by our dear friend, the late Grant Rattray.
Hello from the Little Red Dot…!
Here at Mercanta’s newest office in Singapore – just 2 degrees north of the equator – we set up offices and a cupping lab back in February 2014.
Even before opening the doors to our office, we had to build and equip a fully functional roasting and cupping lab. We were very fortunate to count on the very generous support of sponsors Marco Beverage Systems who provided a T20 boiler and Brita water filtration system (kindly installed by Singapore distributor Stellar M ) and Mahlkönig who shipped us a Guatemala lab grinder. Nuova Simonelli allowed me to bring along a 1-group Musica which I had on loan in the UK for espresso cupping and day to day office use, partnered with my own Mahlkönig Vario Home grinder which does the job perfectly well for our low volume needs.
We decided upon the Proaster sample roaster, which allows us to roast in our traditional Singapore colonial shophouse office without having to install any ducting to vent emissions and also runs on the regular main electricity. This has proved very good value and also very capable sample roaster that has fully met with our expectations and produces a very reliable roast for cup analysis.
To complete the setup, we commissioned a local carpenter to build one of our trademark ‘M’ shaped cupping table along with built-in storage for cupping bowls from Caulim Porcelanas and spoons from W Wright.
We cup much less than our buddies in the UK and US offices so we were able to count on the skills of client and friend Colin Loh (now at Common Man in Singapore) to roast on a part-time basis for the many cuppings we hold regularly with local roasters and visiting roasters from around Asia including Japan, Korea, Taiwan, China, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, and Thailand.
As the volume of coffees quickly started to increase, we needed to bring in dedicated shipping and logistics expertise and were very lucky to find Aster Lam, who came with additional and very valuable experience in accounting. Aster can now count cupping and even latte art in her growing list of skills! Sample roasting is now performed by local specialty roaster and trainer Marian Aguilar of Cata Coffee. Marian’s brother, José, worked with Mercanta in London for many years and is now a green coffee buyer at Monmouth Coffee. Her sister, Lucia, runs specialty coffee roaster Ceresia in Bangkok with husband Bret.
We cup for many different reasons. In-house, we carry out all the usual cupping of offer samples from the many different origins that we ship direct from origin into Singapore including Brazil, Colombia, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Guatemala, El Salvador, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. This remains an essential element in all-new crop approvals. Increasingly, we involve some of the larger specialty roasters in the first look at new crops so they can select the coffees they need ahead of shipment.
When the containers unload in Singapore, we draw arrival samples for the next step in the quality control protocol. These also serve as marketing samples that we send to specialty roasters throughout Asia.
With such a wide selection of in-season coffees available, we hold regular cuppings for local roasters as well as many roasters from outside Singapore. These mixed origin tables are the ideal platform for smaller roasters to select the coffees they need for their blends
and seasonal single origins. And all the coffees are available at just 24 hours’ notice for collection from our Singapore warehouse, for delivery within Singapore or release to forwarders for shipment throughout Asia.
Working with a large and growing base of specialty roaster clients requires a great deal of logistic support and never-ending attention to stock management and turnover of inventory, right down to the very last bag. And balancing the evolving demands of roasters for an ever more varied range of specialty coffees – whilst keeping supply and demand in check – keeps us very busy.
It’s a labour of love and we’re already working on new origins for direct shipment into Singapore in the coming months. These will include components for espresso, seasonal single origins and also competition coffees for the vibrant barista scene throughout Asia which we’re happy and honoured to support.
Things are hotting up in the Little Red Dot!