Old-school coffee shop Hup Lee set to close, nostalgic atmosphere will be missed by many

Hup Lee coffee shop's last day is on August 22.

By Tanya Ong | August 16, 2017

Old eateries are disappearing in Singapore. Places such as Hua Nam Restaurant in Upper Thomson, and Lau Hock Guan on Dunman Road, have already closed this year.

And now, adding on to this list is Hup Lee coffee shop located at Jalan Besar, one of the last few old-school coffee shops in Singapore.

Hup Lee is a family-run business that has been in operation since the 1950s. Well-known for its traditional-style charcoal toasted kaya toast, soft-boiled eggs, and sock-brewed coffee and tea, it is also one of the few places in Singapore that serves butter coffee.

Currently, Foo Mui Ya and Cheong Leong Sing run the coffee shop. Their son helps out occasionally.

According to the Straits Times, the shophouse has been sold, and Hup Lee is set to close on August 22 this year. And some people have expressed sadness, saying that it will be difficult to find such old-school coffee shops like Hup Lee.

Many old-school eateries are missed because of its food, people, and atmosphere – Hup Lee will be no exception.

Old-world charm

Other than serving traditional fare, Hup Lee appeals to many because of the coffee shop’s nostalgic atmosphere.

Its interior is filled with nostalgic objects such as old fans and an orange public telephone.

Photo from Here Now
Photo from Here Now

According to Burpple user Wei Zhi Chiang, the coffeeshop is a blast from the past and one feels “immediately transported back in time” upon stepping in.

Screenshot from Burpple

Hup Lee Auntie

Many also recognise Foo, the Hup Lee Auntie/Grandmother, as she has become quite a popular figure in the coffee shop.

Foo is known for her consistency in preparing the toast and coffee. According to her son,

“She would take a teaspoon, scoop some of the coffee and let it trickle to see how thick the coffee is. Based on her judgment, she would add more water if necessary. For the toast, she would flip the bread a few times to ensure that it is evenly brown and toasted. She’s very particular about consistency.”

One customer also likes how Foo is willing to cater to her customers’ tastes and preferences:

“Auntie’s coffee is very good and it’s hard to find someone who does it like her. Once, the coffee was a bit bitter, so I didn’t finish it. She saw it and asked me immediately what the problem was. From then on, my coffee has always been perfect. I like that she may have been doing this for a long time, but she still asks for feedback.”

But it is not just about the food. Foo is likeable as a grandmother figure.

Screenshot from Instagram

Foo works every day of the year, except for the first two days of Chinese New Year. Her son reveals that one reason for the coffee shop’s closure is that his mother’s health has been deteriorating.

Hup Lee’s shutters will close for good on August 22 and Foo will be retiring.

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Top photo composite image from Instagram users the.coffee.press & peterdeployant.

1819 is a labour of love by Mothership.sg where we tell stories from Singapore’s history, heritage & culture. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!



About Tanya Ong

Tanya hopes to own a roller skate disco one day.

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