LOVE and appreciation for coffee is what brought Janice Soh and Cheryl Lee together and it is that desire to share their appreciation for coffee with others that is the driving force behind their business.
Going by the name of My Coffee Trails, the company only consists of its two founders and they cater to services that include being a mobile coffee provider at various events and functions, various coffee-making workshops, barista training and consultation in the setting up of new cafés.
“As a person who loves coffee, it all started when I decided to attend a coffee appreciation workshop,” said 31-year old Soh, who previously spent six years working as an IT project manager in an insurance company.
“Seeing beautiful latte art is what inspired me to want to learn how to make coffee and latte art of my own, so I took on a part-time job as a barista.”
It was there that Soh met Lee, who was in charge of that newly established café, and she trained her for at least half a year before the idea of starting their very own business came about.
For 35-year-old Lee, who has been a barista for ten years now, she previously spent six years working as a branch manager for a courier service company.
“I got bored with my job and my curiosity regarding coffee drove me to start working as a barista just to pass the time,” said Lee.
“I was intrigued about the whole culture surrounding coffee – how people interact with each other over coffee and how it brings them together and builds friendships.”
“When I met Janice, I could see her passion and interest in coffee and I wanted to help fulfil her dream of starting a café,” she added.
According to Soh, it cost them between RM30,000 and RM50,000 to set up this company and the bulk of the cost went into buying the right coffee machine, which can cost more than RM10,000.
My Coffee Trails started with several coffee-making workshops in October 2012 and this remains one of their core activities.
Their Latte Art Workshop is a two-day course where participants can learn the science and technique behind producing beautiful latte art patterns such as the ‘fern’ or ‘tulip’.
Though participants are charged up to RM1,000 for the workshop, Soh and Lee only take between two to four participants a month, as the classes emphasise the quality of the coffee.
“It’s not really profitable as most of the money is invested in ingredients such as coffee beans and milk, which we provide for the participants,” Soh explained.
However, My Coffee Trails also offers professional barista training, which extensively covers the brewing of quality coffee and also workflow management in cafés (the arrangement of equipment so as to ensure a smooth workflow from taking the customer’s orders to serving the coffee).
“Many people approach us to assist them in setting up new cafés and we help them to source for coffee machines and ingredients, give them price quotations as well as advise them on café management,” said Soh.
My Coffee Trails also serves as a mobile coffee provider at events such as sports events, charity events and launches but it was not until six months ago when they decided to set up a proper coffee kiosk at The Star’s main office in Petaling Jaya.
“People have been telling us that they want to try our coffee but since we did not have a fixed location, plans to expand and set up a physical café are in the works,” said Soh.
Soh admitted that in bearing the customer in mind, they do not charge to make a large profit, as they want to focus on selling quality coffee at a reasonable price.
Lee added that for now, they use their kiosk as a model where they can study and identify the needs of their customers.
“Our menus are tailor-made to suit our customer base, so we try different blends based on feedback we get from our customers,” said Lee.
“We are in the midst of identifying a fixed location where we can have a secure, regular customer base, so locations near office complexes would be highly suitable.”