She took part in her first barista competition last month, just three months after picking up the art of coffee brewing.
Despite being one of the least experienced among the 13 participants, Miss Andrea Tan, 20, won the Singapore National Brewers Cup 2015.
"The moment I held the trophy, a million emotions ran through me. It was a mixture of joy, disbelief and relief.
"I've had the support and help of so many people who believed in me and I didn't let them down," said the young woman, who will graduate from Ngee Ann Polytechnic's Business Studies course this year.
The competition, organised by the Singapore Coffee Association, was held at Marina Bay Sands last month.
It highlights the craft of filter coffee brewing by hand, promoting manual coffee brewing and service excellence.
Miss Tan, who was the only female participant in the competition, will be representing Singapore at the prestigious annual World Brewers Cup Championship in Gothenburg, Sweden from June 16 to 18.
She started working as a public relations and marketing executive at A. R. C. Coffee, a cafe located off Beach Road at Sultan Gate, last year.
She developed an interest in coffee and started taking on shifts as a barista.
"I decided to use the competition as a platform to show what I've learnt," she said.
To prepare for the competition, she spent more than 100 hours working to hone her technique, she said. It resulted in a total of 80 to 100 cups of coffee.
She made sacrifices along the way, including suffering from stomach aches often due to too much coffee and not eating enough.
She also slept very little. "I wanted to do the coffee justice," she said.
She is grateful for the guidance from her coach, Mr John Ryan Ting, who works at the same cafe. The 34-year-old took top spot at this year's Singapore National Barista Championships.
To improve Miss Tan's chances of winning, he arranged for her to attend training sessions in Taiwan with Ms Ju-Ying "Lulu" Wei, who was placed fifth in the World Brewers Cup last year.
She acted as Miss Tan's competitor and judge, taking her to different cafes to try out coffee brews. Along the way, she also shared pointers on making coffee.
Said Mr Ting: "It was effective as Andrea was a beginner and the exposure really helped put ideas into perspective when it came to her presentation for the competition."
After her time in Taiwan, Miss Tan became even more passionate about coffee brewing.
She named the coffee she used to compete in the competition My Aurora, after the Panama Finca La Aurora Gesha Natural bean she used.
Things did not seem to look good on the first day of the competition, as she came down with a 39 degree fever.
But the optimistic woman managed to look on the bright side: "Being sick made me numb to my surroundings. I could focus on completing my routine and rest after that.
"If not, I would have been very nervous and jittery." Her focus and determination to perfect the task at hand paid off.
She emerged the winner of the three-day competition, accumulating enough points to make it for the final round of the competition.
Head judge Ian Consulta remarked that Miss Tan's coffee put a smile on the faces of the judges.
Her cups of coffee were consistent in taste and precise in flavour and made lasting impressions, he said.
Her secret: Making every cup of coffee with love and sincerity.
She added: "It is the familiarity and connection that I've built with my coffee and my apparatus that helps me to achieve a good cup every time."
Ms Tan said she plans to return to Taiwan to train before the world championships.
Before discovering her love for coffee, she had planned to pursue a career related to her polytechnic course.
"Now I think my plans are starting to shift a bit and although I don't know what the future holds, I'm sure that coffee will be a significant part of it."
This article was first published on April 6, 2015.
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