An old shophouse that was once a glorious shopping area back in the 70s and 80s, is now home to a brand new cafe, Batches Coffee.
The cosy, eclectic cafe at the Bangunan Cenderawaseh Seri Sufri Complex, Batu Satu is run by coffee enthusiast duo, Fydah Ramle and Koo Jinchen, who poured their love and dedication for a cup of joe.
After 6 years of building the coffee brand from the ground up, the passionate duo finally decided to turn their long-held dream of opening their very own cafe into a reality.
Drawing inspiration from the growing coffee culture in the sultanate, the business partners noticed a lack of availability of homegrown cafe options in the old neighbourhood of Batu Satu.
The location holds a strong nostalgia for the duo. According to Fydah, it took the business partners 8 months to obtain the longstanding building.
She further added that the decision to have the cafe in Batu Satu is also owing to its strategic location.
“We wanted it to be accessible to everyone but also slightly further away from congested commercial areas – cause who wants to be stuck in a jam before and after their coffee run? That’s really no fun,” she shared.
“We’ve always liked the older areas of Brunei and we felt that with Batu Satu it had the potential of coming back to life like its former glory days in the 70s/80s,” she continued.
Then in 2021, the duo took over the site at Batu Satu and decided to give it a new lease of life. In just a few months, the once-abandoned establishment had been transformed into a cosy coffee shop.
“It took longer than expected – roughly about a couple of months of renovations but paper works took quite some time and that’s why we did a makeshift cafe at our office in Kiulap. But we’re operational now at Batu Satu, so that’s what matters,” Fydah shared.
Boasting a beautiful contrast between old and new, the cafe retains some of the characters preserved from the yesteryears.
Inside, a suitcase coffee table, a cosy sofa and a bookshelf in the corner of the space filled with a personal collection of ornaments and colourful lanyards – Batches Coffee feels like you are stepping into Fydah and Koo’s home.
Moreover, the floor-to-ceiling windows allow natural lighting to cascade into the space creating a relaxing ambiance for customers to enjoy their signature drinks.
Having envisioned the café as a second home for their customers, the inside space comfortably accommodates up to 28 customers, featuring intimate seating areas that are thoughtfully arranged into smaller gathering spots.
“We wanted to have a space where people could exchange ideas, share knowledge and just have a good chat with ourselves and each other,“ she added.
The cafe focuses on quality, freshly brewed coffee from roasters around the globe. The partners are planning to introduce different types of espresso blends every few weeks.
For this week’s special, they are introducing the best-selling Five Senses Coffee and their in-house brand.
The cafe also offers a small selection of locally baked goods that will pair perfectly with your morning coffee.
Since the opening in early January, the cafe has been getting positive responses and overwhelming support, Fydah said.
On an average day, she shared that Batches would receive around an average of 250 cups of orders per day.
People from different walks of life would come through the swinging door and grab their coffee and be in the same room, talking with each other about their day.
Seeing and talking to customers are the two good friends’ favourite part of the day.
“Our favourite part of the job is also guessing our regular’s drink for the day, it’s a guessing game and we normally get it right but there are days where our regulars just change their drink to play along with us,” she shared.
The rise and grind of Batches Coffee
The idea of brewing up a coffee business started off with a cold brew.
Fydah and Koo, both 33, shared a growing interest in coffee. The duo came up with the inspiration for Batches Coffee after being impressed by the vibrant coffee scene and culture in Malaysia.
Batches Coffee was founded in May 2016 and registered later in October 2016.
“Batches started off with just cold brews as a little thing on the side whenever we were back in Brunei for holiday from Malaysia where we both were working and attending university,” said Fydah.
“What started off as a little hobby turned into an online business solely for our cold brews and at the time we were very active in joining pop-ups throughout the years,” she added.
According to the founders, the name “Batches” was inspired by their rotating list of coffee offerings and brewing equipment. “We rotate and brew different batches of coffee beans every time – no one is always the same,” they shared.
Coffee has always been the passion and profession for both friends. Both Koo and Fydah have taken the time to learn about all things coffee from the world of filter coffee to espresso.
In 2017, Fydah also embarked on a complete coffee education in Malaysia.
The entrepreneurs said that at the beginning of their journey, it was not as smooth sailing. The duo had to endure challenges and setbacks in their quest in opening their coffee business
When they first founded Batches the two friends had no prior experience on how to run a coffee business but the couple has grown with the business, learning and trying out new things along the way.
Before the grinding and filtering of coffee, there was Efekt Media House, a film production business they both ventured into, but did not work out so they decided to focus on Batches full time.
“Seeing that we took the leap in changing our career path from video production to food, it’s something really new for us,” she shared
“These challenges we face are nothing but another hurdle that keeps us going – we’ve learned that no matter what industry you’re in, you just have to be strong-willed and go with it – not to be shy to ask for advice or help when necessary,” she said.
Fydah and Koo have been chasing their dreams for years. The duo shared that they couldn’t have accomplished any of it if it weren’t for the support they received from her family and friends who not only believed in the business but supported them throughout the journey,
The partners also noted that their loyal customers became a key aspect to their growing success, emphasising good customer service and building relationships with them.
During their 6 years in the coffee business, the founders also learned the ins and outs of the market in addition to running their own cafe.
“The coffee culture in Brunei is ever-growing – it’s so different from when we first started in 2016 where you could see a void that needs to be filled compared to today, we see a lot of home-based cafes, home-brewers, micro-roasters and coffee enthusiasts,” Fydah shared.
“Getting international coffee beans seems to be easier than it was before so that’s a good sign that there is a coffee scene in Brunei although still niche, it’s there,” she further shared.
When asked about future plans for Batches Coffee, the duo shared that they want to focus on growing the cafe.
“It’s still early for us to think of the next big step as we just took the first big one this year, but who knows in the nearest foreseeable future we might jump into roasting? Maybe, we don’t know. One step at a time,” she concluded.
This article was first published on 29 January 2022 in our Weekly E-Paper issue 178 | More stories here
THE BRUNEIAN | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN