THE LAST FIRST STEP
Coffee champion, Andrea Tan, is setting her eyes to scale new and greater heights. Her advice for those willing to give it a shot is to simply start.
October 24, 2019
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Perhaps most will side-glance this as over-simplistic, but this is a coffee champion and budding café entrepreneur’s advice to those willing to give it a shot.
Her greatest enemy, she says, is herself. This is Andrea Tan, the first who bagged the champion title for the Singapore National Brewers Cup in 2015. Without any prior knowledge in coffee, Andrea was persuaded to join the inaugural competition by her former employer where she was waitressing at. To equip herself, she flew to Taiwan twice before the competition to learn more about coffee. Her hard work paid off, earning her the glorious and coveted title.
But that victory placed great self-expectation and responsibility on her — so much so that she decided to first spend the next few years educating herself about the bean. While many in the industry looked to her for answers, she felt that she had more questions herself and realized her inadequacies. And so, began her journey of education.
To improve, she began consulting and engaging her peers and seniors in the industry, making it a point to understand the sensorial aspect of coffee tasting. She even took the examinations to qualify as a judge for the World Brewers Cup and World Coffee Roasting Championship.
Apart from the official title of a judge, she spent a good amount of time devoted to the business of things. Andrea founded 37 waves, an enterprise which provided training workshops for coffee businesses. Loaded with a marketing background and a title to her name, she chose a less traversed path to work part-time in cafes and pick up management skills, too. Till date, she works part-time in the F&B industry for greater exposure of operational and retail knowledge.
One of her most impactful statement is this, that her greatest fear lies in not believing in herself, in not believing she can do the impossible. That first step is to believe in herself.
And so, if you think about it, Andrea’s advice seems grounded. Her hands are working for noble causes, but she has prepared herself well. She has laid the grounds for her goals in the years following her title — education, reputation and dedication.
Just start: that is Andrea’s advice to herself in 2015 when she emerged champion, to herself now when she is starting her business, and possibly to herself again in the future when the going gets tough.
She has come a long way, each step along the way an inch nearer to her goal. Beginning next year, Andrea is expected to open her new café which, she aspires, merges café operation and education. This new venture has a unique model of making coffee education a core aspect of the business. Even with the third wave of coffee hitting the shores of Singapore for some time, Andrea hopes more people will not be afraid to appreciate specialty coffee. The third wave of coffee is cited as a movement that sheds light on the bean to cup philosophy. She hopes for it to be a space where she can share her knowledge to consumers and industry peers through events, masterclasses and workshops.
'But I realised, you can do all the planning but it’ll all be in your head until you do it.’
This undertaking, in partnership with her co-founder, is setting sight to educate consumers about the humble bean. And she already foresees the challenges ahead — day-to-day operation, staffing, administrative matters. In fact, she says she has been planning for this for some time.
‘But I realized, you can do all the planning but it’ll all be in your head until you do it.’
And so, she took another step. And is now striding the next few steps with as much eagerness as there is trepidation. ‘So long as you are on the right direction, keep moving. Until you reach a point that you’re completely off-track, then stop, and start again.’
‘So long as you are on the right direction, keep moving. Until you reach a point that you’re completely off-track, then stop, and start again.’
There is no guarantee if the venture can reach the scale of successful brands, although that may just be Andrea’s dream. But it is evident that she pushes herself through circumstances — whether opportunities or adversities.
One of her most impactful statement is this, that her greatest fear lies in not believing in herself, in not believing she can do the impossible. That first step is to believe in herself. Perhaps the journey of a thousand miles does indeed begin from a single step. And that is sound advice, whether we believe it or not.