This café does more than just serve good coffee

Updated: Mar 25

I want coffee, and I want it now. 😬

Do I choose the first café I come across? Whatever’s nearest to me? Or one that has available seats?

What about the quality of the drinks? Or maybe it all depends on my mood?

Maybe a friend can just decide?

Sigh. It’s not that big of a deal, really. It’s just coffee.

Not. 😛 Well, not if you care about the people and the process involved in making every bean and cup.

“Coffee can change people’s lives,” agrees Lim Wei Jie, the founder and director of Foreword Coffee in Singapore.

Wei Jie with fellow Foreword Coffee director, Nadi Chan (Cool story: Nadi actually started as an intern. “He worked with me without name and recognition for almost a year, and officially joined Foreword Coffee as director at the start of the year,“ explains Wei Jie. “I wish for everyone to know that the Foreword Coffee of today is all due to the efforts of Nadi and I, working shoulder-to-shoulder to grow the company. Sometimes I feel that Nadi is more committed to our people than I! And for that I appreciate and respect having him join me in this social entrepreneurship journey.”)

For instance: “Coffee producers who focus on producing specialty coffee can earn more than their counterparts who deal in the commodity market,” he says.

Foreword Coffee, for one, are especially aware of this as they use carefully chosen, ethically sourced coffee from Asia; import their coffee straight from the farmers; and roast their coffee in Singapore.

What’s more: “We use coffee as a medium to integrate persons with disabilities (PWDs) into our society – we impart barista skills and make PWDs employable in the F&B industry, and at the frontline of service.”

They’ve also adopted an eco-friendly approach by encouraging customers to bring their own mugs and selling products made from recycled materials.

Changed your mind?

That’s good news. The next time someone asks you to suggest a café to hang out in, you know what to say and where to go. 😊

But if you’re heading to Foreword Coffee on your own, don’t worry.

“I love coffee for how it brings people together,” Wei Jie admits.

He’s seen it before he started the company. “During my exchange in Amsterdam, I saw how parents would meet up at cafés and catch up over coffee while their toddlers played with each other,” he observes. “It was a pleasant and heartwarming sight.”

He still sees it today. In fact, aside from raising awareness and promoting their social mission, Foreword Coffee is also about creating and maintaining a community – one that includes their knowledgeable, capable and friendly baristas.

Like Melvin 😊

Because when you’re part of a community, your coffee experience becomes something more. And you can always have that, says Wei Jie. Here’s how.

#1 Join coffee cupping sessions

“A free coffee cupping session is the best way to connect coffee enthusiasts together,” he declares.

“I remember attending one session locally, and I felt a little intimidated as the session consisted of people who are already ‘in the circle’. I conducted a public cupping session back in the early days of Foreword Coffee for people to taste the different coffee offerings we have, and we attracted both our regulars and people in the industry to take part. It was a nice, informal networking session and I wish I could conduct more of such sessions, if time allows!”

#2 Drop by often “Some of my staff look forward to regular customers coming to the café for their cuppa. Even before the customer says a word, the cashier could pre-empt what they want and key in the order,” Wei Jie observes.

“Regular customers know the names of our staff, and our staff also know our customers’ names. Some days, our customers also ask about our staff – ‘Where is (insert name)?’

“They take notice of us at the cafés and make conversation with us. This is a friendly, reciprocal relationship that makes my team – which is comprised of differently-abled persons – feel valued, and I hope this also makes our customers’ day.”

#3 Get to know your barista

“Each one of us has a story to tell, even the shy ones,” he states. So take that first step and make their acquaintance.

(Plus if the person you’re with isn’t really into coffee – or you want to try another brew – your barista would be there to save the day, and easily recommend something else on the menu. 😊)

Visit Foreword Coffee at their three outlets: Civil Service College (Buona Vista), Centre for Healthcare Innovation (Novena), and Temasek Shophouse (Dhoby Ghaut).

They also offer pop-up coffee carts, a programme called #ProjectPantryTakeover (where they serve their coffee at offices), and barista workshops for special education schools and the public.

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