Rediscover Brunei Darussalam through the eyes of the People
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Editor's Note: We are happy to bring you a Q n' A with Zairy, owner of Uneek Skateshop. The Uneek Skateshop is a skater owned and operated skateshop in The Souq of The Airport Mall. Be sure to drop by the next time you're at The Souq, and do check out their Facebook page.
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Zairy Izhan b. Hj Ibrahim. I'm turning 40 this year. I am father of two children and I'm the owner of Uneek Skateshop.
When did your interest for skateboarding begin?
It was in the 80's when I watched this tv show, where there is a group of skateboarding team they called themselves the Bones Brigade (Lance Mountain, Mike Mcgill, Tommy Guerrero and others). I was amazed at how they could make their boards stick to their feet when they do tricks like an ollie (i.e. a jump on a skateboard). From there I bought my own skateboard from a department store and started skateboarding, learning tricks and until today, I'm still skateboarding.
Tell us about Uneek Skateshop.
We started in 2001 at Kiulap and now we have moved to a new location at The Airport Mall (The Souq). This year happens to be our 15 years of anniversary. Thank you to everyone that has been supporting us since the very beginning.
How has the local skate scene grown through the years?
Yeah, more people have started skateboarding throughout the years - boys and girls. I'm very happy to see the scene is growing with new faces coming to shop to get their skateboards and go to skate together at the park. It's good to see their will and passion to learn. I hope this will keep going for the years to come.
What is your goal with the shop?
Our goals are to cater to the skateboarders here with the best quality brands and to support the skate community here. We also have been branding our own shop brand including tees, caps and hopefully this year we will have our own skateboard deck. Uneek Skateshop is not just a shop, to me it's a place for the skate community in Brunei, where strong bonds between skaters are formed.
You select the brands and products that comes into the store. What do you look for in a product before bringing it in?
Most of the brands that we bring in are big brands from the US and some are requested by our customers.
Are there events hosted for the local skaters?
We've done a few small events for the locals here. For example, there was the GO SKATEBOARDING DAY on 21 June 2016. Check out our IG for updates on future events.
What would you like to see for the future local skate scene?
I hope the local skate scene here will continue to grow. With more good skate parks built, more skate competitions organised and even more local skateboarders representing Brunei at international skate events.
FYI folks! Check out this Ramadan promotion from Escapee Brunei:
"Ramadan kareem to all our players! For our first season rooms (Circus, Maze and Mad House), you will only have to pay $12 per player! For our second season rooms (Ryokan49 and The Laboratory), you will only have to pay $15 per player!
Take note that for Ramadan, we've extended the hours a little from 12pm until midnight! Come play after Tarawih prayers and terus sahur afterwards. So for those who have yet to try, here's your chance to play and give us a call at 725 2206 to make reservations."
Editor's Note: I remember weekends back in the 90's. I grew up in Kuala Belait, and with most of the extended family based in the Muara district (or "Bandar" as we KB folks would say), many of my weekends were spent in Bandar. I hung out with my cousins, I ate at Thien Thien, and I would visit comic book shops - where a lot of my allowance was spent. As such, it would be absolutely accurate to say that I have a soft spot for comic book shops. On that note, it is with great pleasure that we feature Fanboys Infinite (FI) in this post. Check them out for all your comic, collectible and other pop culture related needs. Let's get to know Khairul Sabir (KA) and Haslan Haji Ali (HA) from FI.
When did your interest for comics begin?
KA: My earliest memories of comic books were my exposure to superheroes as a four year old. The first superhero I remember seeing was Adam West's Batman on TV, that show, along with BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES from the Nineties created a lasting impact. Characters like Spider-Man, X-Men and especially Superman were a childhood mainstay. Shortly after I was exposed to comic books, but I didn't fully commit until I was about fifteen years old. I used to save my lunch money every day just so to be able to buy some comics from Bluestone, a now-defunct comic book store that used to be located in the Gadong area.
HA: For myself, it started back in the mid-Seventies (in London where I was raised) also with the BATMAN classic TV show that was being shown in syndication on British TV, which led me to buying my first comic books, namely JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA VOL. 1 #100 (“The Unknown Soldier of Victory”) and DETECTIVE COMICS VOL. 1 #457 (“There Is No Hope In Crime Alley!”). And, thus, began my decades-long fascination with books in general and comic books in particular.
How has it developed throughout the years?
KA: In recent years, I have been more interested in the graphic novel medium, comprised of stories which tend to be more philosophically challenging and cover more mature ground. There are stories that are commentaries on real-world issues and character-driven arcs that are not just about punches being thrown, but also contain life lessons behind every page.
HA: I feel that the very first JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA comic book I ever bought had played a definitive role in my fascination with the Golden Age of comics as well as challenging myself to figure out new and interesting ways of telling a story, which helps, being an amateur writer and all. As such, although I do read the newer stuff, I prefer immersing myself with stories published during the Eighties as it was around this time that comic book stories really started to mature and was no longer just for kids in general. Case in point, the release of both BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS by Frank Miller, Klaus Janson and Lynn Varley and WATCHMEN by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons in the mid-Eighties led to the grim and gritty style of storytelling that has taken decades to undo and whose influence can be felt in recent live action films in general and DC live action films in particular, none more so apparent than in BATMAN v. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE.
Share with us some of your favourites.
KA: My top three comic runs of all time and in no particular order are: SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING by Alan Moore et al; GREEN LANTERN by Geoff Johns et al; and WATCHMEN by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.
HA: I will read anything written by Alan Moore, David Mack, Grant Morrison, J. M. DeMatteis, Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, Kevin Maguire, Kurt Busiek, Mark Waid, Neil Gaiman, Roy Thomas, and Warren Ellis. I also have a very soft spot for Jack Kirby’s plethora of work with both Marvel Comics from the Sixties and DC Comics from the Seventies, and especially Arnold Drake and Bruno Premiani’s seminal work on DC Comic’s DOOM PATROL. Art-wise, I simply adore the works of Alex Ross, Dave Gibbons, Dave McKean, David Mack, Frank Quitely, Kevin Maguire, and Richard Case, just to name a few. My top three favourites are ASTRO CITY by Kurt Busiek et al, DOOM PATROL by Grant Morrison et al, and PLANETARY by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday.
Tell us about Fanboys Infinite.
KA: Fanboys Infinite was officially established on 8th September 2012, and was born out of the need for a comic book specialty store in the country. It initially started as a collectibles store, but pivoted towards a comic book store that also carried collectibles.
HA: I only joined the company a year later after its official establishment, and a week after I left my previous company where I had been under their employ for more than twenty years. It was a timely decision as we were able to focus more on achieving our corporate objectives, and led to our meteoric expansion from our old premises to a newer and larger one the following year after I had joined. That allowed us to better cater to our ever-growing customer base by increasing our inventory as well as hosting annual in-store events like “Free Comic Book Day (FCBD)” and “Re:Boot Camp”, both of which are annual pro-reading initiatives that we have organised over the years. Recently, we have been participating in a lot of pop-up events like the recent “Collectibles Conclave v. Books @ The Souq” event. Such events allow us to inculcate public awareness that we are here to fulfill their comic book, collectible and pop culture needs. Additionally, we have also tied up with local and foreign business affiliates in order to incite and fuel a resurgent collecting community to reach newer heights.
How has the response been for Fanboys Infinite?
FI: Response towards Fanboys Infinite is reflective of an ever-changing market mindset - as more people get into comics, we sell more of those. In comparison, the collectibles market is too vast for people to keep up with.
How is the present community in the local scene?
FI: Our core business are our members and loyal patrons. They are always the first movers in supporting all our events and whatnot, be it movie premieres or in-store functions. That is why we believe that building and sustaining a collecting community is paramount to the company’s continuous success.
Any special shoutouts?
FI: Fanboys Infinite would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one who have supported us from the beginning. We will continue to do everything that is humanly possible to ensure that your respective comic, collectible and pop culture needs are met in a more efficient, effective and economical manner.
Editor's Note: In this feature, we chat with Mark Jay from GTXperiment. He has Brunei roots, enjoys movies, working out, video games, and when he isn't studying, he can be found in the studio with the band. Follow their journey on Instagram and Facebook, and check them out on YouTube.
When and why did you start playing drums?
I started playing the drums about 12 years ago. Why? Don't really have the answer, I just really liked it when I picked it up as a hobby and as I got older it grew in me.
Who is your favourite band?
Can't choose one...I have too many haha. E.g. 30STM, The Used, Paramore, Justin Timberlake and Coldplay.
Who are your current musical influences?
Current musical influences now would be Imagine Dragons, Darren Ashley and Tori Kelly.
Who is GTXperiment?
GTXperiment is made out of four people. We are a KL based band who like to bend rules and infuse genres. There's Daryll, frontman of the band and main singer. Jude, guitars, back up vocals. Clinton on keyboard, and also back up vocals. Then there's me. I play the drums.
Tell us about some highlights from your musical journey so far.
We had quite a lot of gigs since last year. The most recent one was opening for Sam Willows on March 5th. We did a few charity gigs too. But the biggest gig we had so far was opening for Girls Generation in the F1 after party in Sepang 2015.
Is GTXperiment currently involved in any projects?
Yes we are, we are currently working with Coleman malaysia to make a 360 music video in Malaysia. Really excited for its release. And also we have our own project which is our first album, it is still under production, it's half way there, most probably done by end of July.
What is the music scene like in Kuala Lumpur compared to Brunei?
Well, there is a huge difference and to be fair Malaysia music scene started out much much earlier than Brunei and they had more exposure then and even now. Brunei music scene is really small and there isn't much exposure for the local musicians in Brunei which is sad because there are talented musicians in Brunei, but they don't really have a place to showcase their talent, sometimes they do but its limited.
Is there something you'd like to do more of in the future?
Defiantly touring. Always wanted to go for a tour as a band haha. And of course write more songs and enjoy what I do!
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