Sip Blog

Written by coffee lovers, for coffee lovers

Humans of Sip: Interview with Carmen Cheang from Crackerjack

Located amidst the heritage-rich district of Tanjong Pagar is Crackerjack, an all-day drinking and dining venue brought to you by the team from 28 HongKong Street. Furnished with floor-to-ceiling glass windows and long communal tables, Crackerjack provides a welcoming and casual atmosphere for everyone to enjoy their honest-to-goodness coffee and tea, fun cocktails and comforting homemade dishes; making them a ai???third spaceai??? away from work and home. With a wide range of offerings on their menu, Crackerjack is the place to be for any occasion whether youai??i??re looking for a quiet rest, or a fun night out.

The spacious interior of Crackerjack.

This week on #HumansofSip, we talk to Crackerjackai??i??s Head Barista, Carmen Cheang. Hailing from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Carmen received her training and Specialty Coffee Association of America certification at PULP by Papa Palheta, where she also worked at for three years. In May 2017, she moved to Singapore to seek further growth in the progressive scene, and joined Crackerjack as their Head Barista.

Cheap real cialis Can you share the story behind how you got into coffee making?

I actually got into coffee by accident! Initially, I saw coffee mostly for its social aspect where one can sit and immerse in a beautiful cafe setting while sipping a cup of coffee. However, my interest in coffee truly started when I was given a sample of a Fully Washed Ethiopian coffee. The barista who made it had just done her first pourover, so she was really excited to share it with me. That sample stood out to me, as its taste was so different than expectedai??i??there were notes of lemon and candy, with a tea-like finish. That experience sparked my curiosity in coffee, and I started doing some research on it. I learnt how coffee can be influenced by many factors, such as its terroir, varietal, processing method and growing region, and how art, science and humanity come together into crafting a cup of coffee. I fell in love with coffee then, and have never looked back since. Although itai??i??s been five years, I still feel that the journey of learning never ends, as Iai??i??m constantly learning new techniques and meeting new people.

What are some challenges you've faced as a barista?

Being a barista has its challenges since itai??i??s part of the hospitality industry where one has to constantly be on their toes and work long hours.

One challenge I faced was communication, as there were times where I found it difficult to overcome barriers in communication with customers. As a barista, I feel that my role is to convey the story behind the coffee I serve, and sometimes, it was a little difficult to convey these stories to customers who did not understand. However, I feel that this is a good challenge to face, as it has helped me in learning how to adapt to different situations, and how to best serve different customers to showcase the best of our coffee offerings. Iai??i??ve also been very lucky to have received support from my encouraging teammates who help me overcome these challenges.

Crackerjackai??i??s comforting, homemade food are a must-try! (Image by @CrackerjackSG)

How and when did you start working with Crackerjack?

I came to Singapore for Cafe Asia early this year, and I definitely had to check out the coffee scene here! I explored many cafes, met lots of people and was blown away by the freedom of movement and professionalism that I witnessed. I was attracted to the coffee scene here, and decided that I wanted to be a part of it. I consequently approached Crackerjack to work with them, moved to Singapore in May and now Iai??i??m leading the coffee programme for Crackerjack.

Which coffee on your menu would you recommend to someone who is a) feeling great, b) adventurous, and c) having a bad day? For someone feeling great, I would recommend a latte as itai??i??s very comforting and youai??i??ll be able to taste some familiar notes in it. Our Bona Fide Blend has a cherry-like acidity and chocolate aftertaste, which goes really nicely with milk. Hence, Iai??i??d say a latte will definitely brighten up your day.

For someone feeling adventurous, Iai??i??d recommend our filter coffee. I felt adventurous on the day I had my first sip of pourover coffee, which transformed me into who I am today. Whenever my customers or friends are feeling adventurous, Iai??i??d brew a single origin coffee from a region that theyai??i??ve never heard of, so theyai??i??d get to taste a wide spectrum of notes, such as fruity or chocolatey notes.

ai???C)ai??i?? is my favourite question. I feel that sometimes, as humans, we canai??i??t choose how our day goes, and we just need to live with it. Coffee is magical because it can instantly make any bad day better. My recommendations for someone having a bad day varies, but Iai??i??ve had many good experiences with people drinking a mocha or hot chocolate, so I would recommend those drinks. A hot chocolate or mocha always perks you up and gives you a warm fuzzy feeling, plus an additional caffeine boost to get you through the day.

Preparing the single serve batch brew filter coffee.

What's your ideal cup of coffee like?

As a professional in the coffee industry, we have to be objective in how we assess coffee. However, if I could pick my ideal cup of coffee, it would be an Ethiopian or Kenyan coffee due to its balanced and round flavour. Itai??i??s something that I could drink every single day and be content with. Whenever I have a day off, I will brew this coffee with a V60 Dripper.

Of all the coffees you've served, which is your favourite?

This is a difficult question, as I love all the coffee I serve. I feel that coffee is more than just the final product you see on the table ai??i?? itai??i??s the result of the hard work of everyone involved in its production. However, if I could pick a favourite, it would be a varietal called Lempira, grown in the Honduras. It was memorable for its spongy body, sweetness, and notes of rhubarb and key lime pie. I loved it so much that I still think about it till this day, and I have never found another coffee that gives me the same experience that this varietal did. Nevertheless, Iai??i??ll continue searching for coffees that could possibly be better.

What has been the most rewarding parts of your journey in coffee?

The most rewarding part is seeing our customers learning and becoming much more interested in coffee because of me. Itai??i??s really gratifying to know that I helped to make that connection happen.

Another rewarding aspect is that I get to nurture young professionals in coffee making, teach them about coffee and guide them in developing their skills. Watching them talk about how we can move forward to grow and improve the coffee industry gives me a very fulfilling feeling.

A cup of mocha. Crackerjack developed their Bona Fide espresso blend in collaboration with local roaster 2Degrees North.

What are your thoughts on the coffee scene in Malaysia and Singapore?

The coffee scene in Malaysia and Singapore may have started at a slight disadvantage from being a late bloomer, but that didnai??i??t stop us from striving to match up to the big boys in a coffee city like Melbourne. Weai??i??ve made a lot of progress over the past two years, and thereai??i??s been much discussion on how we can make things better.

The best part about our progress is that the interest in specialty coffee has grown tremendously. I find that coffee drinkers have become much more discerning, and more eager to try different coffees.

No prescription aldactone Who in the coffee industry has inspired you?

Having been in the coffee industry for five years, Iai??i??ve been inspired by a ton of people. My biggest thanks goes to the barista who made me the coffee that changed my life. Although I canai??i??t recall her name, Iai??i??ll always remember her for being the one who kickstarted my coffee journey. I would also like to thank Marcus Foo of PULP, for opening many doors for my career.

Another person whom I admire is Scott Rao, the author of ai???The Professional Baristaai??i??s Handbookai??i??, whom many consider to be the coffee bible for espresso. His books have helped establish the foundations of my coffee knowledge, and inspired me to delve deeper into the science of coffee making.

Lastly, itai??i??s my customers who inspire me above everything! Their enthusiasm to try more coffee is what motivates me to wake up every single morning, and gives me the determination to improve.

Pouring a beautiful cup of iced latte!

Are there any memorable interactions that youai??i??ve had with customers?

The interactions are countless! In fact, many of my customers become my friends eventually. The memorable ones were those where I got to inspire my customers to develop an interest in coffee making. I used to conduct cupping sessions where I talk in-depth about coffee, and I would always be heartened to see customers asking questions and learning enthusiastically. I can never forget the times when my customers tell me theyai??i??ve started brewing their own coffee and invested in equipment such as grinders and filters.

What plans does Crackerjack have in the future?

Weai??i??re constantly exploring new ideas and looking for ways to think out of the box. The concept of merging two different worlds together has always intrigued us, and we feel that coffee and spirits each have their own unique flavours that deserve to be showcased. Working with the bar team, we decided to marry the two to create coffee cocktails ai??i?? where we utilise interesting and special techniques that do not necessarily fall into either coffee or cocktail realm. These coffee cocktails are available during the Coffee Cocktail Hour, from 5pm to 7pm from Monday to Saturday, which we just launched.

43 Tanjong Pagar Road
Singapore 088464

Opening hours: 9am - 12am (Monday to Friday), 10am - 12am (Saturday), 10am - 4pm (Sunday)

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