Back in 1974, Shi Pong Hsu, now 85, bought over a kopitiam (“kopi” is Malay for coffee and “tiam” is Hokkien for shop) by the name of Heap Seng Leong at 10 North Bridge Rd #01-5109, Singapore 190010 and it looks as if the shop has not changed a bit ever since.
It’s a throwback to the days of my childhood and the offerings are simple; Shi serves the usual drinks, toast and half-boiled eggs being sold in kopitiams everywhere but Heap Seng Leong is probably the only place in Singapore still serving butter coffee.
If “Bulletproof Coffee” (butter, coffee and MCT – Medium-Chain Triglyceride – oil from coconut or palm kernel) is the power drink of Silicon Valley or the preferred drink of keto diet aficionados, then Singapore already has it from eons ago.
Old uncles tell me that butter in coffee oils their lungs and is especially good for smokers. I don’t know about that but I do relish the taste of such coffees. So, hit with nostalgia, I made a trip to Heap Seng Leong recently and had two cups of the cholesterol-loaded brew.
As you may know, what is termed local coffee Singapore-style is basically coffee with sugar and condensed milk and in this case, with a small slice of butter stirred in. Artery-clogging stuff, but at 64, I don’t care. Not planning to live till a hundred or anything like that, no sir. What’s the point of living till a hundred when all your friends have died and you have to defecate into diapers and drink your food through a tube in your nose, right?
Shi, a Hockchew who came from China when he was 12 is still at it – bent, skinny and dressed in the standard “uniform” of old time kopitiam proprietors – a white singlet and striped pajama pants.
His coffee is gooder than good and he is more famous than famous – he was even written up in The Wall Street Journal once.