Bean Bandits: Brewing aromatic excellence

Four local coffee connoisseurs made a name for themselves after securing the Top Four at the ASEAN Barista Team Championship (ABTC) held in Bangkok, competing among 20 teams from across nine countries.

Known as ‘Bean Bandits’, the collective comprised individuals from four coffee establishments: Batches Coffee, Elevate, Poursha and Grey Matter Coffee Werks/Noice.

For Fydah Ramle, Arif Ariffin, Yazzie Yahya and Firdaus Omar, their achievement would not be possible without proper training, team dynamics and cohesion especially when they all come from different cafes with their respective SOPs and in-house cultures.

“We spent a few nights a week since January training our routine as well as drills for latte art, filter coffee and signature drink variations. We are so fortunate that our community friends would come by and hang out with us acting as critics, judges and support crew to help us during training nights,” said Fydah, the team lead/operations from Batches Coffee.

ABTC Bangkok was not Bean Bandit’s first participation; they scored fifth place in the same competition held in Manila in 2023.

Their previous experience has helped them to polish their skills and strategies, further driving their motivation to secure a title at ABTC Bangkok.

The team’s training regime this year has improved, thanks to their first ABTC participation and in-house footage as well as support and insights gained from the coffee community.

“Our Top 5 finish in Manila showcased our capacity, versatility, and competitive prowess akin to more established coffee communities across the region,” she said.

She continued: “Winning the ABTC crown for Brunei will not just be victory but a testament to our potential, especially considering the constraints we face in terms of competitive opportunities.”

Bean Bandits’ initial move to take part in the championship started when Firdaus, the flavour specialist from Grey Matter Coffee Werks/Noice, had a conversation with President of the ASEAN Coffee Federation (ACF) Victor Mah and Head Judge of ABTC Justin Metcalf in October 2022.

“At the time, Brunei lacked an official coffee association or governing body, which restricted our participation in such events. When ABTC 2023 Manila was announced in July 2023, Firdaus reached out to the ACF again to explore the possibility of Brunei’s participation, and they said yes,” shared Fydah.

For them, the lack of opportunity for such competitions in Brunei gave them the avenue to participate and contribute to the growth of the local coffee scene on a regional level.

Prior to joining the championships, Firdaus and Fydah along with another business partner Koo at Batches Coffee held several rounds of community gathering, leading to the formation of three teams from Brunei to compete in ABTC Manila.

“Now, as we enter our second year of participation, we’re eager to continue representing Brunei on the regional stage,” said Fydah.

Talking about ABTC Bangkok preparations, Bean Bandits had ample time to train for about six to seven weeks compared to ABTC Manila which was less than a month.

“We build our ABTC teams (including Orbiting Barista and Ultralight Beans from ABTC 2023) around everyone’s specific skills. We had an open call for baristas that we were interested in joining to build the initial pool of 12 baristas from Brunei for ABTC 2023,” she said.

Moreover, for Bean Bandits, their journey in the competitions aimed to inspire local baristas, pushing boundaries while at the same time paving the way for more participation in regional and international competitions.

On the growth of the local coffee scene in Brunei, the team shared their joy and support for other café operators.

“The emergence of young entrepreneurs signifies not only a growing passion for coffee but also a vibrant entrepreneurial spirit that is shaping the landscape of our industry,” said Bean Bandits.

Being in the scene for several years, the team shared two valuable factors – collaboration over competition is key, and never lose sight of the importance of quality and consistency.

“While we may each have our unique offerings and specialities, coming together to support and uplift one another ultimately strengthens the entire coffee community,” said Bean Bandits.

They further said that collaboration can be through joint events, supporting local businesses, sharing resources, or simply fostering a sense of camaraderie. Meanwhile, on quality and consistency, maintaining high standards becomes increasingly crucial given the rapidly growing market.

“Ensure that every cup of coffee served reflects the passion and dedication that went into its creation. Quality and consistency not only earn customer loyalty but also elevate the reputation of the entire coffee industry in Brunei,” said Bean Bandits.

“With passion, collaboration, and a commitment to excellence, the future of the Brunei coffee scene is bound to be bright,” they continued.

Extending their appreciation, Bean Bandits’ journey towards ABTC Bangkok would not be possible without the support and sponsorship from various local agencies – Straits Central Agency, Noice Family & Friends, Relative Coffee, East Layong Coffee Roastery, Monokraf as well as Kapra.

“Their support has fueled our journey and served as a beacon of inspiration, driving us to strive for excellence every step of the way. We are deeply grateful for their invaluable contribution to our success. Thank you for being an integral part of our journey and believing in our vision,” the team concluded.


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