Posted by May Espino on

Any advice for someone who wants to start a café business?
Willingness to serve is a must because Food and Beverage is a hospitality industry. Be your own self and calculate your costs carefully.
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Posted by Sarah Rouse on

 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.


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Posted by Sarah Rouse on

Nora Surani 

Head Barista, Free the Robots 

Who influenced/inspired you on your coffee journey?

There's a few people who I look up to but there's only one who always comes into mind when it comes to coffee, Vanessa Caceres from The Coffee Academics. I started being a barista about 9 years ago and every time there's a competition or throwdown, I always try to be there to watch and learn from all the competitors. Almost every throwdown or competition, you will see Vanessa. I always find her engaging, entertaining, very confident but yet humble. 3 years ago I joined Toby's Estate and Vanessa was the head barista (yay!) and finally I got to know her on a personal level (she's a good friend now). I got to know what she has achieved as a barista and what she has sacrificed to be where she is now. Her journey as a barista was inspiring and what she has achieved is pretty amazing for a female barista.

The award she has is like OMG! She has influenced me to always JUST GO FOR IT and I live by that now.

What has coffee taught you?

Woah where do I begin! I used to be just a typical barista who dose, tamp and extract without even looking at all other factors like temperature, grind size, pressure and roast. All I wanted was to be fast and pour.

After countless coffee appreciation classes, trainings and working at different cafés, I have learned, “Hey! It’s not just that! It's about being precise and patient. Coffee has also thought me to be a leader and be humble. It's amazing how something so humble (coffee) can be so mighty!

Can you still fall asleep after you had so many coffees?

I had many sleepless nights when I first started being a barista but after awhile coffee makes me sleepy after maybe about 8-9 espressos! Then I will get the jitters, hand shaking and eyeballs popping kind of feeling but for a while. In overall nah!!! I still sleep like a baby at night now.

In your opinion, what makes a good coffee?

Hmmm. A good barista is one but a good barista with a great attitude can really blow your mind. One has to be confident, knowledgeable and believed in their coffee and sell a GREAT EXPERIENCE and that what makes a great coffee.

How do you drink your coffee?

Used to love drinking caramel latte but after I got really serious with coffee it's Black black black. Especially pourover! It's the way to go to really enjoy the flavours of a particular beans

Best ever coffee?

Woah! I had a few great coffees but the most memorable and can't stop thinking about is a Dominican Republic pourover brewed and roasted by Hayashi at Arise coffee roasters at Koto-ku, Tokyo, Japan. It's a tiny little cafe and 1 man show! And he brings in coffee from all over the world. Where can u get Dominican Republic coffee in Singapore! NOWHERE!

First sip was woah berries and then it's strawberry jam strawberry jam strawberry jam with dark chocolate finish. It's like having a chocolate mousse with strawberry compote!

What opportunities has coffee given you?

Travelling and making friends! You really need to go out there and see the world and understand different cultures to understand coffee. Make friends and have a friendly debate.

It will also encourage you to drive forward and be better!

Describe the perfect setting to enjoy coffee.

Me in shorts, flip flops, white t-shirt and really cool shades at Kings Park, Perth during SPRING.

What is the best thing that happened to you because of coffee?

A lot of great things happened because of coffee and I'm very grateful but the most memorable one is when I get to travel to Geneva with other baristas to actually make coffee! Travel and get paid to do what you love! We were slaying it like a boss!

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Great Coffee in Common: Anne-Marie Cher

Posted by Sarah Rouse on

Anne-Marie Cher

Assistant Manager of Kith Cafe

Who influenced/inspired you on your coffee journey?

That would be none other than my boss, Jane.

What has coffee taught you?

I learnt that not everyone could settle for a single cup of coffee. What you might think is your perfect cup, might not be for someone else. It is all about preference.

Can you till fall asleep after you had so many coffees?

Yes, I can! You can never have too many in a day.

How would you position yourself in service?

I am very comfortable with service and outgoing so there's never really a problem there.

Are you a talker or a maker?

I like to be hands-on with the things I do. It is so much easier to do it than just to sit around and talk about it. You'll never get anything done that way.

Best ever coffee?

I just visited Melbourne this year, you can never really go wrong with coffee there; but best ever though, would be a fight between Brother Baba Budan and Padre Coffee.

What opportunities has coffee given you?

It has allowed me to explore many areas about myself that I would have never in a million years thought I could do. There is just something about coffee that keeps you wanting to do more or learn more.


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Great Coffee in Common: Jacob Ibarra

Posted by Sarah Rouse on

Jacob Ibarra

Director of Coffee for Five Senses Australia


Who influenced/inspired you on your coffee journey?

There have been lots of people, but if I am to lump them into two groups then I would say the 5’s team and those I meet while traveling at origin. Our 5’s team is constantly curious, constantly trying to progress. They sit somewhere between being a professional and a student. We learn quite a lot together and I am constantly pushed. Switching gears, I am very influenced by those I meet while traveling. Producing countries operate in a different headspace, as you could imagine. It is a different way of being and it is a different segment of the coffee business altogether.

Best coffee ever?

Hard one. If I were to pick one it was probably 2014 and at the Kotowa farm. I had a lot of their Duncan Farm geisha, which tasted like blueberry pie. No lie. Like it had just come out of the oven and they had somehow melted it into a coffee.

Describe the perfect setting to enjoy a coffee?

In the morning as I prepare for the day. I am usually by myself, journaling, praying and sipping my way into the person I want to be for the day.

What has coffee taught you?

So much. Hard to put in words. My family and I have been blessed by coffee. So perhaps, gratefulness.

What opportunities has coffee given you?

So much. I have seen the world, experienced many cultures, enjoyed great design, met great people, lived into my own creativity...

At what point did you know that you were meant to pursue coffee for a living?

Pretty early on, I was 22ish and living in Costa Rica. I knew from that point that I was intended to work and live coffee.

What are some of the trends have you observed in coffee roasting over the years?

There is a lot of intention to the ‘development’ of the coffee. Meaning post first crack and thinking of it as a percentage of the entire roast.

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

I’d love to see us continue to bring the supply chain together. Origin to consumer.

What advice would you give new industry folk who are just starting out their careers?

Carve out your own coffee path based on your own interest. In that you will carve out a unique position that will allow you to leverage at later point.


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