At Hamilton Road, Andrea Tan from ‘Lucid’ speaks of its coffee, cakes, and collaborative thrive

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Now that we’re in Phase 2 of handling this pandemic, I can’t help but notice a flurry of cafes popping up everywhere on our island. I have this mentality that now wouldn’t be the best time to start a new business—what more in F&B, where it can be rather cut-throat given Singapore’s competitive food scene. One of those brave entrant to the scene is Lucid at Hamilton Road, near Lavender MRT.

I, at first, wondered why its name is so, until I reflected on the meaning on the word, and visited them. It makes so much sense now; as lucid means ‘clear, coherent, intelligible’, it’s a state of mind that accurately described how I felt once I stepped into its premise.

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It’s stark and void of cluttering decor. With a washed-out grey palette cast throughout the space and furniture that serves merely as a place of brief respite, re-charging your energy here will do most people some good. Some might find it jarring from the usual beautified walls that greet customers, but as its name reminds you, this is a place to seek clarity with, of course, the help of caffeine.

The champ and her winning brew

What makes Lucid stand out from other coffee houses in recent times is its owner’s story and her java journey to where she is today. Andrea Tan is Singapore’s first National Brewers’ Cup champion but her route to reigning champion isn’t as mundane as one would assume. Her previous employer, now-defunct bistro 8 Stanley Street, egged her to join the competition, simply for exposure and experience.

Never expecting to take home the win, she then started to feel pressure to live up to the title. However, not only did she not cave in to expectations, she succeeded beyond what she initially envisioned.

Apart from being owner of Lucid, she’s also a certified World Coffee Events judge which takes her around the world observing, sipping, and guiding other coffee connoisseurs on how to perfect their craft.

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The first drink I had the honour of tasting was the Iced Dirty Genmaicha Latte (S$7). It’s a special collaboration item between Hvala and Lucid (Espresso Blend) which features two shots of espresso, genmaicha, sugar, and milk. This collaborative nature of Lucid is what makes this coffeehouse so different; not much of their products are “owned” by them, per se.

“(Lucid is) a space is borne of curation and creation,” Andrea shares with me. “We choose products from the sea of variety in the market and represent the best of them here. So for example, our espresso uses a medium-dark roast profile which most cafes don’t serve as they tend to use medium or medium-light roasts.”

As my palate was able to enjoy the bittersweet notes of this genmaicha latte, I realised I had never enjoyed genmaicha with coffee before—but it made so much sense. I typically avoid lattes given their milky sweetness, but the espressos’ mild acidity sliced right through and created a faultless balance.

“Conversely, our filter coffee menu has a wide selection featuring international coffee roasters that we feel are the best at their specific styles (nordic roasts, well-developed roasts, etc).”

“The ability to always curate and select products or ingredients from partners and serve them to customers that trust our taste is an amazing feeling”, she proudly gleams.

Brew-tasting 101

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Given Andrea’s personal story of how someone with novice coffee competition knowledge managed to clinch first prize, I was curious about how one would go about educating themselves on this magical black brew.

“I would suggest learning to taste first. It’s okay if the way you describe it is abstract, but knowing how to identify taste sensations will serve you well when you are trying to adjust coffee-making recipes or dialling in a new coffee.”

She recommends specific flavour nuances you can start with such as identifying sweet, sour, bitter, savoury and umami slants in coffee and then move on to understanding and remembering origin flavours. The final step would involve educating yourself on how brewing can change the characteristics of each flavour profile.

“By knowing what causes each taste sensation, you will be able to isolate and work on improving elements that contribute to your final cup of coffee and eventually brew better coffee,” she summarises.

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For example, if you truly enjoy your coffee black sans sugar or cream, then the Costa Rica al Canal (S$19) from Taster’s Coffee Taiwan would be a prime choice with its robust and earthy flavour profile. Touting notes of apple pie, toasted pecans, cassia cinnamon, cedar, raisin, and brown sugar, it isn’t as heavy as what I’d anticipated. Surprisingly, it remained smooth, very palatable and low in acidity with every sip.

Coffee, cake, and conversations

At Lucid, not everything is simply about coffee. They offer a curated selection of cakes as well, all thanks to their co-operation with an in-house bakery partner, Thoughts Bake, who specialises in French-Japanese pastries.

“It’s a perfect partnership as the bakery’s direction is already somewhat “minimal”, so the bakes are always clean, elegant, and simple,” Andrea explains.

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The most-eye catching creation has to be the Cloud Beta V0.1 (S$9), a delicate-looking dessert that’s made of white chocolate mousse, strawberry basil filling, and a shortbread base. Within it hid a deep-red strawberry filling, with a nuanced basil undertone—a flavour I wouldn’t have easily detected on my own.

Don’t be afraid to acknowledge the savoury aspect of this dessert as the basil was extremely subtle, and came through the nose as a light whiff of after-aroma. The sweetness of the white chocolate mousse blended effortlessly with the tartness of the strawberry basil filling, making the overall flavour profile of this dessert as surprisingly mild as its dainty looks.

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I asked Andrea if there were any motivations or rationales behind the dessert-beverage pairing, but refreshingly, Lucid doesn’t have any specific pairings in mind when developing the menu.

“However, the beverage selection is quite extensive and the pastry menu is growing, (so) there comes a point where you can definitely find a suitable pastry to match your drink of choice,” she reassures me.

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The Brownie to end all Brownies

I really loved the Brownie (S$4.50). Granted, this Brownie isn’t as thick as I’d like, nor does it come served with a hefty scoop of vanilla ice cream like some other places. But, therein lies the beauty of this Brownie recipe.

It’s made with hazelnuts and fleur de sel (a type of sea salt obtained by hand-harvesting the “young” crystals that form on the surface of salt evaporation ponds), which means there’s just the slightest punch of saltiness when you bite into this Brownie. This flavour profile works in a very similar fashion to salted caramel, only this union isn’t meant to be cloying.

I came here with prior knowledge that the Brownie is the dessert to look out for, but after tasting it for myself, I understood why—and more importantly, it has ruined other brownies for me.

Final thoughts

Of course, Andrea’s life now revolves around her business and the art of coffee in all its glory, but curiosity got the better of me as I asked, ‘If you weren’t in the F&B or the coffee industry, where else would you career steer towards?’

“I would probably work in the media or creative industry. I have dabbled lightly in events, copywriting, and branding. I’m always excited to work with campaigns and processes that let me bring my ideas to life.”

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“Also,” she elaborates, “writing has always been something I’ve loved doing. I am currently handling the social media, branding, and marketing for Lucid and I guess that helps me to stay close to the things that I am especially passionate about while still being in the world coffee—it’s a truly privileged position to be in.”

And if you’re wondering what else Andrea drinks when she’s not keeping her tank running on caffeine, you’d be as surprised as I was to learn, that coffee isn’t actually her favourite beverage.

“Coffee is work; some days it’s fun and exciting while other days it just doesn’t taste right no matter what I do. My favourite drink, though, would probably be fresh coconut juice. I don’t have to think too much about it and it’s usually really good,” she candidly replies.

It does make sense given that copious amount of coffee can sometimes prove to “weigh” on one’s palate, and all you looking for when not taste-testing beans is for a clean-tasting beverage to “wipe the slate clean”, so to speak.

By now, you might feel like Lucid is just another run-of-the-mill coffeehouse trying to impress with its numerous bean varieties that only the well-informed and well-heeled can appreciate.

In fact, it is far from the truth as exemplified in their core belief of collaborations and experimentation. At Lucid, diners are able to pop in, take a break from Singapore’s relentless heat, and treat themselves to a cuppa and dessert—enjoyed any way they please. Although, with the limited seating now and immense interest in Lucid (no thanks to articles like this), I’ll have my genmaicha to go, sil vous plait. With a slice of brownie, of course.

Price: $

Our Rating: 5 / 5

Lucid

38 Hamilton Road, Singapore 209208

Price
Our Rating 5/5

Lucid

38 Hamilton Road, Singapore 209208

Operating Hours: 11am - 7.30pm (Mon, Wed to Fri), 10am - 7.30pm (Sat & Sun)

Operating Hours: 11am - 7.30pm (Mon, Wed to Fri), 10am - 7.30pm (Sat & Sun)
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