From being disqualified during her second national coffee competition to becoming the World Brewers Cup Second Runner-Up in 2022, Elysia Tan’s story is one of taking what life has to throw at you and giving it your best despite the existing variables.
With eight years of experience in the coffee industry and owning her own shop for the last five, Elysia knows all there is to know about the world of constant change while trying to achieve the same thing every day– creating a consistently good coffee. From owning a business to the type of surprise coffee she makes her customers, to creating the perfectly balanced cup at an international barista competition, Elysia found her love of coffee in the challenge of consistently changing variables.
“The biggest reason I like being a barista is because nothing is constant, but at the same time, you are trying to challenge yourself to make a good cup every time.”
Staying comfortable creates a very little progression of development, and the world of specialty coffee competitions does not allow much room for staying comfortable and being bored.
The Singapore native has competed in four national barista championships, becoming national champion twice, and has competed on the world stage twice now, taking home third place in 2022 with her dual-temperature pour-over. Changing variables is why Elysia returned and decided to compete in her fourth international barista competition.
After her second international competition, where she was disqualified for under-pouring her latte out of fear that the runners would spill her drink if it was too full, she decided to try again. When she arrived in Boston for her third competition in 2019, she noticed a drastic change from the environment she was used to in Singapore, and she quickly realized how much the environment played a part in a cup of coffee. This led her to the technique she used in the following year’s world competition, which won her the Runner Up spot.
Using a dual-temperature pour-over method, starting her first three pours with water at ninety-five degrees and finishing her last pour with seventy-degree water, Elysia created a way to pull more profound and more well-rounded flavor profiles from the grinds. Once the pour-over was completed, a cup of warm water was placed on top of the coffee, creating a micro-environment that was more optimal for brewing coffee in an exhibition room with low humidity, which is less than ideal when tasting coffee.
Starting as a part-time barista, Elysia had the goal of opening a coffee shop she could call her own one day with the vision to get more people to start brewing coffee at home, thus naming her coffee shop Home Grown.
Elysia is “driven to get more people to invest in coffee, but more importantly, to invest in themselves as baristas.”
Without having any platform, she started her company without a storefront to call home. She curated pop-up events at local coffee shops and festivals, trying to share her knowledge and love of coffee in her community.
Elysia believes that being a barista involves a lot of Emotional Quotient (EQ) and Intelligence Quotient (IQ) and that baristas and the profession as a whole are often undervalued. She has created a community within coffee where “we choose to believe in each other because we all share the same vision of wanting to make better coffee.”
When she started her journey into the coffee industry, there was a shift into lots of the practices we commonly see in specialty coffee: more precise equipment and using weight to control more variables when brewing coffee.
Through becoming a barista during times of change in the coffee industry, Elysia sees the importance of using a variety of different equipment and skills in her cafe. This allows baristas with beginner skills and baristas with professional skills to feel as though they are in a space where both their levels of ability can be nurtured and improved upon. Elysia is a believer in making someone a better barista, not by forcing them to spend all of their time perfecting coffee, but by making the time that they have count. She states that a barista does “not necessarily have to be someone who is super outgoing or very talkative,” but it is important for them to have lots of self-awareness “as to how they would like to communicate and convey their message to someone else.” Just like coffee, the best quality to have in her employees is diversity. One of her biggest goals when hiring baristas is to look for people who will help make her vision a reality by “getting more people to make coffee at home and to make coffee very approachable. We do not want to come across as coffee snobs.”