Coffee involves much difficulty and technicality. Knowledge, however, is especially required to bring the best out of coffee, say former Singapore National Barista Championships (SNBC) contestants, Loke Xin Yi and Zenn Soon.
For former Common Man Coffee Roaster’s barista Loke Xin Yi, coffee is the love of her life. Struck by her first sip of mocha in Sydney, Australia, the ex-nursing student took the plunge and quit her job to become a barista for the rest of her life.
“Coffee can taste so phenomenal. The challenge is bringing the best out of coffee. I love that everyone has different precisions. For example, a milk coffee has dissimilar froth levels, while a manual brew has diverse variables to work with.”
Zenn Soon, a barista at Stranger’s Reunion, couldn’t agree more. Each type of brew method challenges her in different ways.
“Coffee can taste so phenomenal. The challenge is bringing the best out of coffee.”
“I get the coffee brewing, the coffee gets me moving,” says Zenn. She lets on that brewing methods enable her to attain varied, yet equally satisfying results.
For instance, espresso-based drinks need a great shot. To do so, a barista must have thorough understanding of the beans, grinder, and espresso machine. Milk has to be steamed, textured and poured well too.
If those technicalities haven’t had you nodding in awe, Zenn and Xin Yi have more caffeine-related challenges to wow coffee lovers.
In a nascent specialty coffee industry, a barista has to stay inspired and relevant. To do so, they must be connected with both the local and international coffee communities, learning as much as they can about the products required to make a good cup of coffee.
As such, having the humility to learn, as well as the patience and attention to detail, will keep baristas on their toes. It is also important to always strive to be better, have an adventurous spirit, and inspire others to join the industry. That’s not all.
“I get the coffee brewing, the coffee gets me moving.”
When it comes to really bringing out the best in coffee, innovation is key to breaking new grounds.
At last year’s SNBC, Xin Yi’s fusion of nostalgic and modern flavours in her signature beverage placed her in the top six. Using a gaiwan (Chinese lidded bowl), she made a concoction of boiled rice water, local black sugar and yuzu juice to complement the espresso. A yuzu peel was then flamed to bring out the aroma.
“It was a fun process. I was inspired by my heritage and I could learn about the flavour profiles of so many unexplored local ingredients,” says Xin Yi.
Whereas for Zenn, experimenting with flavours was the highlight during SNBC 2015. “My drink was made up of an espresso, freshly squeezed sparkling pomegranate juice, molasses syrup and the zesty aroma from a grapefruit peel.”
Refreshingly fruity, it unexpectedly transformed the espresso’s initial flavours and perfectly complemented coffee.
We are definitely amazed at what a humble coffee bean does! Wishing the ladies best of luck spearheading the industry.
Xin Yi is an independent barista who constantly seeks improvement in the art. She also loves photography and documents her coffee adventures through Instagram.
Zenn appreciates the small things in life, and enjoys sharing her day with her husband while the baby sleeps. Visit her at Stranger’s Reunion, 35 Kampong Bahru Road S(169356).