What's in Barista Ryan Tan's custom-made drone

What's in Barista Ryan Tan's custom-made drone


Ryan Tan, 29, is an award-winning barista and owner of the Strangers' Reunion, Strangers' At Work and Waffle Slayer cafes.

Mr Tan is the 2013 ASEAN Barista Champion, three-time Singapore Barista Champion and the 2011 World Latte Art Championship runner-up.

Recently, he was also named 2014 Cafe Asia Siphon Champion and 2014 Singapore Latte Art Champion.

Ryan Tan was not always the passionate coffee lover he is today. In fact, he never even drank the stuff till he reluctantly picked up the art of making coffee in 2009.

That was only because his parents wanted to open a cafe here and they roped him in as well.

Mr Tan was still in Australia then, studying for a degree in economics and finance at the University of Melbourne.

"Initially, I was hesitant to start on the barista course. I was quite unhappy as I didn't even drink coffee but I respected their wishes and helped out in the family business," he said.

But once he got started, he began to appreciate coffee and the art of brewing it. Mr Tan went on to work in nearly a dozen Melbourne cafes during his 41/2 years in the Australian city.

In some cafes, he worked for as little as a month, leaving once he was asked to be Head Barista. He explains: "I worked in these cafes to learn, not to make a ton of money. Once they offered me the Head Barista position, I knew I had nothing more to learn and moved on to another one."

He has never forgotten his first experience as a barista. "Instead of starting at a place that made only 200 cups a day, I worked at one that made more than three times that. It was crazy busy!" he said.

Despite having to learn fast and having to be on his feet for long hours, he still appreciates that baptism of fire.

In five years, he has opened three cafes and snagged multiple barista competition wins.

Along the way, Mr Tan grew to love his job and coffee. He said: "I derive a high level of job satisfaction with my passion for coffee. It's also a nice feeling to be thanked by customers whenever you make them a nice cup of coffee."

Now, he hopes to transfer that passion to the baristas and other staff under his wing. Several want to open a cafe with him, he said. He is also training some who are eager to compete.

"It's rewarding to see them succeed and grow under my mentorship, from the time they were beginners, to experienced baristas preparing for competition."

He aims to achieve sustainability in the F&B industry, wanting people to change the mindset that the industry is only one that serves as a temporary vocation.

In his own cafes, for instance, he offers his staff opportunities to train overseas on a regular basis.

"I believe that if I continue giving, my staff will realise that they don't have to work in a bank or 'stable' job just to open a cafe later on in life," he said.

He treasures the experience he has had with his own mentors. What he considers the most satisfying are not victories in competitions or opening his own cafes, but having former bosses and mentors commend him on what he has achieved.

"Whenever they congratulate me, it's like your teacher telling you that you've done a good job. That's what I'm trying to advocate to my staff as well," he said.

He seeks to soar to greater heights in his other passion, aviation. He has translated this into flying remote-controlled drones and has even combined it with the art of aerial photography and videography.

He also started a YouTube channel, calling it Alternative Perspective Productions.

"I didn't have an interest in videography and photography before this, actually. Shooting via the drones gives the videos and photos an unusual angle and not many people can do that," he said.

About his custom DJI S1000 drone

"It took a couple of months to build this drone. The parts got delayed in shipping and a number of them had to be bought separately, such as the batteries and video transmitter.

"Putting it together was a little scary because of its price. It cost over $3,000, but I was really happy when it was completed."

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