Getting to know Wei Jie - Director, Co-founder and Coffee Roaster of Foreword Coffee Roasters.
How did the journey of Foreword begin?
Foreword was established as a social enterprise in 2017, as a cafe that serves specialty coffee from Asia, while providing training and employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. Fast forward to 2022, we are currently in 8 locations and provide a range of products and services, such as mobile coffee cart, team building workshops, and of course - our coffee capsules!
In February 2022, Foreword was also officially certified as a B Corporation, a global movement which recognizes businesses as meeting a high standard of verified performance in social and environmental factors and are being transparent by allowing information about our performance to be made public. We continue to review and improve on our company practice as we aspire towards an equitable and sustainable value chain that empowers stakeholders from farmers to consumers.
Can you share more about your local customer community and also what Foreword Coffee's approach (philosophy) to sourcing and serving coffee is?
I was inspired by the coffee production process from farm to cup during my first trip to a coffee plantation in Yunnan, China. From then, I was determined to source our own coffee when we started Foreword. I have visited the farms in China, Laos, and Indonesia when we were sourcing our beans, to learn and understand the processes and systems in place at the start of the value chain. Through such visits and interaction with the coffee traders, we are assured that they share similar values as us and have responsible practices in place to benefit their local communities through coffee production.
We continue to import coffee from the same partners we have worked with over the past 5 years because we want to support them as much as they want to support us. This relationship-building is important to us, as the demand for coffee has been increasing over the years and our partners were kind enough to reach out to us first to reserve our required quantities before making it available to other buyers.
Being in multiple locations, the customers we serve vary from those office people who seek a cafe to hold off-site meetings, to students who are looking for a space with free wifi; doctors and nurses who require their fuel to last through their day and people who find us specifically to try specialty coffee from Asia while supporting our social cause.
At the cafes, we typically provide 2 choices of beans (one with a nuttier profile and one with a fruitier profile) and rotate them on a regular basis so that our customers get to taste something different each time. Coffees are all served in double shot so as to keep our workflow lean for our employees with disabilities and to provide the greatest caffeine kick (and value for money) for our customers.
What was the inspiration for Foreword to decide to put coffees into the convenient capsule format?
The global ready-to-drink (RTD) coffee market is estimated to be US$26.3 billion in 2022 and is expected to grow year on year. Convenience is something which more consumers are looking at, and we were inspired to make specialty coffee more accessible to our customers.
The capsule format is one of the ways in which we can make our coffees more accessible to coffee drinkers. Improved technology, such as the Morning Coffee Machine, allows coffee drinkers greater control over their brew, which gives the best of both worlds of convenience and quality. As consumers look towards greater convenience without compromising on quality, we felt that coffee capsules is a good line of product we should offer.
Coffee is fuel to get us moving throughout the day, especially in the morning. What is your daily morning ritual like?
I like to head down to one of my cafes - usually Temasek Shophouse, because of its accessibility in the town area, and to brew a cup of latte before the cafe's opening time. I get to talk to my cafe staff on coffee calibration as we taste the first espressos of the day, and practise my milk frothing and latte art as I make my coffee.
What are you most excited about right now and for the future of Foreword as a company?
We are busy with 2 new cafe openings in the second half of 2022 and we are definitely looking forward to having these cafes up and running. We are excited as more corporates and consumers get to know about us as a social enterprise and the interesting coffees that we have, which paves way to more collaborations such as this one with Morning. We certainly look towards a brighter future in the coffee and cafe industry in the years to come!