Small Batch, Big Dreams: Dockyard Coffee
Known for her amazing banking district marina skyline, diverse shopping environment, and unique street food, Singapore has also been named by CNN as one of the eight global cities that hosts a vibrant coffee scene. In this crowded space, one roaster manages to emerge quietly as a coffee champion: Dockyard Coffee.
Back to Basics
Inspired to learn more about the craft of good coffee during a 2013 vacation in Australia, the founder and owner of Dockyard Coffee Riyan Lee took himself to task, learning all that he could about the growing specialty coffee movement in Singapore.
Starting out as a novice with no skills in coffee craft is tricky. Lee quickly pursued the mentorship of numerous certified experts in the industry. From Q and R graders in Brazil to veteran roasters at Market Lane Cafe, Melbourne, Lee was taught by willing masters who wish to see a progressive development in coffee appreciation. He then began experimenting with all that he had learned by roasting with just a pan. When confidence eventually meets good inner circle reviews, Lee started marketing his offerings – mainly beans and automatic coffee machines – to food and beverage establishments, home consumers, and corporate clients.
“Modesty aside, I think what differentiates Dockyard Coffee from other roasteries is the quality of coffee beans we use and the level of attention we applied to every batch that we roast. We aim for consistent produce every time and a taste that must satisfy and be memorable.” explains Lee. He points out that Dockyard Coffee focuses on supplying coffee beans, and naturally, as a supplier, they can tweak roasts and flavor profiles to match offerings perfectly to what consumers want. “Another advantage Dockyard Coffee has over competitors is our one-stop coffee solution proposition. We sell premium coffee machines, then coffee beans and powder which these same machines grind and brew. The same person will be assigned to service or repair these machines. Because different roasts react differently in different machines, so understanding each coffee machine brand well allows us to create the most suitable roast profiles that bring out the best flavors of the beans.”
Curating the Menu
Whether it’s for specialty grade coffee or a gourmet brew, Lee considers these factors when selecting the beans: acidity, aroma, balance, body, year of harvest, and the price. Dockyard Coffee purchases beans from a number of farm lots, going on expeditions to farms abroad personally to learn and witness responsible practices, authentic claims on yields and credibility of planation owners.
“Understanding how the beans are grown is crucial. The climate, drying methods such as patio-drying, the soil quality, the distance from other coffee plants, the heat in the atmosphere, and the shipping process – we promise every factor defining the coffee's entirety will be expressed in every batch that we deliver,” assures Lee.
Coffee education is also key. Dockyard Coffee organizes regular cupping sessions whenever new beans are available, or when customers are curious to learn how to contrast a good cup of coffee from another.
Toughing It Out
Now an international coffee award winner, Lee maintains that the specialty coffee landscape in Singapore has only become more competitive than ever with operation costs increasing at rapid pace. “My business remains online and I intend to grow my digital capabilities…cafes, even well-known ones, have been closing down. In spite of visible foreclosures, newcomers keep entering the market to roast and supply. This makes an already competitive space even more challenging to scale; but such a market trend also confirms the demand that never gone away.” explains Lee.
Other challenges Lee speaks about include the small segment of consumers that prefer the local traditional coffee, aka “kopi”. This more once reverberates that preferences can mean different things to different people. He also addresses the trend of Instagram-friendly beverages that usually have no great differentiating flavor. “Yes it attracts the younger crowd but likely only for one time.” Lee guesses.
Lee hopes to see, in time to come, a greater appreciation towards the quality of coffee in Singapore. Judging by having regulars who claim they are addicted to blends offered by Dockyard Coffee, one can only say his hopes might not be too far fetched.