Sip Blog

Written by coffee lovers, for coffee lovers

Humans of Sip: Interview with Christopher Tan from The Playground Coffee

One would not expect to find specialty coffee in Jurong West, but thanks to The Playground Coffee, Westies can now enjoy a well crafted cup of coffee in their neighbourhood.

Started this year by three friends who previously hailed from The Populus Coffee and Food Co., The Playground Coffee has been serving specialty coffee and hearty brunch fare from its sleek and minimalistic space at Nanyang Community Club.



The cafeai??i??s sleek interior.

In this weekai??i??s #HumansofSip, we talk to Christopher, one of three co-founders of The Playground Coffee. He had his first brush with coffee when he became a part-timer at The Populus Coffee & Food Co. It was also where he met his current business partners, Zayden and Kian Soon.




Armed with their experience from working at The Populus, the co-founders learnt the ropes of running a cafe quickly, but had to pick up new skills in areas such as the planning and preparation of their food dishes. Their dedication and hard work served them well, as theyai??i??ve created an assortment of dishes catering to different tastebuds.

With delectable coffee and scrumptious food as their offerings, The Playground Coffee looks set to be the next hangout spot for everyone.

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Their food offerings range from soba noodles to grain bowls. Notice the cute cup of coffee, too! (Image by The Playground Coffee)

How did you get interested in coffee?

Initially, I thought coffee was simply about pulling shots and creating nice latte art. However, during my time as a barista, I started to realise that coffee is very scientific, as thereai??i??s a lot of precision needed to make a good cup of coffee. For example, to pull a shot, one must consider factors such as the weight of the dosage and the timing of the shot. Even the milk has specific requirements, as you need to steam it to 65 degrees for it to peak in sweetness.

I personally also feel that coffee is not just a science, but also an art. I took about two months to learn and master latte art, which helped me to realise that this was an equally important part of the coffee process as well.

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In the end, I found coffee to be an intriguing fusion between science and art; from pulling the first dose to the presentation, I was fascinated.



Playgroundai??i??s take on ai???Magicai??i??: a double Ristretto with milk

Why did you start The Playground Coffee?

I met Kian Soon and Zayden while working with them at The Populus, and found out that they shared the same interest that I had in creating business projects. Subsequently after working together in the coffee scene, we felt that the next step should be to bring our business ideas to fruition, and hence we started The Playground Coffee.

What are some challenges youai??i??ve faced in starting your own cafe?

One challenge we faced was designing the interior. We have a small cafe space, so we had to work out how to optimise the seating capacity as well as the kitchen space.

Weai??i??ve also faced some limitations on the food that we can make. Due to the limited storage space and the lack of an external exhaust system, weai??i??re unable to prepare certain dishes if thereai??i??s insufficient space for the required ingredients or if it produces a strong cooking smell. Hence, planning our dishes was a bit of a head-scratcher for us.

Another challenge we faced was finding part-timers, as most students are in school.



An exterior view of Playground.

Iai??i??m aware that you and your partners don't live in the west. Whatai??i??s the reason behind the choice of location for your cafe?

While we were scouting for cafe venues, we found out by chance that a mutual friend of ours was looking for someone to take over his shop space - and so we decided to take it. We felt that the far West did not have a specialty coffee shop yet, and hence decided to bring specialty coffee to the far West!

What inspired the name ai???The Playground Coffeeai??i???

The playground was a large part of our childhood, not just due to the time we spent there, but also due to the memories we had of playing with our friends and the lessons we learnt there! Thatai??i??s why we promote two core values: to have fun, and to have fun while learning.

What items on your menu would you recommend for someone new to your cafe?

I would recommend our teriyaki chicken donburi, which is my personal favourite, and also the smoked duck aglio olio.






The teriyaki chicken donburi and smoked duck aglio olio, respectively. (Images by The Playground Coffee)

Which coffee is your favourite and why?

My favourite is actually the Obelisk blend by 2 Degrees North Coffee that weai??i??re currently using, because itai??i??s chocolatey and sweet. I have a preference for sweeter coffee.

You founded The Playground Coffee with your two partners, Zayden and Kian Soon. How has the experience been like, working with them?

I enjoy our partnership very much! Although we had disagreements, weai??i??ve always managed to resolve them and come up with good solutions to problems together. Iai??i??m also thankful that weai??i??re all mutually supportive. For example, Zayden and I are currently attending university, making our schedules quite hectic, hence the three of us always try to help one another out with our duties. We have a fun partnership as well, because weai??i??re very open to new ideas and trying out new things for our cafe. In retrospect, although weai??i??ve had a lot of late nights and struggles, I would say it was all worth it, and very fun overall.



A pretty feature wall in the cafe.

What has been the most rewarding part of running a cafe?

The most rewarding part for me is the experience that Iai??i??ve gotten. From starting this venture, to seeing it through to completion, Iai??i??ve had a lot of opportunities to grow and develop as a person. Iai??i??ve also learnt to step out of my comfort zone, as Iai??i??ve had to solve unfamiliar problems on my own.

Apart from that, I get to interact with people from all walks of life. Whenever customers visit, I enjoy talking to them and learning more about them. Iai??i??ve had some very enriching conversations that opened my eyes to things I hadnai??i??t realised before, and I find that aspect rewarding.

What was your most memorable interaction with a customer?

I once spoke with an American lady who was doing research at Nanyang Technological University. She shared with me about her life in the States, how her family had a farm in their backyard, and how they even raised their own chickens! I was fascinated by her stories, as Iai??i??m interested in travelling. She also shared how enthralled she was by the different cultures in Singapore, and told me more about her visits to the cultural festivals here. Such conversations inspire me a lot, as they make me excited about what the world has to offer!

What plans do you have in the future for The Playground Coffee?

Weai??i??re opening a kiosk in Teletech Park, where we will serve coffee and alcoholic beverages and food such as burritos, waffles and ice cream.

Weai??i??re also looking to start another business venture in Social Innovation Park. The concept will be a farm-to-table eatery, where we grow our own crops and incorporate the locally-grown produce into our food. It will be much more sophisticated and complex as compared to what we currently serve at the The Playground Coffee. We were inspired by Jamie Oliverai??i??s rustic and unpretentious style of cooking, and we hope to emulate that to create sophisticated food which shows our character. Aside from that, we hope to encourage communal dining and foster compassion through hiring those in need, such as ex-convicts and single mothers.




The Playground Coffee
60 Jurong West Street 91 #01-04,
Nanyang Community Club
Singapore 649040

Twitter spy, Phone call tracker. Opening hours: 11.30am - 10.30pm (Tuesday to Friday), 10.00am - 10.30pm (Saturday), 10.00am - 10.00pm (Sunday), closed on Mondays


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