From The Straits Times    |
kopistan best kept secrets cult following local small business

Tucked away in various parts of Singapore are four fiercely independent establishments that have gained a loyal following despite the challenges of operating a business in a small city. What keeps them going? In this four-part series, we have a chat with the owners to find out.

When the craft coffee scene blew up in Singapore over a decade ago, bean aficionados flocked to speciality coffee roasters Chye Seng Huat Hardware, Common Man Coffee Roasters and Toby’s Estate for their fix. Today, these pioneering players have been joined by a slew of local businesses.

One of them is Kopistan, a small-batch, home-based coffee roaster. Friends and business partners Muhammad Afiq, 36, and Siti Nazhifah, 33, who are regular volunteers with Islamic non-profit Sout Ilaahi, launched Kopistan last year after noticing that attendees were ordering their own coffee from nearby cafes during events by the organisation.

The pair wanted to share their love of the brew, which marked the start of this joint venture.

“It all began with our passion for making coffee at home. I used to work as a barista during university, while Afiq had a knack for coffee-making as well. After university, I pursued a career in interior design, got married, and had kids, but the love of brewing a good cup of coffee remained,” shares Nazhifah, also known as Zizie.

Friends and business partners Muhammad Afiq (pictured), and Siti Nazhifah, set up Kopistan in 2023
Kopistan’s Muhammad Afiq grinds and makes his coffee using a machine that he customised himself

What makes Kopistan markedly different is its earnest DIY philosophy. Afiq, who takes on the role of experimenter and creator, works out of his Punggol HDB flat and uses a $100 machine with a grinder, which he has tweaked to a different custom pressure. He makes his coffee using a second-hand coffee machine fixed on top of a modified vintage sewing machine table that belonged to his friend’s grandmother.

Zizie helps to fine-tune his experiments based on her experience and taste preferences through cupping sessions. They also strive to recreate their various travel experiences through different coffee blends. “When people taste our coffee, we want them to feel a connection to a place or experience,” says Zizie.

Currently on the menu are Nubra Valley ($7.50) and Jeju Sunrise ($6) – both long black cold brews inspired by their respective namesake locales. Nubra Valley, named after a scenic region in India, is crafted with oat milk, while Jeju Sunrise is infused with orange juice, a nod to the South Korean island known for its sweet oranges. Both blends are made with beans from India and Brazil.

If you’re lucky, you might be able to snag one of their limited batches of coffee beans – sourced from a local supplier and hand-roasted on clay and wood – which are available for purchase through their Instagram account (@ko.pi.stan). Kopistan coffee is also available at pop-ups at various art fairs and flea markets, on Instagram, and at Shrub, an art zine store in Golden Mile Tower.

“Our goal is to create a platform where people can enjoy and learn about coffee without the intimidation factor.”

Ultimately, Kopistan was created with the aim of democratising craft coffee, by challenging the notion that a fancy set-up is essential in producing a quality cup of coffee. They hope to expand this passion project by connecting with their customers at events.

“The coffee industry can be intimidating for those who want to explore, but feel overwhelmed by technicalities. Our goal is to create a platform where people can enjoy and learn about coffee without the intimidation factor. It’s about making the coffee experience more accessible to everyone,” says Zizie.

Follow Kopistan on Instagram (@ko.pi.stan) for more updates.

Photography Clement Goh
Art Direction Adeline Eng