Sip Blog

Humans of Sip: Interview with Tan Kian Heng from Long Black Cafe

If you take a walk in the tranquil and open-air space of Biopolis, you will find Long Black Cafe. A casual and spacious spot with an alfresco dining area, this cafe provides the perfect atmosphere for a much needed respite.

Opened by Tan Kian Heng in 2011, Long Black Cafe takes its name from the popular coffee drink, made by pouring a double-shot of espresso over hot water. Their coffee is roasted in-house, using a selection of beans that they change seasonally. Other than serving finely crafted coffee, the cafe offers an array of food that will delight you on any occasion, whether youai??i??re having a casual lunch or a business meeting.

This week, weai??i??ll get to know Kian Heng, the founder of Long Black Cafe.

Whatai??i??s the story behind how you got interested in coffee?

I used to be in the IT industry. On a few of my business trips, I got to explore many cafes and taste great coffee which made for a refreshing experience as one wasnai??i??t able to find good coffee in Singapore at the time! I later became inspired to make my own coffee after visiting a particular cafe at The Strand Arcade in Sydney. A barista there, whom I befriended, showed me the process of making a cup of coffee, and this sparked my desire to make good coffee myself. I then purchased a Rancilio Silvia espresso machine from that very cafe, brought it back to Singapore and began my coffee-making journey!

Rosuvastatin price list Why did you start Long Black Cafe?

When I started making my own coffee, I often invited my friends over to hang out and try it. It was this desire to share good coffee with more people that spurred me to open a cafe!

A wall featuring the definitions of some common coffee drinks. Have a read of it and learn something new, the next time you visit!

Whatai??i??s the reason for your choice of location?

I came to Biopolis for dinner once, and saw an alfresco spot that I thought would be nice to open a cafe at. Consequently, I approached the previous tenant, found out they were looking for someone to take over their shop space, and decided to open Long Black Cafe here.

What are some challenges youai??i??ve faced in starting this cafe?

One challenge was manpower, as itai??i??s costly to hire and retain employees. Iai??i??ve also learnt to be more hands-on, which has allowed me to feel more in control when running the cafe.

You have a cool roasting machine in your cafe, can you tell us more about that?

The machine is a Giesen Coffee Roaster from the Netherlands. Itai??i??s one of the most robust and sophisticated roasting machines out there, as it produces a very consistent roast in each batch of beans!

The Giesen Coffee Roaster displayed in the cafe will definitely catch your attention. This very machine is used to roast their coffee beans!

How did you start roasting coffee?

We started roasting our own coffee as we wanted to control the freshness of the coffee, and to create more interesting blends for our customers. Initially, we were worried that our customers wouldnai??i??t be able to accept new coffee flavours, as they were used to drinking the same blend we had been using until then. I was glad to hear that they liked our roasts, and even happier seeing them buying our retail beans. There was a particular customer who loved our beans so much that he bought 8 kilograms of it just to bring back to the UK!

What is your roasting style like?

Iai??i??d normally go for a medium roast as I feel that the resulting coffee would have the right amount of strength, and hence provide enough of a ai???kickai??i??.

A closer look at the roasting process.

Out of all the coffees youai??i??ve used, which one is your favourite?

My personal favourite would be the coffees from Panama, as I like their nutty flavour and well-balanced body! On the other hand, Iai??i??d prefer to use Ethiopian beans in pourovers, as theyai??i??re very aromatic.

What coffees are you currently offering?

This month, weai??i??re offering a blend of coffees from Guatemala and Brazil, as well as single origin beans from Nicaragua.

A glass of iced latte, perfect for sipping on while taking in the surroundings.

How do you come up with your food?

I travel often, and like to explore cool restaurants and cafes while overseas. Whenever I try a dish that I like, I would tell our chefs about it and they will try to create their own take on it for our menu.

There are occasional times during staff lunch, where staff of different nationalities will prepare dishes from their own cuisine and have everyone taste it. Whenever we like a dish, we might consider adding it to our menu. For example, we have a Chinese cook who makes very delicious Sichuan food, and weai??i??re thinking of how we can create a local take on it for our menu.

What items from your menu would you recommend for someone new to your cafe?

I would definitely recommend our Chilli Seafood Pasta! The highlight of this dish is the chilli seafood sauce, due to its unique recipe. It contains about 15 ingredients, including a prawn bisque and fresh vegetables that serve to naturally sweeten the sauce. Another pasta that Iai??i??d recommend is the Truffle Cream Chicken.

Aside from that, Iai??i??d recommend our Special Beef Burger. The beef patties in our burgers are handmade using the freshest minced meat, and the burger buns are soft brioche bread sourced from one of the best local bakeries!

Truffle Cream Chicken. (Image by Long Black Cafe)

Special Beef Burger. (Image by Long Black Cafe)

What has been the most rewarding part of your coffee journey so far?

The most rewarding part is that I get to share the coffee that I make with many people, and introduce them to good coffee! Iai??i??ve also gained much experience in communicating with my staff and interacting with many different customers.

Have you had any memorable interactions with your customers?

There have been many of such interactions. A particularly memorable one was when our regulars started their own ai???loyalty programai??? for our cafe. They would collect the labels on our coffee cups, compile them and show them to us! I was really moved by their sincerity, and we would occasionally give them a complimentary cup of coffee to thank them.

What plans do you have in the future for Long Black Cafe?

We are looking to set up our own roastery and a wholesale business for our coffee beans. Weai??i??re also working to provide our coffee beans to corporate customers.

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Long Black Cafe
20 Biopolis Way, #01-02
Singapore 138668

Opening hours: 8am - 8pm (Monday to Friday), closed on Saturday and Sunday

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