My Coffee Journey

Every story has its beginning, every long road journey has to start somewhere. My love affair with coffee started some time back. Allow me to bring you to the chapters of my Coffee Story.

Chapter One- My beginnings

It all happens in Starbucks. Fresh from 'O' levels in 1998, i was walking down Robinson Rd and chance upon a huge hiring sign. I didnt know coffee. I can't differentiate between a Latte and Cappuccino and i find the word BARISTA catchy but never actually understand the meaning of it.

Starbucks gave me a sense of belonging, a purpose, developed my love for everything coffee and cultivate a undying passion to understand Coffee, from Crop to Cup. I was a PT Barista and continued to do so until Singapore call upon me to serve HER! I left with a heavy heart in 2003 but i know what i wanted to do once my 2 years is up.

Chapter Two- Re-igniting the Coffee Flame.

I went back to Starbucks and from 2005 to 2007, i took up a managerial position while still keeping the Barista in me alive. I still enjoys making coffee and connecting to customer but i also pick up a skill. To manage processes and to manage people and i succeeded in both. I cultivated a strong intention to share and coach, a trait that i have since my uniformed group days. I was made a classroom facilitator and conducted coffee workshops for new hires on quite a regular basis.
In late 2007, my quest to learn more and be involved in the Singapore scene leads me to joining a local coffee roaster. It wasn't an easy transition but my desire to learn makes it easier for me to cross the bridge.

Chapter Three- Developing the Roast.

Having been dealing with Gourmet Coffee with Starbucks for almost 8 years, i thought i knew all about coffee. I was proven wrong at Cuppachoice International. I have a strong foundation with coffee but here, i started to developed and my learning process wasn't an easy one.

I was then a Sales and Training Executive with a Coffee Company that is trying to make its mark in the Specialty industry. I learn by knocking my head against walls and walking and knocking again. It was painful but it made me stronger. There was alot more to offer on the table and depending on how hungry you are for knowledge, i know i am in for a treat. I work hard and pick up thing fast. I have a personal target. i wanted to roast coffee and after 1.5 years of learning and buddy roasting, i was allowed to go solo. Apart from roasting, i was also climbing the corporate hierarchy. From an Executive to a Manager, i was rewarded and promoted to Director of Operations and Training in 2010.
Chapter Four- A Competition Barista

Being in Cuppachoice, i was also actively competing in the Barista Nationals organised by the good people of Singapore Coffee Associations (SCA). Through competing i learnt alot more about Specialty Coffee and i made more friends. People who are equally passionate and being among these guys, we can talk coffee for hours and not feel tired!

2009 SNBC- My maiden entry. I thought i did ok but experience counts alot in such competitions. I was disqualified for going over time. 16 min and 28 secs and it was a horrible aftertaste.

2010 SNBC- Better prepared and slighty confident. Luck was also on my side and out of 24 participants, i emerged 3rd in both the main competition as well as the Latte Art competition.

2011 SNBC- That year, pressure was on me to atleast retain my 2nd runner-up position. That year was hard with highly experienced Barista in the line up. In the same competition, i was also putting too many hats (as a sponsor, an exhibitor, a competitor and coach) but it was a relief that i got away 2nd runner up again. This competition was a bit different. i was also a roaster for 4 other Barista. Another feather in the hat. =)

Chapter Five- Chasing the Dreams

We need to always keep our passion alive, desire burning and personal development to continue escalating to reach heights. In everything and anything, the sky is the limit! 

In 2011, i concluded that the only way to keep my coffee career alive and to remain abreast of changes and staying close to the everchanging waves of specialty coffee is to challenge myself in a new environment. It was a hard decision to make but the prospect seems brighter and the goals was more visible. 

I accepted the challenge and offer and signed on the dotted lines. I am with Toby's Estate! Toby's Estate is a Australian coffee brand that has been leading the specialty scene since 1997 in Sydney. Founded by Toby Smith himself and still being managed by him until today, have now spread their coffee wings to Singapore and New York too.

Chapter Six- Achievements

 I am 3 months shy of serving a full 2 years with Toby's Estate. In the period of employment with Toby's Estate, i have done some traveling, visited coffee farms, experienced WLAC in Seoul, Korea and attended a Train the Trainer Workshop, conducted by Justin Metcalf.

I have also momentarily retire my competition apron and swap that for the pen and clipboard to judging. After two years of National judging + a short stint as a Sensory and Technical judge for the Asean Barista Championship in Bangkok, Thailand, i mustered my courage and convinced myself that i am ready to sit for the World Certification Judging and invested USD400 not knowing if i will ever see it coming back.

Read the link yet? I am certified. Yes, a certified World Judge and only the selected few available not only in Singapore but Internationally.

Chapter Seven - A New Wave of Experience

Ownership and Owning sounds familiar but take a different life of each other. I took ownership of every business and brand that i am with from the time i set foot in this coffee career but things just got real in May 2014. I made a crossover into co-owning a coffee business and there is no looking back now.

Dutch Colony Coffee Co. is no strangers to me. Co-founded Meidia and her husband, Atan, whom i both know personally, expansion plans was in the pipeline for this locally incorporated coffee business. From their humble beginnings in the first ever farmer's market inTurf City to what it is today (as of October 2014 - a second retail shop in Frankel Avenue and a AVA certified roastery and academy), it was hard to refuse a growing local brand with such a promising future. Coming from a factory background as well as running my own coffee academy back in 2010, i am ready to apply my unique set of skills and grow this brand together with the founding fathers.

As Director Of Coffee, I am responsible with everything revolving around coffee from the sourcing and buying, roasting, selling and training as well as the logistic side of the wholesale business. Keep a lookout for us as I promised to turn this branding of business into a living, breathing thing; something that provokes feeling. Its deep i know but so is the world of coffee.

Chapter Eight - Currently....

The last 2 years in Dutch Colony have been an awesome journey and tsunami of achievements after achievements, from both a personal and company level. For once, I have finally got myself certified as an AST trainer with Specialty Coffee Association of Europe and able to run coffee diploma syllabus for discerning barista. I have also got myself re-certified as a WBC judge as well as travelling to both Malaysia and Indonesia to support as Co-Head Judge for both world sanctioned, national competitions. Also after 4 years of non-competing, I mustered my courage to re-enter Singapore Brewer's Cup in 2015 and managed to clinch a place in the finals and coming out 4th place!

Dutch Colony have also expanded our prescence regionally and supplying coffee to Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Philippines as well as Maldives. As we continue to grow and drive ourselves to excellence, stay tuned as we try to make splashes.