Delphine Goh, 25, is a curiosity. While most women her age would opt for cushy, conventional jobs, all Delphine wants to do is make good coffee for others, and boost the female presence in the male-dominated barista business in Singapore.
Armed with a degree in hospitality and hotel management, she worked in the tourism industry before a well-made cuppa in Belgium convinced her that the coffee business was where she belonged.
The spunky sales and marketing manager at Puro Coffee Singapore, which specialises in organic fair-trade coffee and tea, underwent a four-day barista crash course in Belgium a year ago, and suddenly “everything about coffee made sense”.
Back in Singapore, she has been hard at work, honing her barista skills and spreading the love of not just good coffee, but one that is socially, environmentally and waistline-conscious.
HerworldPLUS sits down for a cuppa (a flat white with no sugar, to be exact) with Delphine to talk about coffee ABC’s, her big career switch and her plans to shake things up in the coffee scene in Singapore.
HerworldPLUS: Why the switch from the tourism sector to the coffee business?
Delphine Goh: I was in the industry for two years, but there wasn’t a lot of job satisfaction. When Puro started, I thought it would be nice to be part of something small, and watch it grow.
HWP: Were you always such a coffee connoisseur?
DG: Actually, I’ve been drinking 3-in-1 instant coffee all my life, since I was a kid. Then, I had my first proper cup of coffee in Belgium, when we visited Puro Coffee’s principal office. That was when I chucked away my instant coffee for good.
HWP: What attracted you to a small firm like Puro Coffee, as opposed to more trendier, big-name coffee chains?
DG: What really stood out was that Puro wasn’t just a regular coffee company, but one with a heart. Everything under the Puro label is fair trade, meaning that it’s purchased directly from the farmers themselves. We also have things that we subscribe to, like the World Land Trust and recycling. So it’s not just about coffee: It’s about educating people and saving the world, one cup of coffee at a time.
HWP: How did you build up your barista skills from scratch?
DG: I got my four-day basic barista training under the head barista at Puro Coffee’s principal office in Belgium. When I got back, I started doing my own research and practising on the coffee machine in the office. Youtube helped as well (laughs). I also approached one of my barista friends, (Singapore National Barista Championship winner) Ryan Tan, to coach me. It took me about a week to make my first acceptable cup of coffee.
HWP: The barista industry here is pretty male-dominated, however.
DG: Definitely! I actually went to the Singapore National Barista Championships once, as part of the audience. I was surprised, as out of the 20-odd people who were competing, there were only two girls there. There are so many female baristas, and I think they yearn for that kind of recognition that male baristas get, and many of them can be better groomed as well.
HWP: Do you agree that as a barista, flirting to build rapport comes with the job?
DG: Well, you have to be friendly at least. What I like to do when I make coffee for people is that I tell them where the beans are from, why latte art is needed, and what they are tasting – is the coffee mild, medium-bodied, or with a short finish? I think these are things that coffee drinkers want to know, and elaborating helps enhance the coffee-drinking experience.
HWP: So, what makes a good cup of coffee?
DG: Ultimately, it comes down to the bare bean itself, and the drinker’s personal taste. If you’re a milk-based drinker, there are a lot of things: the bean, the way the coffee is made, the way the milk is steamed, the presentation, and how it all comes together. A good cup of coffee is really subjective, but it’s easy to tell if it’s bad.
HWP: When’s the best time to have coffee, and how many cups do you have in a day?
DG: Have it whenever you want it, and not just for the mornings. I usually have my milk-based coffee in the morning, and then two to three long black espressos throughout the day. They have zero calories, so it’s great for the waist, and they have a good, natural taste.
HWP: Coffee-making can get a little repetitive. What keeps you going?
DG: Well, to keep making it better. Even though I know my colleagues at Puro so well, that look on their face when they say, “Ah! Today’s coffee is good!” makes me want to make tomorrow’s cuppa even better. That feeling is good, satisfying and rewarding.
HWP: What plans do you have in the pipeline to get more women baristas on board?
DG: To start with, I’ll always work around my network, like my sister and our close friends. In the near future, I do want to take part in professional certification programmes, and maybe barista championships next year. With that, I will have the credibility to start training programmes for my peers.
Puro Coffee is located at 22 Sin Ming Lane, #04-77 Midview City, Singapore 573969. Find out more about Puro Coffee’s fair-trade coffee blends and teas at www.purocoffee.com.
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