Sip Blog

Written by coffee lovers, for coffee lovers

Humans of Sip: Interview with Diana Koh from Lola’s Cafe and Suzette

Among the cafes in the North-East, Lola's Cafe might sound especially familiar to you. Located a stone's throw away from Kovan MRT, this casual spot has attracted a huge following since their opening in 2013, and their patrons range from friendly neighbourhood residents to curious cafe hoppers. With a laid-back yet vibrant atmosphere and an emphasis on serving food and drinks with great love, Lola's Cafe is the ideal place for a comforting break or gathering with loved ones.

For those located in the central area, you may rejoice as the same team behind Lola's Cafe opened a sister cafe, Suzette in Esplanade last year. Specialising in coffee, tea and desserts, Suzette promises a great sensory experience from their quaint shop interior to their delicious confections.

(Image by Suzette)

For this week's #HumansofSip, we had the pleasure of talking to Diana Koh, the Head Barista for Lola's Cafe and Suzette.

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

I was first exposed to coffee as a student when I worked several part-time jobs as a barista. I was fascinated by the coffee-making process, in particular the latte art aspect, and gained a love for coffee as a result. After graduating from university, I worked in the banking industry for 10 years but felt that it wasn't fulfilling for me. Hence, I decided to revisit my first love which is coffee. I took up some part-time barista jobs for a year while still working in the bank, and consequently decided to make the move and pursue coffee full-time!

Was it difficult to make that transition into another industry?

Not really, as I had worked in the coffee industry for about a year before entering it full-time, so I was sufficiently prepared for it. Although it was physically tiring to juggle both my part-time barista work and banking job during that year of transition, my passion for coffee kept me going and motivated me to work hard! While I had to sacrifice many things when I left my banking job, I've gained so much more in my coffee journey since then, and hence I have no regrets.

A cosy corner of Lola's Cafe. (Image by Lola's Cafe)

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

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With the rise of the third wave coffee movement, there is much more precision needed in making a good cup of coffee than before. Hence, a lot of time and effort is needed to master the techniques in coffee-making, which has been quite the challenge for me. However, I'm grateful to my mentors for teaching me well and guiding me patiently.

How and when did you start working with Lola’s Cafe and Suzette?

I started working here 2 years ago. A colleague from the previous cafe I worked at recommended me to the Head Barista at Lola's, and consequently I joined the team here!

Can you tell us more about the coffee at Lola’s Cafe and Suzette, respectively?

At Lola's Cafe, our house blend consists of beans from Sumatra, Brazil and Ethiopia. It has a full body with chocolatey and nutty notes, and is slightly less acidic than Suzette's. Suzette serves a single origin Colombian coffee with a medium body, and has notes of chocolate and caramel when served white (with milk), or fruity notes of cherry and stone fruit when served black (without milk). Suzette has a special focus on filter coffee, and we occasionally host coffee workshops there, such as a home brewing workshop and coffee appreciation workshop this year.

If you want a picturesque view of the bay, Suzette offers picnic baskets for you to enjoy their drinks and desserts with! (Image by Suzette)

What's your ideal cup of coffee like?

I personally like coffee that has some sweetness to it! My ideal cup of coffee would be a pourover made from Suzette's single origin Colombian beans, as I like its distinct cherry flavours in addition to chocolate and caramel.

Nevertheless, I will always be open to trying different kinds of coffee as I find it exciting to taste new and unique flavours. With so many flavours of coffee available, it will be difficult to pick a definite favourite!

Which menu items would you recommend for someone new to Lola’s Cafe and Suzette?

For Lola's Cafe, I'd recommend the Coffee Tasting Platter which has two mini cups of coffee - a long black and a latte. This is perfect for those who want the best of both worlds by having both black and white coffee. I'd also recommend this for customers who are unsure of which coffee to get, as it will help them decide which style of coffee they'd prefer. As for brunch items, our Ultimate Croissant is a definite must-try! It's one of the dishes that we've always kept in spite of menu changes. For desserts, I'd recommend the Tiramisu and Lola's Chocolate Cake.

For Suzette, I'd recommend our cold brews, especially the Spiced Orange Alcoholic Cold Brew as it's a refreshing take on coffee! Another drink I'd recommend is our Signature Iced Tea. For desserts, I'd recommend the White Chocolate Durian Tart which is a must-have for durian lovers and the Coffee Hazelnut Tart.

Ultimate Croissant. (Image by Lola's Cafe)

Suzette Signature Iced Tea and White Chocolate Durian Tart. (Image by Suzette)

What is the culture like at the two cafes, as I understand that the target market may be different?

Indeed, we do draw different crowds to each cafe. Lola's appeals mostly to residents in the neighbourhood and young people, hence it may seem more casual, whereas Suzette tends to draw tourists and working adults due to its central location, giving it a more sophisticated feel. While the atmosphere at each cafe may be different, our work culture remains the same throughout, following the motto "Love is at the heart of what we serve". We envision each cafe to be a warm and fun place, where our staff and customers treat one another like family!

Their motto is "Love is at the heart of what we serve", and is displayed on a mural in Lola's Cafe.

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

Being the Head Barista for Lola's and Suzette has been very fulfilling! Although it's only been 2 years, I've gained so much valuable experiences. Besides learning about coffee, I've also led our team in creating new drinks and trained new baristas. The most enjoyable part of it all is getting to share about coffee every day, whether it's with customers or with my team mates!

What are your thoughts on the coffee scene in Singapore?

I think the coffee scene will continue to grow and blossom, and will never get dull, as people are constantly looking for more innovative ways to make coffee! Perhaps we will see a fourth wave coffee movement emerge one day, who knows?

If you want to learn more about specialty coffee, hit Suzette up for a coffee workshop! (Image by Suzette)

Who in the coffee industry has inspired you?

They are my previous mentors, Dhel and Mandy. Dhel taught me a lot about the technical aspects of coffee-making, and Mandy introduced me to filter coffee! Thanks to her, I've come to appreciate filter coffee for its natural sweetness and aromas.

Are there any memorable interactions that you've had with customers?

There were a few instances where a customer told me I was their favourite barista, and I was very touched by that! Such moments remind me of why I love my job, and give me the motivation to improve myself constantly.

What are the future plans for Lola's Cafe and Suzette?

As we hope to grow the coffee knowledge in Singapore, we're looking to host more coffee workshops for members of the public who wish to learn more about specialty coffee. We will also change our drinks menu at least once a year to introduce new items to our customers.

(Image by Lola's Cafe)

Lola's Cafe 5 and 7 Simon Rd Singapore 545893 Opening hours: 10am - 11.30pm (Tuesday to Thursday, and Sunday), 10am - 12am (Friday and Saturday), closed on Monday

(Image by Suzette)

Suzette 8 Raffles Avenue #01-13 Esplanade Mall Singapore 039802 Gsp tracker, Localizador gps movil. Opening hours: 12pm - 7pm (Monday and Tuesday), 12pm - 10pm (Wednesday and Thursday), 12pm - 11pm (Friday and Saturday), 12pm - 9.30pm (Sunday)

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