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Get to know Waqi Rahman from the Brew Department

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Editor's Note: I love coffee. I love that first sip in the morning. I love the smell of coffee. I love the jolt felt when the caffeine kicks in. I love the process of pulling an espresso. I love the discipline involved in the process of preparing pourover coffees. I love how coffee brings people together. I love coffee, and we are glad to bring you this Q n' A with another coffee lover, Waqi from the Brew Department. Read on and follow their journey on IG.

Tell us about yourself.
Hi, I’m Waqi Rahman. I work as a primary school teacher teaching Science, been teaching for about 8 years now. Aside from that, I’m chasing after my life goals by running Brew Department along with my wife. I would describe myself as laid back, outgoing and adventurous. Things that I love; island life, nature, travelling and coffee!

For the love and passion of coffee

When did your interest for coffee began?
Looking back on my teenage days, I had always been a “hot chocolate” kind of guy. It was my wife who was the coffee drinker! Then I slowly started drinking coffee from coffee chains. Along the way, a good friend of mine, Mutah Beale, better known as Napoleon from Tupac Shakur’s rap group “The Outlawz” came to Brunei bringing 10 kilos of grade A Colombian stuff (coffee). He asked me if the Brunei market would be interested in Specialty Coffee and I was clueless as to what it meant at that time. It was Mutah Beale who introduced the world of specialty coffee to me.

Mutah Beale better known as Napoleon from Tupacs group The Outlawz

How were your early experiences with coffee and how did you develop it?
During my travels, I went to check out some highly recommended third wave cafes. I observed baristas playing around with all these fancy tools when they were making coffee. It was as if they were doing a science experiment because they did everything with such precision. All these different methods of extracting coffee aroused my interest. My growing curiosity led me to communicate with the talented baristas and I was inspired to learn more about the art of specialty coffee.

About two years ago, I started brewing coffee manually with a Hario V60 pour over and later an Aeropress. Back then, the availability of Artisan beans in Brunei was quite limited. I would order my beans online or ask friends and family who were travelling or studying abroad to bring back some Artisan beans for me. I was truly amazed with the different tasting notes from the different coffees I tried. You feel a sense of joy and satisfaction when you sip a good cup of coffee and I wanted to share this feeling with other people.

As my interest grew deeper, I decided to take a Specialty Coffee Association of Europe (SCAE) course from one of the best coffee mentors in KL. It’s a worldwide certified diploma-system course for any individual wanting to venture into the specialty coffee industry.

Daniel Liew one of the pioneer of Malaysias specialty coffee industry

What's your favorite kind of coffee brewing method?
It’s subjective to pick a favorite. Coffees can be brewed using different methods and each cup produces a unique flavor profile. For example, Brazilian and Indonesian origins have nutty notes with medium / heavy body which are nice for milk based espresso. African origins such as Kenyan and Ethiopian have fruity and floral notes, delicious for filter coffee. For richness and sweetness, Central American origins are also great! I love exploring new coffees. I like to be adventurous. You tend to improve your sensory skills as you discover new tasting notes. Usually, when I dial in new beans, I would have it as an espresso to taste its full flavor profile. Then, once it’s calibrated, I would have it as a milk-based espresso (cappuccino, flat white). I also enjoy hand brew methods using the V60 and I’ve learnt a lot about hand brews from my good friends, Aoyama Coffee, they are always on point with their Kalita!

One of my favourite brew methods V60

Cupping and exploring new coffee

Dialing in espresso

Brew Department has been seen in a few pop up events. Can you share some of your experiences?
The Collective Arts and Big BWN organized great events! I especially enjoyed event settings done in outdoor locations as it gave a unique coffee experience with a festival vibe. One of my personal favorite spot would be at Kunyit 7 Lodge located in the heart of the capital, Kampong Ayer. It was love at first sight for me. I instantly felt connected there. You guys would totally love the ambiance at Kunyit 7 Lodge! It reflects on our roots, heritage and culture.

Teamwork and support were crucial. During pop-ups, we had to stand up 6-7 hours straight pulling shots, but it was all for the love and passion of coffee. There were ups & downs. One of the challenges we faced was maintaining consistency and quality over a long line-up of orders, but we definitely enjoyed the experience of brewing coffee for the community, talking about coffee, meeting new people and best of all, serving our regulars. The sweetest moments were getting compliments and encouragement from people. It kept us motivated to serve people better.

I’m truly grateful for the amazing team behind Brew Department, especially my amazing wife, my supportive family and a very good friend of mine, Chee Yang, who have helped a lot with the movement.

Brew Department working side by side with Aoyama Coffee

Collective events happening as always

Our favorite spot Kunyit 7 Lodge

What do you think of the coffee culture in Brunei?
The coffee culture in Brunei is certainly gaining popularity and growing steadily. I would say the market is maturing, with Kapra the first local roaster opening up and also cafes that are now serving Artisanal coffee through different brewing methods. It’s great to know that consumers have better access to good coffee so they can appreciate the true value of coffee.

Any future plans with Brew Department?
As of now, I’m just going with the flow participating in pop-up events but at the same time looking into new possibilities. I plan to do more collaborations with other creatives that can help connect coffee with the community or anything outside the box. I do have plans in expanding my coffee business but I don’t want to rush into things. I want to take my time planning, identifying the risks and gaining more experience. The world of coffee is complex, every day is a learning process and I still have a lot to explore.

What would you like to see happen in the future for the local coffee scene?
I visualize big things happening in the future for Brunei’s coffee scene. I hope it would be up to par within international standards, which means consumers would have better and higher coffee knowledge and standards. I also hope to create Brunei’s Coffee Association as it would highly benefit the coffee industry here, in terms of education and growth. Lastly, it’s important to give endless support to our local roasters, cafes and baristas as they could represent Brunei in the world stage of coffee competitions. It’s something I would like to see happening in the future.

A wonderful collaborate project at the Maker Space pic cred Sip N Tell

Connecting coffee and the community

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