Elysia Tan of Homground Coffee Roasters, certified Q-grader and maker of excellent brews!
Why did you choose coffee as a profession?
I love making coffee everyday. Everyday. It frightens me to imagine a day not doing coffee. That fear of tells me that I can do this for a very long time. Coffee makes my work extremely enjoyable because even the simplest cup involves so much effort, skill and technique involved . The draw to coffee me for me is this; the more I study, the more I discover uncertainties or questions and there are so many different aspects in coffee yet to be improved. I feel that is this makes a life in coffee a long, exciting and meaningful journey. I believe we have to challenge ourselves day to day to make a break through.
What/Who inspired you on your coffee journey?
Many people. I have met so many inspiring people along the way. Firstly, the truly passionate and avid coffee consuming home brewers like Issac, Yuko and Kai Ren, who put in their absolute 100% into every single cup of coffee brewed. When they share stories about their brewing, it inspires me to work towards a better cup and then to be able to exchange new and exciting ideas with them.
Secondly, the customers who acknowledge and appreciate the effort you put into the cup.
Thirdly, coffee professionals such as Marian, a coffee roaster at Cata Coffee originally from Venezuela I met. It excites me to see their eyes instantly light up and sparkle when you talk coffee with them. Damn it I just love that feeling. It is so hard not to get stimulated by them. Often we forget how difficult it is to 'perfect' a cup of coffee. Marian constantly reminds me to recognize all the collective effort so many people put into a cup. This starts all the way from the origins of the coffee. A little under/over-extraction should not overshadow all the hard work put in. This makes me want to work harder for every cup of coffee I make.
She was the first person to make me realize the “sweetness” in coffee. I can never forget this one espresso from her. It was SO. DAMN. SWEET!
What has coffee taught you?
Firstly, that there is no end/final destination to it . You can only be constantly learning. Be it a new discovery or learning from a mistake. Every day someone out there is working hard to discover or to improve on our current technologies/techniques. It is also very important to keep oneself updated.
Secondly, coffee knowledge is not limited to learning specifically only coffee. Many times, you can apply your experience and skills from other industries to coffee. That is what makes it more interesting!
Thirdly, that there are so many different aspects to it. Many of us constantly struggle to communicate our love/care/understanding/stories of coffee to our customers day to day. Along the way, I picked up soft skills to better help me communicate with the consumers. Understanding the need /want of the customer is as important brewing a cup of coffee.
Finally, staying positive and persistent. You will only get better. That’s what I believe.
What is the most memorable experience you had with coffee?
This year both Homing and I participated in SNBC (Singapore National Barista Championship) and SNBRC (Singapore National Brewers Cup Championship). We were looking around for greens for the competition. We encountered a particular coffee we liked from a Taiwanese trader. However, they did not ship out from Taiwan to Singapore due to importing license issue. So I travelled to Taiwan single-handedly to collect the coffee (50kg of greens). That was pretty scary. I was so afraid that I couldn't manage them. To carry them from the shop back to my hostel and then again to the airport. It. Was. Crazy. I doubt I would do it again anymore hahahah!
Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
Still brewing coffee.
What are some of the trends you observed within Singapore's coffee community?
There is definitely an increase in the number of coffee drinkers/coffee appreciators. You would also be very surprised with the number of home brewers and home roasters in Singapore. Personally we haven't yet have the pleasure of encountering a vast majority of them. The demand is not super high but surely growing. Coffee has now been incorporated as a lifestyle choice rather than mere caffeine habit.
What is your favourite coffee bean and where did you have it?
I do not fancy any particular region/farm/country. I enjoy pleasant coffee of all sorts. I like it when the coffee gives me a full retronasal and orthonasal experience. I love to smell taste things. I have had too many “best" coffees to name them all down.