At Acaia, we value our global network of trusted partners. Our partners are accomplished coffee professionals in both their local and international communities. In this series of interviews, we highlight our resellers and who they are.
This month, we spoke with Suhaimie Sukiman, the co-owner and head roaster of Dutch Colony Coffee Co. Dutch Colony is an authorized Acaia retailer based out of the city-state of Singapore.
Over nine years ago, the company was established in a small local farmer's market. It has now grown to encompass five stunning shops across the city with a roastery and private academy space. The coffee shops are hubs of both design and incredible single-origin coffee. They also act as the training and stomping grounds of many specialty coffee champions. Every coffee on the menu is chosen and roasted meticulously by the Dutch Colony roasting team. The team recently moved into a much larger production space.
The interview has been edited for clarity.
- Can you give us a little background about Dutch Colony and your role in the company?
Dutch Colony Coffee Co. is a local (Singapore) coffee company that will turn 10 in March 2023. We started with a modest 400 sq ft shop with less than 5 employees. Today, we have now grown into five retail cafes, a state-of-the-art coffee roastery, and a coffee academy with 70+ employees. Dutch Colony is the home to many award-winning baristas and roasters. Among our team, we have two Singapore National Cup Taster champions and medal-winning roasters. We have also held the top three spots for other national championships including Barista and Latte Art!
I am one of the three co-owners of the company, functioning also as the Director of Coffee and Head Roaster. My job includes green coffee sourcing, creating coffee strategies, retail, and wholesale business. I also run the Academy with a Lead Trainer.
- What do you think of the local coffee scene and how it has evolved over the past few years?
I love our local coffee scene and the growth has been phenomenal. The Singapore coffee scene is unique. The traditional hand-pulled coffee scene (Nanyang kopi) perfectly coexists with the emerging specialty coffee scene.
I started in the coffee industry way back in 1998 with a US chain store. I had the opportunity to work in two other coffee roasting companies before co-owning Dutch Colony. One was for traditional coffee that evolved to gourmet. The other was for a Sydney-based specialty pioneer that opened in Singapore. I saw how Singapore lacked independent coffee roasters and good cafes between 2007 to 2015 (the golden era of the specialty coffee scene). But now I have lost count of how many good roasters and cafes this small island now has.
There is an abundance of 'sexy coffees' available everywhere. I see delicious micro-lot coffees, which were only usually present in barista competitions, now served as a daily offering. There is now an appreciation for technology in payment systems, coffee making, and roasting. All these improve productivity and allow the barista to focus on what matters in a business; serving customers!
- Can you tell us more about your new roasting space? What are your plans with the space?
Sometime in 2021, amid the Covid-19 crisis recovery, we opened up two new cafes. We quickly came to realize that our roastery would not be big enough to keep up with the growing demand. We were supplying our own shops as well 70 wholesale accounts. We also added in a brand new 35 kg roaster from Loring and just needed to expand into the available unit next door. Hence in March this year, we took up the lease of the other unit, almost doubling the roastery space from the existing 2900 sqft to almost 6000 sqft now.
This expanded space allows us to run our two roasting machines at the same time. We supported this roasting with an automatic coffee packing machine and sealer. We also have a coffee bar that is designed to a WBC competition table specs. It allows us to run practice sessions realistically. There is also a brand new meeting room for all the team discussions and sales pitches for visiting clients. Along with a display area to set up all our Acaia products for demo purposes and a fully equipped kitchen.
The all-gray corporate theme area also functions as a co-working space for our sales and training team. It is also used by our retail management team to clock their admin hours away from the busy cafes. The space is big enough to host larger training sessions, throwdowns, and coffee forums. There are plans to also get in a ping pong table for a mini table tennis game.
- What is Dutch Colony's roasting philosophy?
"You are only as good as your last roast!" Those are the words of reminder that our roasting team of three follow. We always strive for excellence, always be creating quality roasts, cupping what we roast, and serving coffee that we are proud to drink. We also have a 'thing' with approaching a roast to hit a sweet spot that is equally suitable for a hand-brewed beverage or espresso-based drink. We get sticks and stones thrown at us each time we say the word 'Omni roasting' but it is working for us. We have a lot of subscribers that are enjoying the fruit of our labor and are happy that the bag of 250 grams can be enjoyed as both a brew and a flat white.
- What has been your favorite coffee roasted by Dutch Colony and how was it prepared?
I have always enjoyed a bag of any Ethiopian natural coffee, roasted by Dutch Colony. I feel it represents our philosophy of Omni roasting style. I remembered the first time I introduced this style of roasting to an Ethiopian natural we had back in 2014. It was a Yirgacheffe Konga. We had a customer, who was new to the specialty scene, write us a very long email to share how spot-on the cupping notes were for him as a newbie. I always enjoy a great Ethiopian natural on V60, followed by a four oz milk beverage – tasting like a warm strawberry milkshake. The current coffee I am enjoying now is an Ethiopian Koke Shalaye Yirgacheffe.
- How do you use Acaia on bar?
In all our retail shops, we use the Pearl and Pearl S scales for our daily morning calibrations. This includes weighing each dose and yield per extraction and brewing our range of specialty teas. As we retail Acaia on our shelves, the scales are served as a demo unit for the customers who like to 'play with it before purchasing.
In our academy, all barista trainees' first experience of weighing doses and espresso yields is with the Acaia Pearl and Lunar models. Our hand brewing workshops also use Acaia scales for everything from brewing, and using the app to monitoring the time and flow rate of their brews.
Last but not least, each member of our sales team brings a Lunar with them for their customer visits. The scales come in handy for ad-hoc tasting or espresso calibrations.
- What other Dutch Colony projects are you excited about?
There are so many to be grateful for and yet so many more new projects in the pipeline that get us excited about coming to work.
- Our Academy is undergoing a facelift to improve each trainee's workshop experience.
- We are creating an 'Acaia Corner' where we will display all the models that we carry à la an Apple shop. There will also be a dedicated table for customers to send their scales in for a recalibration.
- As the pandemic is moving into its endemic phase, we are also looking forward to re-start our runs of public cupping sessions in the retail cafes. They have proved popular in past years but were unfortunately halted due to the restrictions.
- Last but not least, our barista training work with students and youth-at-risk, has gained a cult status. Recently, we have launched a new project to train students with ASD and make them interested in a future coffee career. It is always great to closely work with the community and use coffee to elevate others.