Agnes brews and serves coffee at Glasshouse specialty coffee and toast bar. She had a dream of producing Chinese variety shows. Being focused on reaching that goal, she very quickly fulfilled her dream. Then, she found Coffee and Smorrebrod. She is now learning to pursue contentment and not comfort. To have faith in taking the first steps.
Photographed and interviewed by Audris Adabella
Hi Agnes! Your coffee journey started in recent years. Will you tell us about yourself, what you were doing before and how you entered the coffee/cafe scene?
A: Hello! I was a producer for Chinese variety shows in the Media/ TV industry for 3 years. That was my ambition since young- to produce variety shows. I was fortunate to be able to do all kinds of shows I envisioned doing, from singing competitions to cook shows and even fashion. It was a good three years, I could see myself doing it from the rest of my life.
At one point, I started to think into the future, of starting a family and spending quality time with loved ones. By observing the way my mentors were giving their hours to work, I thought to myself, "With the hectic schedule, it's going to be tough."
It felt to me like the content produced faded so quickly, nothing stayed. It was only satisfying at the moment then it's over. Of course, my 3 years weren’t wasted, I met many good friends, learnt a lot and gave my all.
I decided to give myself 1 year to go travel, go have fun, build the relationships I’ve neglected with my family and friends. I saved up quite a bit in 3 years because I had no time to spend. I started traveling with different group of friends; to Cambodia, to Scandinavia. To Taiwan, and spent a month with my grandparents.
While in Scandinavia, I found out about Smorrebrod (the Danish word for open face sandwiches.) l was having them and happened to be on Instagram one day when I saw an old friend’s post (@caffeinedaily) about open face sandwich. That was special because it was very unlike his usual posts on coffee, interior and architecture. The caption was something about a new concept, and he was openly asking for help.
After my travels, I came down to Glasshouse on the second week of the opening for a morning chat with him. The next thing I knew, he handed the whole kitchen to me. It all happened so quickly. While he focused on coffee, I was more focused on the food at the cafe.
What was the first thing about coffee/ the cafe scene you learnt that has stuck with you?
A: The people. The people who does coffee attracted me right from the beginning.
I think the most attractive thing about going to a coffee space is the experience with the person you get your cup of coffee from. More than the cup itself, I feel the building up of conversations is what keeps people coming back.
Within ourselves (the internal team) we also carry each other through the day. We lift each other up and have good teamwork. That’s what I really enjoy in the FNB industry.
I remember coming to glasshouse for the first time, and was drawn to the warmth of the place through your smile and service! Upon my second visit, you remembered my order! Amazing, why do you do that?
A: It didn't occur to me that remembering people’s order was something nice. @caffeinedaily taught me to do that. I’ve seen how that makes people’s day. When I greet them by name and mention their usual order, it makes the individual feel like “Hey, they got it covered for me.”
After a while, I also realize that it helps with being fast and efficient on the operations side. When we see our regulars walking in, the order is already being sent. They wouldn’t have to wait too long for their coffee.
What is your favourite coffee to make, and what is your go-to coffee?
A: I enjoy making white because I get to practice latte art. My go-to coffee would be filter coffee in the mornings when there is no pressure, and nothing to worry on the operation side.You studied in China for 2 years, what is your favourite Chinese proverb/ idiom and what does that mean?
A: 宁缺勿滥 (NING QUE WU LAN);
I will rather be lacking than have something rotten. Or, better to have nothing than a substandard choice.What does “stepping out of the comfort zone” mean to you?
A: Umm, to be uncomfortable. To always test myself, not to stay at one spot- which is an easy option. Being uncomfortable... pushes myself to trust that God is always holding my hand. I don’t think God wants me to just stay on one thing. When it is getting comfortable it's time to go.
What would you say to people who are contemplating a switch in career?
A: Just do it. Try it out! I don’t think we will lose much, especially when we’re young. In Singapore, there tend to be a “timeline”, as if you should be achieving xx at xx age. From an early stage, I learnt to stop comparing myself with peers. There’s really no need to do that. Focus on what you enjoy doing. And put 100% to it!
They say, “Behind every successful man is a strong woman.” We also think, “Behind every amazing woman is a supportive and encouraging man” I’m going to ask your boyfriend to describe you in 3 words!
J: She is dependable, warm and my world.
Let’s get a picture of today’s team! Agnes, in one word, how would you describe each of your teammate?
A: Sam is supportive. Oscar is funny! He brings laughter to the bar.
Josh is… Sassy. *laughs* Okay no, I can’t say that. He is… hmm, a tough one. *thinking* He is… resourceful.
We realize you’re into slow/ ethical fashion. (Vega shoes) Can you share how you got into the movement?
A: Growing up, my family was not well to do. Chasing fast fashion was never really for me but I still wanted to look hip, so I started thrift shopping. I go for clothes that are easy to match and comfortable to be in. Anyone who knows me will know I don’t like tight clothing, I tend to have big actions, not the most ladylike. After making my own income, I started investing in quality pieces and buying sustainable items that would stick with me for long.
Lastly, what do you think of THE LONG BLACK?
A: THE LONG BLACK is comfortable, it's utility. It is easy to change up with accessories, giving it different looks because of how basic it is. It has pockets, which is great!! It’s on a comfortable length (for me) and I don’t have to careful (in a ladylike way) in it.Thank you for sharing, Agnes! You inspire us to keep moving forward and break social norms- be you, do you!