Kurasu’s Meet Your Barista series will introduce our baristas who make Kurasu special. You might find something in common with them, or discover something new. This article will kickstart our Singapore series, and will feature our cafe manager Angelo! He is the face of Kurasu Singapore, tirelessly working behind the bar and behind the scenes for the past two years to ensure everything runs smoothly.
1. What brought you into the coffee industry, and what made you want to stay?
I first got exposed to the coffee industry when I started working at Starbucks; this was at the time where I just got accepted into arts school and was majoring in broadcast media. At the time, a lot of information was being shared about the local specialty coffee scenes and competitions that were being held. I decided to delve into the industry and started buying my own brewing equipment. By the time I graduated, I’d already spent 2 years in the growing specialty coffee industry.
The people I’ve interacted with in the coffee industry are some of the most passionate people I know, and these are people involved in the entire chain of supply of coffee. What made me stay is the unlimited potential of specialty coffee, and how I am always learning on the job. Up till this day, I can never be too confident about the coffee I brew. It’s like art; you can never finish perfecting it, you can only decide when to stop. Personally, I don’t think I’ll be stopping anytime soon!
2. How has the last 2 years of managing Kurasu Singapore been like ?
When I was first given the opportunity to work on opening Kurasu in Singapore and managing it, I was a little nervous. I’ve never had a managerial role before, so stepping up to that was definitely going to be a challenge. I took up that challenge and never looked back, and here we are now! Throughout it all, I’ve always remembered the phrase “be the manager you want to be managed by”.
I’ve also been blessed with the best team I’ve ever worked with, from customer service to quality coffees. Our relationship goes way beyond mere colleagues, and we all enjoy being in the same space, doing what we love the most: making good coffee. I’m super proud of them, and its heartwarming to see how we’ll all gather at the shop to hang out, even on our days off!
3. What would you say makes Kurasu special?
I think Kurasu is special not only because we serve specialty Japanese coffee and sell accompanying coffee products, but the team strives to be a part of that experience as well. Having visited the Kyoto cafe a couple of times, I’ve grown to realise that both teams in Japan and Singapore work quite similarly. We are always eager to try and learn more about new coffees, since we work with various roasters in Japan; having exposure to different roast styles is pretty exciting as well! Most importantly, we always have the customers in mind and are ready to make coffees that they will enjoy, based on their preferences.
4. What is the most important thing for you when you prepare drinks?
Cleanliness and workflow definitely! I think maintaining a clean workspace is very important. In my early years as a barista, a mentor that I really looked up to told me “nothing good comes out of a dirty workspace.” The phrase definitely stuck with me up till this day! We work in an industry that thrives in an open concept because its cool and minimal, and to showcase this properly definitely requires discipline.
This also carries on to the workflow aspect of making drinks. There are times when only one person is managing the whole bar on shift, so everything has to be at our fingertips. We want to create an efficient workflow that produces consistent and tasty drinks in the shortest amount of time possible so that we can focus more on the customers and provide a good experience for them!
5. What kind of coffee do you personally enjoy?
I enjoy my pourovers a lot, and I find brewing to be quite therapeutic! But on a lazy day I just flick the switch on the Moccamaster. Recently Kurasu Fushimi (roastery) has been roasting some sick single origins for espresso, and I must say that calibrating them was a breeze. I like most of my coffees to have medium to high acidity, as well as a balanced body.
6. Apart from Kurasu, which other cafes in Singapore and Japan would you recommend?
For cafes in Singapore, I would recommend Apartment Coffee, Nylon Coffee Roasters, Nexus Coffee, Chye Seng Huat Hardware and Upside Down Coffee Roasters. For cafes in japan, my favourites include Weekenders Coffee (Kyoto), Lilo Coffee Roasters (Osaka), Mel Coffee Roasters (Osaka), About Life Coffee Brewers (Tokyo), and Beyond Coffee (Kobe).
7. What is your vision for Kurasu Singapore in the future?
Im really proud of my team and what they’ve been doing! They’ve been supporting me in all aspects of running the shop here in Singapore, and we’re working on a lot of new and exciting things right now. We are working on some new things in Singapore and hopefully I get to see a roastery come to a reality! As someone who is deeply invested in coffee, I also want to work towards expanding the team and providing sustainable careers in this industry.