Lam Yeo Coffee Powder Factory

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The shopfront of Lam Yeo Coffee Powder Factory with its original signage from 1960. Photo from Roots.sg.

Lam Yeo Coffee Powder Factory(南洋咖啡粉厂) is a 60-year-old family business specializing in the wholesale and retail of roasted coffee beans and coffee powder blends. It is located in a shophouse at 328 Balestier Road which is a 3-minute walk from the famed Sing Hon Loong Bakery.[1]


In 2014 and 2018, Lam Yeo Coffee Powder Factory was featured in two heritage programmes — the Balestier Heritage Trail and Reminiscence Walks. Both programmes were organised by the National Heritage Board.[2][3]

Background

Hon Moi Chai (left) and Tan Boon Heong (right) are the second-generation owners and parents to Benny Tan (centre) who now oversees Lam Yeo. Photo from Makansutra.

‘Lam Yeo’ is the Hokkien pronunciation of the Chinese characters ‘Nanyang’ (南洋) — which directly translates to ‘South Sea’ in English. The phrase symbolises hope in new business opportunities.[4][5] As of 2019, Lam Yeo is still at its original location along Balestier Road. Its business operations are helmed by the third-generation store owner, Benny Tan Peck Hoe.


Over the years, Lam Yeo has managed to remain profitable with the help of loyal customers and by shifting its focus from wholesale to product quality and variety.[6][7]


As reported in a 2013 article in The Straits Times, the business saw a yearly growth of 10 per cent. In a 2017 interview with The Peak Magazine Singapore, Tan Boon Heong, the second-generation owner, stated that they have about 2,000 orders every day.[8][9]

Origins

Lam Yeo pictured on its opening day on 21 September 1960. Photo from Lam Yeo's website.

First established in 1959, Lam Yeo was founded by Tan Khian Kang — a former assistant editor at Nanyang Siang Pau, a now-defunct Chinese language newspaper. Khian Kang had been inspired to sell quality handpicked coffee beans after his time at a coffee factory. He initially sold coffee directly to households with his entire inventory in the back of a van.[10]


With the help of his wife, Lim Chok Tee, Khian Kang set up a physical shopfront on 328 Balestier Road. On 21 September 1960, the business was officially registered as ‘Lam Yeo Coffee Powder Factory’.[11]


In September 1960, Khian Kang introduced a month-long offer to commemorate the opening of the store and promote business. For every kati of coffee powder purchased, customers received a complementary tin of condensed milk and one kati (about 0.6 kg) of sugar.[12] Khian Kiang also introduced gift redemption cards to develop Lam Yeo's customer base. Customers could redeem small gifts of their choice after accumulating a set number of cards with each purchase.[13]

Succession

Khian Kang handed down the factory to his eldest son, Tan Boon Heong who managed the business with his wife, Hon Moi Chai.[14]


As of 2019, the third-generational owner of Lam Yeo is Tan Peck Hoe who also goes by the name Benny. Benny is the son of Boon Heong and Moi Chai. He helped out at the shop from a young age during school holidays and even after his National Service (NS).[15]

Products & Services

Lam Yeo's speciality coffee beans on display. Photo from Hatena Blog.

Lam Yeo sells both roasted speciality coffee beans and coffee blends. The coffee beans sourced are of both Robusta and Arabica varieties and are roasted at an offsite factory located in Kallang before being deposited at the shopfront for sale.[16][17]


Upon purchase, the coffee beans are ground to varying degrees of fineness based on the customer’s preference.[18][19] The store's product packaging have also been re-designed to appeal to modern and well-travelled consumers.


Under Benny's leadership, Lam Yeo has introduced speciality coffee beans and blends for various sources overseas.[20] He also created a Facebook business profile for Lam Yeo that is regularly updated with detailed descriptions of new coffee bean imports. These descriptions include the product origin, production process and flavour profile of the speciality coffee beans.[21]


There are two categories for the coffee blends — Legacy Blends and Specialty Blends. Blends in the latter are derived from coffee beans originating from countries like Brazil, Columbia and Ethiopia.[22]

Legacy Blend

Referred to as the ‘Lam Yeo Traditional Blend - Motor Car Brand Coffee Mixture’, the Legacy Blend is derived from a recipe that was developed since the founding of the business in 1950. The coffee beans used in the blend are sourced from Indonesia and roasted in a traditional Nanyang-style which uses 80 per cent coffee and 20 per cent sugar and margarine.[23][24] When brewed, the resulting mixture is thick and opaque, making it a favourite for coffee shop owners.[25]

References / Citations

  1. “Balestier Heritage Trail: Walking Tours & Landmarks”. Ramada Singapore. Accessed on 10 October 2019. Retrieved from: https://ramadasingapore.com/things-to-do/balestier-a-heritage-trail/
  2. Wong, Cara. “Heritage tours led by seniors for seniors launched”. The New Paper. December 19, 2018. Accessed on 10 October 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.tnp.sg/news/singapore/heritage-tours-led-seniors-seniors-launched
  3. Nabilah Said. “Heritage at your doorstep”. The Straits Times. September 26, 2014. Accessed on 9 October 2019. Retrieved from Factiva.
  4. “Lam Yeo Coffee Powder - our story from 1959 to present day”. Lam Yeo Coffee Powder. Accessed on 9 October 2019. Retrieved from: http://lamyeo.com/ourstory/
  5. Loh, Juliana. “Five traditional Singapore bakeries, and a coffee shop, to satisfy your craving for the treats locals grew up with”. South China Morning Post. July 13, 2017. Accessed on 9 October 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/food-drink/article/2102363/five-traditional-singapore-bakeries-and-coffee-shop-satisfy
  6. Lee, Samantha. “3 oldschool eats at Balestier you’ll always go back to”. The Peak Singapore. March 10, 2017. Accessed on 10 October 2019. Retrieved from: https://thepeakmagazine.com.sg/gourmet-travel/3-old-school-eats-balestier-youll-always-go-back/  
  7. Daniel, Gillian. “Yesterday Once More”. The Business Times. August 5, 2017. Accessed on 10 October 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/lifestyle/feature/yesterday-once-more-0  
  8. Tai, Janice. “Robust trade well worth the grind”. The Straits Times. January 28, 2013. Accessed on 9 October 2019. Retrieved from Factiva.
  9. Lee, Samantha. “3 oldschool eats at Balestier you’ll always go back to”. The Peak Singapore. March 10, 2017. Accessed on 10 October 2019. Retrieved from: https://thepeakmagazine.com.sg/gourmet-travel/3-old-school-eats-balestier-youll-always-go-back/  
  10. “Lam Yeo Coffee Powder - our story from 1959 to present day”. Lam Yeo Coffee Powder. Accessed on 9 October 2019. Retrieved from: http://lamyeo.com/ourstory/  
  11. “Lam Yeo Coffee Powder - our story from 1959 to present day”. Lam Yeo Coffee Powder. Accessed on 9 October 2019. Retrieved from: http://lamyeo.com/ourstory/   
  12. “Balestier a heritage trail”. National Heritage Board. Accessed on 9 October 2019. Retrieved from:  https://www.nhb.gov.sg/~/media/nhb/files/places/trails/balestier/balestier.pdf  
  13. Geng Hui. “Traditional Kopi by Lam Yeo Coffee Powder”. TGH Photography Portal/Blog (blog). January 30, 2013. Accessed on 10 October 2019. Retrieved from: http://blog.photojournalist-tgh.tv/uncategorized/traditional-kopi-by-lam-yeo-coffee-powder
  14. Tan, Shzr Ee. “Enjoying the daily grind”. The Straits Times. September 21, 2003. Accessed on 9 October 2019. Retrieved from Factiva.
  15. Roots Sg. “A Traditional Coffee Powder Grinder”. YouTube. August 29, 2013. Accessed on 9 October 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n0IygxdAMxc&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR2T8qV1OnSqcICoEkKDo8IFACc7_VsCIMA1T-NnD0q7QC4FzA0d8TE_m1o
  16. Daniel, Gillian. “Yesterday Once More”. The Business Times. August 5, 2017. Accessed on 10 October 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/lifestyle/feature/yesterday-once-more-0
  17. Tan, Shzr Ee. “Enjoying the daily grind”. The Straits Times. September 21, 2003. Accessed on 9 October 2019. Retrieved from Factiva.
  18. “Review: Local Coffee From Lam Yeo Coffee Powder Factory”. The Dining Table. November 27, 2014. Accessed on 10 October 2019. Retrieved from: http://thediningtable.sg/review-local-coffee-lam-yeo-coffee-powder-factory/
  19. Daniel, Gillian. “Yesterday Once More”. The Business Times. August 5, 2017. Accessed on 9 October 2019. Retrieved from Factiva.
  20. Daniel, Gillian. “Yesterday Once More”. The Business Times. August 5, 2017. Accessed on 10 October 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/lifestyle/feature/yesterday-once-more-0  
  21. Lam Yeo Coffee Powder. “Ethiopia Natural Anderacha Geisha G3 P4050”. Facebook. May 24, 2019. Accessed on 9 October 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.facebook.com/lamyeocoffeepowder/photos/a.609086615841571/2341911262559089/?type=3&theater  
  22. “Lam Yeo Coffee Powder - Our Coffee - blends, beans and more”. Lam Yeo Coffee Powder. Accessed on 10 October 2019. Retrieved from: http://lamyeo.com/coffee/
  23. “Nanyang-style or “Dirty Coffee”. Under The Angsana Tree (blog). November 30, 2014. Accessed on 10 October 2019. Retrieved from: https://undertheangsanatree.blogspot.com/2014_11_01_archive.html
  24. Daniel, Gillian. “Yesterday Once More”. The Business Times. August 5, 2017. Accessed on 10 October 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/lifestyle/feature/yesterday-once-more-0  
  25. Tan, Shzr Ee. “Enjoying the daily grind”. The Straits Times. September 21, 2003. Accessed on 9 October 2019. Retrieved from Factiva.