Ng Wee Hao and Christopher Chien are the co-founders of Medano Coffee, a local start-up offering good Asian brew, something they feel sits in the shadow of Central and South American ones. The duo, classmates from the NUS Business School, recognised the local population’s growing love and demand for good coffee, and an opportunity for them to embark on something together. They decided to leave their jobs in the finance industry, fuelled by their passion for the caffeinated beverage they’ve come to love to promote a coffee culture that revolves around the best beans from Asia.
Why the focus on Asia only, when it comes to sourcing coffee beans?
In the 1700s and 1800s, Westerners braved the seas to come to our part of the world for spices, as Asia has very fertile land and good climate for growing crops, including coffee. But when you think about coffee, you usually think about Brazil, Columbia or Ethiopia. We realised that in our backyard, like in Indonesia or Thailand, there is actually very good coffee, and we want to showcase and celebrate this.
What distinctive flavours do Asian coffee beans have?
Climate, soil acidity and altitude change the taste of the coffee, much like with wine. So there are definitely nuances in the different coffees based on where and how they’re grown, as well as the treatment of the beans and their roast profile. For instance, our Gayo selection [from the Gayo Highlands in Central Aceh] is derived from a crop that’s organically grown, and has a fragrant, aromatic and nutty flavour with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg. On the other hand, our Toba selection [from the region of Lake Toba in Sumatra] has a rustic and earthy flavour profile with a lower acidity and thicker body.
What should we know about your coffee?
We source only the best from all over Asia – from China to Indonesia – and roast them to our specifications. They are single-origin, simply named accordingly, to highlight the various regions and associated flavours. We get cuppers to taste our coffee, and each has very unique tasting notes. You can get them in beans and grounds that can be used with an espresso machine, or capsule form that’s compatible with personal coffee machines.
Singapore isn’t associated with coffee. How will this branding work?
We are very proud to be a Singapore company, and decided to manufacture everything here because of the high standards in production, health and cleanliness. And no other brand has focused on coffee from Asia before. Singapore – we don’t grow our own beans, and it’s a centre of entrepot trade – is a good base to start. We want to help put Singapore on the map for F&B, and coffee in particular!