"When I talk about coffee, I just ramble on and on!"
Barista Interview #2: Regina Tay (Co-founder of Bearded Bella)
According to Regina, in Melbourne, a bicycle outside a café is an indication of great coffee. On the day I went to Bearded Bella, the café Regina co-founded, there were 2 bicycles outside the two-story shop house, suggesting that the coffee here is extra delicious.
Why, of course, it is! The barista of this café is Regina Tay, a 5-time finalist of the Singapore National Barista Championship and winner of the championship in 2016.
Having started brewing when she was just a student, Regina has been working with coffee for more than 14 years. "I was working part-time in a café just to earn some pocket money and experience and I didn't really taste the coffee that I made," Regina told me while she served me my first coffee of that morning – a hot black coffee.
When she moved to Melbourne to further her studies, she started learning more about coffee "I started going to lots of cafes and learning more about the story behind each cup of coffee. The knowledge of coffee propelled me forward in my barista journey."
Not just a phase
She made up her mind that she is going to learn more about specialty coffee, but the journey has proven harder than it seems. "My parents were not happy when I told them that I wanted to be a barista. They thought it was just going to be a phase. I don't blame them, because they paid for my degrees in marketing."
"Only elite baristas in Melbourne get to work with specialty coffee. To build my resume, I would take a 2-hour bus ride from where I lived just so that I can work in a café that can be my stepping stone into the specialty coffee world," Regina's determination eventually moved her parents and they became supportive of her.
She eventually graduated and had to come back to Singapore. Before she came back to Singapore, she took a long trip using all the money she had saved to go on a coffee origins tour in Brazil and Columbia to learn about the origins of coffee beans.
After returning to Singapore from her trip, she started working in a local roastery and subsequently went to work as a consultant in a roastery in Jakarta.
With years of experience in coffee behind her, she came back to Singapore in 2017 to prepare for the opening of Bearded Bella in 2018.
A humble Melbourne-inspired café with an unconventional menu
Bearded Bella is not just about the coffee. Regina put a lot of thought into the menu as well.
"Some of our customers find it hard to decide what to order because we don't have regular food on our menu that you can find in a café."
Just take a look at the menu and you'll notice how much thought Bearded Bella put into their food! You'll find that most of the items on the menu have quirky names such as "Cooler than A/C" and "Fancy AF French Toast", which makes ordering food a light-hearted experience. There are also plenty of unconventional dishes, created by the restaurant's very own chef, such as maple-infused pancakes with bacon and pistachio-crusted Norwegian salmon.
No coffee is above the other
"Through my experience, I learned that there are so many ways that a barista can tweak her coffee, be it through the brewing method or the roasting of the beans, to make it more palatable to the taste buds of the customer."
Although many baristas end up being snobbish about their tastes in coffee, Regina doesn't believe that there is any coffee that is superior to others. She remains humble and believes that only the customer gets to judge the coffee that they are served, and it is the barista's job to find out about their preferences and craft the perfect brew for them.
"My parents like Singaporean-style Kopi-O, and so when I am brewing for them, I would gladly adjust my brewing process to create something more enjoyable. I believe that this is the least we can do as baristas."
Regina’s very first coffee dripper – a lime green V60 dripper
When asked about her favorite dripper, Regina proudly showed us her lime green V60 glass dripper, a rare design that she bought in Melbourne when she first started learning about specialty coffee.
"This Hario V60 dripper is the first dripper that I have ever bought for myself. I had this for a long time… about 10 years," laughed Regina. It seems like she had taken very good care of the V60 glass dripper, despite moving countries several times with this V60 glass dripper.
"Each barista in Bearded Bella has our very own V60s. The Co-founder, Yen, has a metal V60 and one main Barista, Leon, has a ceramic one!" It seems that all the baristas in Bearded Bella have their preferences when it comes to brewing.
The Bearded Bella V60 Recipe
There is no fixed V60 recipe used in Bearded Bella as the baristas adjust the brewing method based on the coffee beans. However, the main barista, Leon, kindly provided his basic recipe recommended for beginners.
- 16g of ground coffee
- 215g of water at 88°C
- Place the paper filter into the Hario V60 Coffee Dripper and wet it.
- Pour 16g of ground coffee into the filter. Pre-infuse the grounds with 30g of water, ensuring a pouring time of about 6-7 seconds. Let it bloom for 30 seconds.
- Pour 75g of water in a spiral motion and allow it to drip for 30 seconds.
- Pour another 55g of water in the same spiral motion and allow it to drip for 30 seconds.
- Pour the last 55g of water in the same spiral motion and allow it to drip. Serve while hot.
In this recipe, a lower water temperature of 88°C is used to bring out the sweetness of the brew. Click here for a kettle that can help you achieve accurate brew temperature.
Regina’s hopes for the future
Regina hopes to see coffee lovers in Singapore become more open to sharing about coffee.
"When I first started as a barista, the coffee scene in Singapore was not as open as in Melbourne. Baristas would keep their secrets to themselves and not share. I see this changing in recent years."
This is why she created Bearded Bella as a space to encourage the exchange of knowledge about coffee and food among coffee lovers who patronize the café.
She also hopes to change the perception that F&B is just a part-time job. "I hope to create a career path for my staff, and provide a solid experience that they can benefit from in the future."
If you are looking for good coffee, unconventional food, and a space to learn more about coffee, visit Regina at Bearded Bella!
8 Craig Road, Tanjong Pagar
Monday to Thursday 7:30 am – 5 pm (L.O. 4.30 pm)
Friday 7:30am – 10:30pm (L.O. 10pm)
Weekends & Public holidays 7:30 am – 6 pm (L.O. 5:30 pm)