Synonymous with winning the Singapore National Barista Championships in each of the 2 years he competed in – 2011 and 2012, as well as coming in Third Place in the World Latte Art Championships in 2011, Ryan Kieran Tan fulfills another one of his dreams by opening his own cafe in just half a year of planning for it.
At 37 Kampong Bahru Road, Strangers’ Reunion is not only home to some of Singapore’s best baristas: Ryan and his brother Dylan (both formerly from Papa Palheta); it was built with plenty of love. Almost every nook and cranny, every bolt, every nail, every piece of wood had been knocked into place by the team. The bare minimum was left to the contractors. Their dad, affectionately known to most as “Uncle Phillip” will be roasting, and their mom helped in the overall feel and look of the cafe. Close friends helped in chores like hacking the floor tiles, demolishing the wall, building the tables, crafting the door by eroding the 8 layers of paint off it. The list goes on – E-gene, Dave, Aaron, Marcus, Aristotle, JK, Celine, Hairol, Ronald, Ivan, Andre, Mel, Leon, Sanchia, Melanie, Victor, Kimberley, Tony, John, Keith, Colin, Regina, Alex, Jean, Shumei. And Mervyn. The lucky ones who were unjustly left out of this list get to claim a free beverage from Ryan. Just mention you heard it from this blog.
Set right in front of the espresso bar, the machine is a beautiful Synesso Hydra II 3 Group, the first of its kind in Singapore. It boasts a separate pump and motor to enable a 4 stage pressure profiling for each grouphead. The steam wands create beautiful densely microfoamed textured milk. Ryan was training his baristas to draw hearts and the art on the surfaces hardly changed after 90 minutes when I took the 2nd set of photos. Companion to the Hydra are 2 Mazzer doserless Roburs. In the hoppers were Papa Palheta’s Terra Firma and Bali Kintamani Single Origin. Here’s your chance to try Ryan’s espresso, for those of you who missed out on his espresso during SNBC. He pulled Terra Firma which was quite restricted, and bright. I remarked to him and he said it was intentional. I also tried a Magic – a double ristretto topped with foamed milk in an ACF tulip cup. The drinks here are served in multi-coloured ACF cups with mismatched coloured saucers, a style reminiscent of my colleague at Oriole Coffee, Md Dinie when he competed in this year’s SNBC 2012 (Dinie the Genie came in #4.)
The tables and chairs, like the cups, seem mismatched. While there wasn’t a hotel trashcan in sight (!), the tables and stools look like they came from different eras. The ceilings with quaint lights are bare with an industrial feel. One of the tables was crafted with wood from the crate the Synesso came in.
Ryan and I talked over coffee. He was first exposed to the world of coffee thru watching from the sidelines the Singapore National Barista Championships in 2010, and knew straightaway he wanted to compete the following year. He went for several barista courses, worked at various cafes like Axil Coffee Roasters and St. Ali, and immersed himself in the Melbourne coffee culture. It was remarkable, IMHO, that Ryan, a first-time competitor in SNBC managed to win SNBC 2011 with just a year’s training. The rest is history. He represented Singapore in Bogota, Colombia and came in WBC 2011 #28. He competed in World Latte Art Championships and came in #3. And he defended his title this year when he won SNBC 2012. And Ryan will be representing Singapore yet again on the world stage in Vienna, Austria for the World Barista Championships 2012.
Strangers’ Reunion is a winning combination. Built out of love for coffee. Fronted by a dedicated and driven team, including a 2-time barista champion. Coffee roasted by his dad (and other acclaimed roasters.) ACF cups and saucers. And lastly, the tables and chairs, and coffee cups, though mismatched odds and ends, form an imperfect but strange reunion.
Strangers’ Reunion. 37 Kampong Bahru Road. Opens today 3.28.2012. 9 am to 9 pm.