She can drink numerous cups of coffee a day without any side effects. In fact, warm coffee makes her sleepy. Andrea Tan, 21, was working part-time while still a Ngee Ann Poly Business Studies student at coffee joint 8 Stanley Street when she started drinking java seriously. “I didn’t like coffee then,” she admits, but her boss, John Ryan Ting made her a flat white that was “nice and balanced. From that point, I was like, I’m going to search for a coffee that tastes like this!”

Our considerate interviewee also has a “cannot waste” rule, where she would make it a point to drink the experiments of her friends who were learning to make coffee. That’s what she’s doing today, sipping a mocha that her colleague just practiced making. “I had to learn to drink without milk and sugar too,” she sighs, noting that her friends would look sad when she added sweeteners that would distract from the real taste of the espresso.

We’re at A.R.C. Coffee, where Andrea is employed as a marketing and PR executive during her gap year. Her natural stance is graceful, thanks to a childhood spent in ballet. When staffing issues surface, she doubles up for a shift behind the counter, relishing the chance to make specialised brews that won her the Singapore National Brewers Cup title in 2015 at Cafe Asia–the first time the contest had been held. Andrea had the full support of A.R.C’s owner, John, himself a Singapore National Barista Champion in 2008, 2009 and 2015 and most recently semi-finalist at the 2015 World Barista Championship.

One of the unexpected perks has been the travel opportunities. “I love travelling,”  Andrea exclaims, ticking off Gothenburg, Brisbane and Seattle as part of her coffee-related trips. Prior to competing for the first time, John sent Andrea to Taiwan for an in-depth field trip as the country is known for its brewed coffee culture.

“Taste is subjective,”  notes Andrea, who doesn’t feel she’s very critical about coffee. Check her Instagram feed (which is named after her birthday) and you’ll see plenty of café and coffee pictures where she generally says nice things about other people’s coffee. To help you become a better drinker, she reels off a list of characteristics: aroma, flavour, aftertaste, acidity, body, balance and the most important question: would you drink or order the same coffee again?

Beyond this, Andrea is passionate about marketing and planning events, and will be taking up those relevant courses when she heads to university later this year. While previously interning at Braun Bà¼ffel, her attention to detail and naturally inquisitive and conversational personality came together in the most unexpected way: “I discovered I had a very suitable social media voice,”  she says with a laugh. “I’m very into social media, I don’t find it overwhelming although I’m managing several at a time. I just check my phone all the time.” 

Andrea believes it’s the personal touch that makes the difference, such as when posting about experiences and not just promotions. That’s why she didn’t hesitate when a blogger asked to include her in a list of “10 Good Looking Female Baristas in Singapore.”  A.R.C. Coffee was still in its opening stage, and she figured any kind of publicity was good publicity. “If my chef or barista is famous, then the place will be famous, so that’s good for the team!” 

“I’m a feelings oriented person,”  she concludes. “Once I see the beauty in something or how passionate a person is about the topic, I’ll work very hard for it.” 