Ryan has been with the team at JJ Royal Coffee Singapore for over a year and is the creative mind behind a couple of the recipes and content that we’ve shared. He holds about 4 years of experience as a barista under his belt, and has worked at several of Asia’s best bars, including ATLAS bar, Republic Bar and Barbary Coast. To add to his diverse career background, he also read Food Science as a major in university.
Q: What inspired you to become a barista?
A: I used to study in cafés quite often, as it could get rather suffocating doing so in school. Perhaps it was the aroma of coffee that invigorated me, or simply the caffeine in the cups of coffee that I would chug. Nevertheless, everything would fall into place in cafés. I could spend every day in a café and there was no better way to do so than being a barista! Also, each time I received an intricate latte art, I was inspired even more.
Q: What are some of your first memories of being a barista?
A: During my holidays in 2019, the manager of my favourite café at the time, Dean & Deluca, roped me into working there. Generally, staff would be trained for a few weeks on service before having a go at making coffee but I was bursting with passion for coffee and was already making them on day 3! Here’s a photo of my first latte art and also one of my best so far:
Q: How did your transition to a mixologist happen?
A: Since young, I have always been mesmerised by the experiences delivered by beverages, from soft drinks to coffees and teas. Having worked in a café, joining a bar was next on my list of career aspirations, and doing so was inevitable.
Unfortunately Dean & Deluca shut its doors a few months after I joined. Cliché as it may sound, when one door closes, another opens. By a stroke of luck, I landed a job in Atlas Bar as a barista, and I discovered my love for spirits and the craft of mixology while further honing my skills as a barista.
Somewhere down the line, a dear friend of mine gave me the opportunity to work as a bartender at a bar which she managed. It was perhaps the most life-changing moment in my career.
Q: Are there any similarities between these two artistic professions?
A: I think that mixing drinks and making coffees are very similar in the parameters that have to be controlled. Across the board, ideal qualities in preparing cocktails and coffees include balance, ideal temperatures and using ingredients that complement the base.
Personally, I feel that mixology allows much more room for creativity because of the versatility of ingredients. You can use almost anything edible in a cocktail but it’s not quite the same for coffee. Here’s one of my creations, it’s a cross between an espresso martini and a grasshopper cocktail:
Q: What does a good cup of coffee mean to you?
A: A good cup of coffee is typically one that is well-balanced, well-prepared and aesthetic. An intricate latte art would be a bonus. However, a good cup of coffee that I would love to receive, is one that was made with love. You can tell when a barista loves their job, or making coffee. The little things they do, tell a lot about their passion for coffee. Perhaps the coffee might be off-balance once in a while, but the refreshing smile on their face and an encouraging message on the cup makes that coffee so much better. Here’s an interesting one I received a while back:
Q: What advice would you give for aspiring person starting to build their career in the coffee profession?
A: Read as many books about coffee as you can before getting started. There’s also plenty of resources on YouTube if books aren’t your thing.
Also, go café hopping whenever you can afford the time! Take notes when tasting coffees, and try to draw associations between the coffees you’ve tasted and other coffees or food.
Watch baristas at work but do not be creepy about it. If you have the chance, chat with them about their coffee offerings and experiences too!
Make sure to take photos of your progress. It will be extremely rewarding when you look back on your journey with coffee, and will remind you of your love for coffee if it ever wanes.
Ryan also assists at JJ Royal Coffee Singapore events, so feel free to say hello if you see him. Stay tuned for more exciting updates from JJ Royal Coffee Singapore and don’t forget to follow us at @jjroyalcoffeesg!