that the rusk will be too sweet – it is a bit on the sweet side, but not overly so. This would be perfect paired with your favorite coffee for the perfect tea-time snack or light breakfast.

Now, who’s going to Japan anytime soon and can bring back a box of this for me? ;)

Tokyo Rusk Company website (only in Japanese)

Read other blogger reviews here :
Laura Thompson
Yukari

Bubble tea taste-off : All the contenders

Filed Under (coffee, food, local) by rinnah on 10-02-2012

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When I first came to Singapore, I observed a strange phenomenon at the place where I stay. There are many shops all selling bubble teas within the same vicinity. In fact, on a routine walk to/from the MRT station, I pass no fewer than five different shops specializing in bubble tea drinks (not counting the drink stalls at the food court).

There are many contenders for the title of best bubble tea and in the name of blog research (and pure curiosity) I tested a few of the more popular/well-known brands – Koi Cafe, Gong Cha, Chatime and Ochado. The irony is that I seldom think of buying bubble tea back home in Malaysia, but yet in Singapore, here I was, standing patiently in queue with 15 other people for bubble tea. To ensure fairness of my taste test, I ordered the same drink from all franchises – no fancy schmancy specialty teas, just plain straight up milk tea with pearls and less sugar.

koi bubble milk tea
(Erm, I have no photo for Gong Cha, Chatime and Ochado simply because I forgot to take one. #bloggerfail)

What did my not-so-epicurean tastebuds think?

Chatime’s tea seemed to be least refined (tasted like they used cheaper tea leaves to brew) of the four contenders. Ochado’s roasted tea version was the smoothest and most to my liking. Koi and Gong Cha were better than Chatime, but ultimately forgettable. Despite my order of half-sugar, Chatime was also the sweetest mix (maybe to hide the taste of cheaper tea?) and therefore got booted down to the bottom of my bubble tea list.

I can safely say that I prefer the quality and texture of Koi’s pearls (tapioca balls) overall. Gong Cha’s pearls were a wee bit rubbery, as were Chatime’s. Ochado fared slightly better due to the smaller size of their pearls and I even tried their famous pop-egg pearls (which contain coffee syrup). While I liked the concept of the pop-eggs, it was way too sweet for my liking – like taking swigs of syrup straight from the bottle.

Now, if only I could merge Ochado’s roasted milk tea with Koi’s pearls I would be one very happy bubble tea drinker. :P

Latte taste-off : Starbucks vs Austin Chase

Filed Under (coffee, food, western) by rinnah on 24-10-2010

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Anyone who hangs out with me long enough will know that there’s only one type of coffee I’ll order from upmarket coffee houses/cafes. And that would be a latte – regular sized, with one packet of raw/brown sugar.

My usual java of choice comes from that ubiquitous brand – Starbucks. Spare me the spiel about how Starbucks is evil and yadda yadda yadda – I choose it because it’s convenient. Everywhere you go, you can find a Starbucks outlet, right?

starbucks takeaway cups
Image credit

Last Friday, my colleague kindly bought me a latte from Austin Chase as thanks for playing driver and ferrying her to MidValley. And this was my first time tasting coffee from Austin Chase. How did I find it?

austin chase logo

Well, the milk froth/foam on top of the latte was not as dense as Starbucks, so it felt more like air bubbles. And the coffee strength seems less strong, because I didn’t get the same caffeine buzz as I normally would. (My caffeine tolerance level is pretty low.) Also, I found the overall packaging of Austin Chase’s takeaway coffees to be less refined as compared to Starbucks – especially the plastic lid, which reminded me of McDonald’s takeaway coffee cups.

So, am I a coffee snob much? I’d say yes.

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