About Lam Yeo Coffee Powder
Lam Yeo Coffee Powder Factory is a Singaporean traditional style coffee roaster which specializes in both local Singaporean ‘kopi’ and modern gourmet coffee. The name “Lam Yeo” is a Hokkien translation of the word “Nanyang” – meaning South Sea – a phrase commonly associated with new opportunities, hopes and dreams.
Lam Yeo Coffee Powder was founded in 1959 by Tan Thian Kang, a former assistant editor at the now-defunct newspaper, Nanyang Siang Pau. The idea to start Lam Yeo Coffee Powder came at a period of time when Mr Tan worked as a salesman at a coffee factory. He and a fellow colleague were inspired to start their own coffee business which sold only the best, quality handpicked beans.
Although the venture started off humbly – with Mr Tan selling his beans door to door out of the back of a van – the business grew steadily and surely as people came to love the quality in each cup that was brewed. Mr Tan attributed his success to three simple factors – skill in harvesting the best beans, skill in roasting them in the right way, and skill in creating original blends.
Opening at Balestier Road
As Mr Tan saw great success in his endeavors, he was inspired to open a retail outlet and formally incorporate his business. With the help of his wife, Lim Chok Tee, he managed to secure the ground floor of a little shophouse at 328 Balestier Road. On 21 September 1960, the business, now officially registered as “Lam Yeo Coffee Powder Factory”, opened its doors to the public. Opening the shopfront proved a wise decision as business soared in the years ahead. Its 10 signature blends of coffee, made from beans harvested throughout Southeast Asia, quickly became local favorites. Lam Yeo continued to widen its range of coffee blends and brands, and even expanded its operations to sell coffee wholesale. As the store began to get busier and busier, Mr Tan decided to start grooming his eldest son, Tan Bong Heong, in the family trade. Lam Yeo continued to grow and prosper under the stewardship of the father-son team, and continued to do very well into the next few decades.
Passing on the baton
In the early nineties, Mr Tan felt that it was time to take a step back and pass on the reins of the business wholly to his son. Bong Heong stepped up and took over the business with the help of his wife, Hon Moi Chai. Although the new team faced fresh challenges such as a different economy and the rise in popularity of cafes, western blends and international coffee chains, Lam Yeo’s business continued to do well, serving the same tai-tais, ah-mahs and uncles who frequented the shop throughout the years. In time, Bong Heong began teaching his own son, Benny Tan, the tools of the trade, just as his father did.
Today, Lam Yeo Coffee Powder is one of the last remaining family run coffee businesses which has stayed on in Singapore’s ever changing landscape. Benny and his parents continue the family trade by faithfully providing customers with Lam Yeo Traditional Blends – the family’s signature quality kopi. Lam Yeo is now reaching out to a new, younger market with a new blend of exotic, gourmet beans which aim to cater to more sophisticated and evolving tastes.