《大人独家》向世界咖啡大师林东源学习 GaBee 的经营之道 – Spilling the beans on Van Lin, and what makes GaBee our fav cup of coffee!

[编辑 Editor 吕大人   英译 Translator 刘大人   摄影 Photographer 刘大人   资料 Sub-editor 郑大人]

眼见这些年来新山的独立咖啡馆总是处于不断开设与消失之间,大人脑海里冒起问号,到底咖啡行业的门槛究竟由谁而设?
A number of bistros and cafes have come and go in quick succession; others have managed to comfortably survive many years in the industry while staying true to their founding principles. So what distinguish the latter from the former?

在精品咖啡文化尚未大肆进军新山市场前,一杯动辄十余令吉的咖啡对新山人来说绝对是天价。随着美式咖啡连锁店开始在各大商场中设点,精品咖啡与「生活品味」在这个城市才渐渐有了交集。从咖啡乌、咖啡稀到黑咖啡、卡布奇诺、拿铁,每种事物有了选择权之后,接下来无可避免地就进入了「大量进场 - 淘汰 - 去芜存菁」的过程。

Malaysian’s coffee habits have long followed overseas trends, but there is a small segment of passionate café owners in Johor Bahru keen to evolve their own distinct culture. All of a sudden, we went from RM1 coffee to RM10 coffee and in the past few years, the local coffee industry has been generating waves of interest among the general public, to the extent that many have come and go, citing soaring rents and food costs, alongside labour shortages and stiff competition proving to be a tough wake-up call.

这回在密探的秘密安排下能与享誉全球华人圈的咖啡大师林东源面对面,实属荣幸。大人自问对咖啡似懂啡懂,却对老师的 GaBee 经营理念大感兴趣。采访前看见正在 Carffee Coffee Bar 授课的林东源老师,果真仪表啡凡啊~ 面对学生们的提问总是耐心地解答,大人心想今天无论如何得为新山即将开业或面对经营困惑的独立咖啡馆经营者们挖一挖「开店与经营的生存之道」的宝了。到底老师这些年来是如何将独立咖啡馆的经营,发展为拥有无限可能的跨领域创意与培训事业呢?

以下为日前林东源老师於新山与大人的专访,非常感激亲切的老师百忙之中抽空与大人分享 😀

Thanks to an unlikely and special invitation by one of our MAGent and avid Reader, we finally got the chance to get up close and personal with Van Lin, a well-decorated barista and founder of GaBee cafe, who’s in town for a workshop at Carffee Coffee Bar. Coming face to face with a group of aspiring cafe operators and coffee lovers, Lin demonstrated patience and passion as he handled the final few questions from the floor, before presenting the participants with their respective certificates. Team MAGistrate wasted no time in catching up with Lin on his “grande” ambition, and the positive energy, hard work, and determination it took to continue to serve up successes.

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新山的咖啡文化
Cafe Culture in Johor Bahru

大人自小喝着传统咖啡长大,对于精品咖啡也是近几年咖啡馆林立后才开始慢慢熟悉起来。其实在全世界的咖啡产业都面对同样的困扰,消费者的第一波咖啡认知来自各个国家的传统咖啡,过后第二波的星巴克带动了全球咖啡的文化,再来就是第三波的精品咖啡文化。这就是咖啡产业这十年的进步与改变。精品咖啡缺乏大型餐饮连锁集团的良好商业推动性,所以大部分的消费者不了解精品咖啡而让咖啡业者产生极大的挫折感。大家一直在做推广,可是消费者并不知道。」老师解释道。因此,接下来的第四波就是让精品咖啡观念普及化,让消费者知道新鲜烘培的咖啡豆在咖啡师精心冲泡下与大型餐饮连锁集团量化快速的分别。

据林东源老师说,相较曾到过的吉隆坡,其实新山人的口味出乎意料的讲究。数年前在Carffee办活动时,就有来自全马各地如马六甲、吉隆坡、槟城、甚至邻国新加坡咖啡业者的踊跃出席,让老师印象深刻至今,「因为我们在台湾办活动时,台北场次可能就只会有台北的业者前来,但是在这里,却能吸引全马的业者。」这现象也意味着这市场对于咖啡业的专业知识、想法与分享的匮乏及渴望。当然,这也就是当初 Cynthia  (Carffee Coffee Bar 老板) 邀请林东源老师在新山办一些相关课程与分享会的主因。

According to Lin, the “first wave” (in the Taiwanese, as well as the Malaysian context) would be the local coffee in kopitiams which our grandparents frequented and often take pride in their black, bitter concoctions in the early 80’s. Coffee became very social in the “second wave” (late 90’s), commercialised by the likes of Starbucks and The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. Suddenly chatter was beginning to buzz around espresso, latte, ice-blended mochas and frothy frappuccinos in disposable cups over free WiFi. Fast forward a decade or two, people are now purchasing single-origin brews without sugar, milk, flavoured syrups or whipped cream during the “third wave”, where we begin to see a lot of these independent roasters starting to challenge the big Starbucks companies. You’ll notice on their websites a renewed emphasis on education, and you can even take part in workshops and learn more about the coffee industry. AND we’re coming to a fourth wave that may be all about leveraging on the Internet, but it’s still being defined.

Much to Lin’s surprise, JB’s taste for their beans is surprisingly more discerning than their counterparts in Kuala Lumpur. His past visits and workshops conducted in JB were always a full house with participants from all over the country (KL, Melaka, Penang and etc.) and even neighbouring Singapore, compared to Taiwan who tends only to attract the local crowd. To Lin, the signs were encouraging and bode well for the local coffee scenes, which is probably main driving force behind his repeated visits, thanks to Cynthia.

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大学时念环保工程的老师,当初为何会选择进入咖啡产业呢?「念书打工的时候就对调制饮料感兴趣,后来觉得当调酒师也蛮帅的,就开始买书来看,试着调制饮料给家人朋友品尝。」林东源老师在大学期间,常与朋友们走访咖啡馆,察觉到咖啡馆的舒适环境原来可以让大家轻易卸下面具,这份自然与他人互动的氛围让他觉得很舒服自在。退伍后,经在咖啡馆工作的学弟介绍而开始了咖啡馆的工作生涯,一待就是二十年。

An environmental engineer by training, a chanced encounter during internship and fantasy on Lin’s part changed his course for good. Always enjoying a speciality brew and marvelling at the coolness and composure of the baristas before him, Lin wasted no time in reading up and tried his hand on learning the trade, and the rest were history. The fresh aroma and relaxing atmosphere at the local cafes made Lin felt completely at home, so much so that he made one of the coffee bars (courtesy of a college junior) his second home. The transformative journey proved more than rewarding as Lin began his career switch from caring for the environment to engineering the taste of your favourite comfort drink which spans a good two decades.

GaBee 的经营之道
The recipe for success

Image credit: GaBee

林东源老师为 GaBee 的经营制定了每五年为一个阶段,第一阶段做的是专业累积。老师至今回想起来还是深感幸运,因为当初在2004年11月1日创立 GaBee 后隔一个月,台湾就举办了第一届的咖啡大师比赛,老师凭借着之前所累积的七年实力而夺冠后,媒体的争相报道一夜间提高了GaBee 的知名度也让生意颇有声色,这着实让老师意识到比赛的作用性,所以 GaBee 一直参赛至第五届。五连冠及两座亚军的华丽成绩单让 GaBee 开始受到咖啡产业中整个华人圈的关注。2005年后,老师开始国外示演、授课、出书,开始当起评审、分享及体系建构。「透过一系列的跨界合作能涉足不同领域,不单是咖啡产业,连一般的消费者也能对你越来越熟悉。」

 

GaBee (which means coffee in Taiwanese) is Lin’s brainchild which opened on 1 November 2004, and a month later he won the Taiwan Latte Art Championship. In the span of five years, Lin has collected a total of seven awards and placed 14th in the World Barista Championship. Lin’s signature coffee at Gabee is Caffé Batata, a crafty drink using an unlikely mix of espresso over blended Taiwanese sweet potato – a creation that helped Lin emerged victorious in the Taiwan Barista Championship.

Image credit: StayRealCafe

第二阶段做的是跨界合作,让咖啡跟不同产业做结合与推广。于是,GaBee 就协助五月天主唱阿信的服饰品牌 StayReal 合作开了 StayReal Cafe by GaBee, 并分别在台北、台中、上海、杭州和广州展店。「想像如果五月天的粉丝原本可能不喝咖啡,却因为五月天而有机会接触关于咖啡的资讯,我觉得跨界合作是很棒的推广。像我今天穿的 T-shirt,是台湾品牌用咖啡渣做成纱线后制成布料,目前已拿到全球专利,Gabee 与他们就合作做了制服。」今年初,老师还担任了 LG 手机的电视广告代言人,透过多元媒体传递间接让更多人认识 GaBee

Riding on the “third wave” and his recent recognition and success in various competition at home and abroad, Lin took the unusual path of crossover projects in a bid to stay relevant, while creating more awareness to appreciate the finer details of his brews and beans, culminating in the creation of StayReal Cafe by GaBee – A quiet revolution in collaboration with Ashin, lead singer of the ever-popular Taiwanese pop band sensation, dedicated to the cult of caffeine (and Mayday) and now brewing in Taipei, Taichung, Shanghai, Hangzhou and Guangzhou. Another case in point is the tee which Lin spot today and on many other occasions. Unlike Mark Zuckerberg’s daily bland outfit every day, Lin has a legitimate reason for donning this plain black GaBee “uniform” is actually made from the remains of grounded coffee which are now patented. Earlier this year, Lin also served as a spokesman for LG’s Mobile commercials and thereby reaching out to a wider TV audience who can now connect to the GaBee brand story too.

Image credit: travel.taipei

第三阶段是成立培训机构协助推广咖啡产业的普及化。「去年我们在上海成立了培训中心与公司,也开始到更多国家协助学生做推广咖啡的工作。」老师透露 GaBee 在经过十年的建构品牌基础后,为了让咖啡事业能稳定发展而为其提供了坚强后盾。

In anticipation of the “fourth wave”, Lin is devoted to changing lives through coffee – just as how coffee has made a great impact to his. With the establishment of a training academy in Shanghai, Lin aspires to offer world class coffee education, certification and learning-for-life programmes that can enrich the body, mind and soul.

Image credit: Stephen7 / Funooker

第四个阶段则是要将 GaBee 打造成一个永续经营的系统。这个系统中扮演最重要角色的就是试验单位。林东源老师分析「咖啡调饮其实很科学,需要很多数据与试验来累积,但是实验室却是非常耗资的地方,所以很希望未来我们会有这个单位。GaBee的廿年会把永续经营的系统完成,这也是我还在努力的事情。」据大人所知,GaBee 在台湾无分店,只专营一家店,在这圈子里确实少见。「GaBee 很清楚自己要做的是产业普及化,主要发展方向是跨界合作,这也区分了自己的品牌与他人的不同。」

Setting up a coffee lab would be the “creme de la creme” of any roaster’s business, where Lin can enjoy the sensory side of his operations. While validating and reinforcing quality claims, Lin also hopes to experiment with grind analysis, brewing techniques, roast level and blending and to train his staff in these areas and more. After all, sustainability is the order of the day to drive business continuity, a notion that Lin holds very close to his heart. Any attempt to go from clueless to connoisseur requires a systematic approach to explain the art and science that goes into great blending and roasting. From what we understand, GaBee is focused on remaining “single” and independent so as to channel all its resources and knowledge to develop the brand and grow the coffee industry as a whole, without going the conventional route of aggressive expansion or franchising. Clearly, Lin is a man on his own and has clearly charted his path for the next decade to ride the waves and take GaBee to even greater heights!

每家店都应树立属于自己的风格,而不是一味模仿。-世界咖啡大师林东源
Imitation is NOT the sincerest form of flattery, be a voice, not an echo – Van Lin

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咖啡调饮与经营这两回事
Running a cafe business is not only about making a great cup of coffee

老师刚入咖啡业时,发现身边的前辈们对于咖啡调饮充满热情,咖啡馆经营初期的反应也很热络。然而,一段日子后,这些咖啡馆却接二连三地结束营业。「咖啡调饮与咖啡馆经营是两回事,所以我入行花了七年时间来积累开店的能力与人脉。」在吸取他人的失败经验后,老师开始学习经营观念、糕点制作、烹饪、调酒等等,透过各种技艺开创独特的创意咖啡。

Coffee is serious business, and being a barista is a career choice, not a part-time job. This observation during the early days is what prompted Lin to bide his time (seven years to be exact) to learn the trade before finally opening his first store in 2004. Besides honing his skills as a barista, roaster and even waiter, Lin was also brushing up his knowledge on business and management, as well as incorporating his newfound expertise in culinary, confectionary and cocktail into his speciality creations.

许多咖啡经营者对于这个行业的理解及看法不够深入,抱有太多不切实际的美好幻想以致自己的检视角度不够完整。在正式经营后,发现自己的角色不是享受,而是创造空间让别人享受,在缺乏行销手法介绍精品咖啡的基础上进而忽略了以消费者的角度出发。「以我来说,我会先询问消费者要的是水果调性还是坚果类或是香料的风味,你可以接受酸,还是比较喜欢苦或巧克力的味道,得到回复后我再来做推荐,然后才能比较仔细地介绍豆子的生产履历,这样的方式才能让消费者接受,如果一开始就太艰深,消费者会觉得为什么喝咖啡变得如此复杂。」应用适当的推广方式让消费者更轻易了解及接受业者要传递的讯息,提高消费者的兴趣才是经营者的长期作业。「在推广精品咖啡的过程中,时间太短了,所以很多人对于咖啡的认知是不对的。为什么很多人说好咖啡一定是酸的?咖啡是一种浆果,所以会有水果酸是正常的,但并不代表酸就是好。对我来说,好的咖啡应该是能表现咖啡的风味本质,然后提供你喜欢的咖啡风味,因为口味是很个人的,所以好咖啡的原则是不可以有不舒服或不好的味道。」

On a more serious note, Lin noted that a small number of cafe operators are still under the illusion that great coffee is everything. As a barista and purveyor of good taste, it’s critical for baristas to play the role of understanding the taste of their guests and customers, not the other way round. After all, a complete cafe experience should be one that’s contentedly caffeinated and more conducive, isn’t it? Taste being subjective, Lin will always check and ensure his customers’ coffee preference were met with the right alkalinity or acidity, body and flavour before recommending the appropriate blend or origin.

The notion of quick coffee has become so widespread today that often, people forget to stop and appreciate the unique qualities that are in a true, handcrafted brew. One word of advice from Lin:  When you’re in line at your favourite cafe, take the time to learn and ask questions about what’s in your cup, your ideal brew may be waiting just around the corner. Likewise for cafe owners, explain that your cafe has a certain way of creating and presenting drinks, your customers could be your cafe’s best friends in the long run.

一般精品咖啡业者会对星巴克的商业行销有所排斥,但这确实是一个能让消费者更容易接受与接触你想要传递的事情的方式,所以我常会说,咖啡产业的人应该要改变想法,别把自己关起来,应该要去寻找更好的推广方式来提高消费者的兴趣与接受度。- 世界咖啡大师林东源

Not everyone can be a Starbucks, or become one in order to succeed. Look deeper into your objectives, and how you can better connect and resonate with your target audience through your beans. – Van Lin 

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大人心想,林东源老师的日常生活该不会都被咖啡占据了吧?「我对于戏剧或与电影相关的都非常感兴趣,如果当初没有在咖啡产业那我可能会接触戏剧。你必须了解自己的个性、优缺点,什么事情最适合你去投入、去发展,才能找到自己发展的方向。因为我自己的个性比较适合在咖啡产业,所以我觉得了解自己很重要。」

On a lighter note, Lin still has a soft spot for theatres and films, and might have been an actor outside of the world of GaBee. Regardless of his career choice, Lin is adamant that we should never let the noise of others’ opinions drown our own inner voice, stay true to ourselves, trust our heart, and success will follow.

看官们,是不是有听君一席话,胜读十年书的感觉啊?非常感激老师上完一天的课后仍然精神奕奕地为大人解开许多对于精品咖啡的迷思呢!请受大人一拜啊~

Our conversation may be brief, but the time spent with Lin is worthy of a Masterclass in Entrepreneurship and Business Management on its own. Our appreciation also goes to Cynthia for making this happen, and we look forward to more “lim kopi” sessions in the near future, hopefully at GaBee the next time around!

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