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Getting to know Marcus Foo, CEO of PPP Coffee

Getting to know Marcus Foo, CEO of PPP Coffee

Congratulations on the 10th year anniversary and the opening of PPP Coffee at Funan. How does it feel to achieve this milestone and what’s next for PPP Coffee?

We have come a long way since the days at Hooper Road. Back then when we first started, we were just a small-batch specialty coffee roaster supplying to small cafes and home brewers in the area.

Since then, we have grown to a total staff strength of more than 70 servicing over 100 corporate clients from multinational corporations, F&B establishments, hotels as well as customers through our three F&B/retail outlets in Singapore and Malaysia.
Over the last ten years, we have also expanded our services and offerings to include a wider range of premium specialty coffee equipment and accessories, as well as a wider selection of coffees sourced from different regions in Asia, Latin American and Africa. Through the long-standing relationships that we have established with our coffee producers, partners, suppliers and traders, we are able to provide coffees that are quality driven, traceable and transparent.

PPP Coffee has always been about inspiring and building communities and this has always been our “mantra” since we first started back in September 2009. It is also one of the reasons why we decided to open the PPP Coffee store in the prime civic district of Singapore - in the hope that we can make specialty coffee more accessible to the masses.

Courtesy: PPP Coffee

Based on your many years managing PULP in Kuala Lumpur, how would you describe the coffee landscape in Kuala Lumpur compared to Singapore? 

I would say that the coffee landscape in Singapore and Malaysia are relatively similar, especially the cultural make-up. Expectations are different and although Singapore had an earlier head start in introducing specialty coffee in the late 2000s, the specialty scene in Malaysia has been growing steadily in the last 5-6 years since 2012.

From the specialty coffee competitions arena, we can clearly see that there is an increased number of Malaysian representatives at coffee competitions organised at both on a local and international level, as well as the number of new independent specialty coffee cafes that have opened in the last 5 years in East and West Malaysia compared to Singapore. I would dare say what Singapore has achieved in the last 10 years, Malaysia has caught up in the last 5 years even when they started later.

This was also one of the reasons why in 2014, we decided to set up PULP in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur. We are glad to be one of the first few to set our foot in the specialty coffee scene in Malaysia. It has paid off considerably as it was a calculated move to enter a fairly challenging market with specialty coffee still being in an infancy stage back then. We were thankful that the Malaysian market picked up fairly quickly coupled with the birth of the Malaysian Specialty Coffee Association in 2014.

Following the success of PULP in Kuala Lumpur, is PPP Coffee considering expanding to other countries?

One of our goals here at PPP Coffee is to make specialty coffee more accessible to everyone. Besides having a brick-and-mortar store, there are also other ways to achieve that. We would like the brand to be an omnipresent brand internationally.
In the past few years, we are glad to have been accessible worldwide beyond Singapore and Malaysia through our online web store by shipping internationally. With that said, we will be focussing on improving our online web store, as well as strengthening our services across existing F&B/retail outlets in order to reach more coffee drinkers worldwide, and to deliver a better coffee experience.

What’s the future like for Specialty Coffee in Singapore and Malaysia? 

In the last decade, we have not only witnessed an increased demand for specialty coffee, but also a drastic shift in the consumer’s attitude towards specialty coffee.

Consumers now have a greater understanding of the origins of good quality coffee, processing methods, storage, roasting and brewing with the right equipment. There is also an increasing thirst for knowledge around coffee - specialty coffee in particular - and this is proven by the fact that more and more consumers now can differentiate different types and origins of coffee served in your local coffee shops, chain stores and independent coffee shops.

With the greater appreciation and awareness for specialty coffee, as well as the support from cross-industry communities and coffee associations, we are confident and optimistic of the future of specialty coffee in Singapore, Malaysia and beyond.

What are your thoughts on your Supernova line of capsules? Do you think this is a format which other coffee roasters are open to adding to their existing product offering?

We believe the Supernova line of coffee capsules is one of our most innovative product to date. The capsules is a convenient and consistent way to enjoy a high-quality specialty coffee from home or office and is also one of the products that pushed the boundaries in the specialty coffee scene. This allowed more consumers to be open to enjoy our specialty coffee at a lower barrier to entry instead of purchasing an espresso machine.

Coffee is considered as fuel to get you moving throughout the day, especially in the morning. What is your daily morning ritual like?

I usually wake up at 7.30am, change (my kid’s) diaper and make a cup of espresso coffee before heading to the office at 9am. That is also where the roastery team would conduct their morning routine of cupping their previous days roasts where I get to drink more coffees!

What coffee gear or equipment do you have at home? What’s your favourite and why?

My first coffee gear is a Clever dripper from PPP Coffee and a Hario travel grinder. I also have a Chemex, Hario V60 and Rocket Giotto Type V espresso machine. My personal favourite is The Clever because it is easy-to-use and clean and very consistent.

We learned that you get to travel much because of your role in the company. What trends are you seeing happening internationally for Specialty Coffee?

We are seeing more and more cafes serving filtered coffee using a variety brew equipment, beyond just serving espresso-based drinks like lattes. There is more focus on the art of brewing and showcasing the coffee origins and unique flavours rather than just fancy latte art.

I have recently returned from a trip to Shanghai and was impressed by the level of quality coffee and exceptional service in the specialty coffee scene. Not surprised that China recently won the 2019 World Brewers Cup, where China is traditionally known more for a tea drinking culture rather than coffee.

The demand for specialty coffee in China is something the world should be aware of. One point to note is that Starbucks is already moving towards specialty coffee and their biggest Starbucks Reserve is in Shanghai, and that says a lot about the future or specialty coffee.

Managing a coffee business is not an easy task and it all starts with humble beginnings. What is your advice for new coffee roasters or coffee shop owners?

Don’t look back - keep going even if the odds are against you. Consider very, very carefully before starting a coffee shop. The hours are long and it is fundamentally a hospitality business where customer service is key. You either love it, or you don’t.
Not many people are able to say that they are doing what they love every day. Passion can only get you so far, the reality is that the business must be profitable and sustainable and it takes a good team (which I tend to think of as family) to build it to be successful.

I am glad to have entered this industry more than 7 years ago and I have never looked back since.

Lastly, what do you wish for the PPP Coffee and the industry 10 years from today?

To inspire and build a sustainable future for communities with good quality coffee.

Words by Marcus Foo, CEO of PPP Coffee.


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