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Great Coffee in Common: John Chew

John Chew, - Head Barista at China House, Penang


Describe the perfect setting to enjoy a coffee.

There’s already nothing as perfect as a decent and easy cup of coffee.

How did you get started in the coffee business?

I do not own a cafe business for now. I got into my coffee career admiring how cool baristas appeared to be. I wanted to play with coffee machines and of course, I love coffee.

What's your relationship with coffee?

Coffee and I are just like a couple that is in love. I spend my time getting to know it better and I learned a lot since I first started 7 years ago. No doubt, we are in a long term, long running relationship.

In your opinion, what makes a good coffee?

Of course, it is a good barista to pair with good coffee beans. A good barista should know how to make his beans perform well into a cup that doesn't have indecent qualities.

Passion or money? Why?

Both are equally important. Passion and money are the keywords in sustaining the business.

As a barista, what do you think about competitors (cafes) in industry?

I never felt competitors are a category to focus our energy in a business. If there is competition, it should be healthy. We grow together, learn from each other, and share our knowledge. I visit other cafes quite often too as most experienced baristas actually love sharing their own coffee stories and knowledge, this is a form of information exchange.

How do you decide what defines a good barista?

A good barista should taste their coffee from time to time in a day, as we know coffee beans are sensitive to their environments and tend to change, making adjustments as necessary. Understand the origin of the beans and be able to impress guests with good coffee. But of course, baristas should never stop learning as coffee is a field of study and has great influence to the community.

 Wait for the right timing? Or just go for it?

Just go for it, you know you won’t always be lucky enough to get the right timing. That’s a big challenge, as you might not know what would be the result. I would say… no pain no gain.

What would you like to see happen in the coffee industry over the next ten years?

Coffee should become better accepted to masses, I think it would be a big winner for the food and beverage industry. Maybe there will be more options in how we serve it. What if we serve coffee like one of our daily vitamins like coffee tablets or capsules.