Andre Chanco - Green Buyer and Co-founder of Yardstick, Manila.
How do you usually drink your coffee?
Now that I really think about it, I definitely miss drinking and enjoying a good cup of coffee from the other side of the bar as a customer. For hot coffees, it’s usually an espresso in the morning or a filter coffee in the afternoon. Because of the climate in our part of the world, cold brews or iced black coffees are my go-to refreshments.
Who inspired you on your coffee journey?
Prior to joining the coffee industry, the social interactions that occur inside a coffee shop or a cafe always amazed me, be it with the barista on shift or meeting random people. What surprised me even more was the willingness of specialty coffee professionals to engage and share. At the beginning, it was very intimidating but everyone’s openness made it a lot more comfortable. The specialty coffee folks who I met along the way definitely piqued my interest and got me inspired.
On a day-to-day basis, my team is definitely my biggest inspiration and motivation. I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by like-minded, talented people and seeing them succeed and do their best is what drives me.
How did you get started in the coffee business?
In 2010, I got introduced to Alan Nietlisbach from Olam’s Specialty Coffee division in the US. He was very kind to setup a month long itinerary from me across the US visiting roasters, the SCAA, the Roaster’s Guild retreat and meeting various people along the way. That was definitely an eye-opener. Back in Singapore, Leon, Mel and Ivan from Papa Palheta showed me the ropes. It was a great deep dive into what it is like to run a coffee roasting business. At Yardstick, working alongside me are Kevin and Jessica, who are equally capable and interested in this world of Specialty Coffee. Yardstick won’t be what it is without both of my partners.
What is the most exciting part of what you do?
What’s great about running Yardstick is that coffee crosses paths with various subcultures, industries and also our personal interests. Therefore, we really get to do what we love as well as learn new things by meeting new people from different fields. As mentioned earlier, developing a team is what inspires me daily because we’re only as good as the people that we surround ourselves with. Lastly, discovering new and tasty coffees on the cupping table is always exciting. It brings me back to that first day when Specialty Coffee blew my mind.
Among the countries that you had coffee at, which is the most memorable. Why?
Ohh this is a tough one to answer! Enjoying the coffee ceremony (and some popcorn) in Ethiopia definitely tops the list! I have an affinity towards the Melbourne coffee scene because of how simple and yet how progressive it is. It’s great that it’s so easy to find really good coffees paired with great service around the city. I also do have to mention Koppi from Helsingborg, Sweden as something that was very memorable. They are definitely one of the pioneers in Specialty Coffee and the people that run it are nothing short of sweet and amazing, just like their coffees.
What recommendations do you have about coffee equipment?
Keep it simple and within budget. Buying the latest and greatest is not always the best idea. Knowing how to use a set of equipments and understanding how they impact operations are important considerations. I’m personally a fan of batch brews. I understand the misconceptions with the process, but if executed to a tee, coffee can be consistent and delicious at the same time.
How do you decide who will be a good baristas?
We have never hired based on technical skills from day one. It has always been about someone’s character and soft skills. Obviously, it’s easier said than done as Yardstick has also gone through several manpower changes and challenges over the past four years. It’s a bonus if the candidate loves and understands specialty coffee, but first and foremost we constantly remind ourselves that we are in the hospitality industry. People who are able to engage, show empathy and give it their very best daily are traits that we look for in a good barista.
If there's one thing that people do not know about Yardstick, what would that be?
Prior to starting up, the entire design and brand was developed outside of Manila, without any due diligence or research being conducted. This was to avoid seeing what’s currently being done and executed in the local market and introduce a brand that’s fresh. Obviously, this can backfire but we did enjoy that process thoroughly. We worked with the guys from Acre who still remain friends until this day.