From its name itself, the common coffeeshop or kopitiam( kopi being the Malay word for coffee and Tiam the Hokkien word for shop) already suggests the importance it plays beyond serving a palette of economically decent food. It is a communal hangout where inhibitions, fashion sense and hygiene are left at the door, and each individual contributes to its development and identity through definitive actions on their own.

The kopitiam means holds different meanings for everyone. Image by Desmond Lui

While the hawker centre serves a larger communal that sees the premise as a mere means to their gastronomical fill, the coffeeshop serves a comparatively closer knit community that cherish and indulge in conversations fleeting with the glory days of the past whilst they willfully enjoy the latest Channel 8 drama with barely there audio quality.

The coffeeshop is all about convenience for the neighbourhood and draws on a unique marketing marvel known as BLOCK IDENTITY, a concept where the coffeeshops distinguish themselves away from the likes of Forty Hands and Coffee Club, and are instead known by community in reference to the block it is situated under, 805, 401 and 327 being some I have grown to know around my area.

The coffeeshop is also an investment that has not been spared from the effects of  inflation, and many a well-loved stall have fallen to the increasing rents and greed from landlords.

Whether the kopitiam can withstand the test of time remains to be seen, it is an amenity that we often overlook till it becomes inconveniently out of reach as it is now with many a developing estate consisting of BTO’s and overpromised facilities.

The kopitiam is and will always be a quintessential member of the neighbourhood.

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