Carrying on my father's legacy of providing quality coffee.
After a two year apprenticeship with a Dutch coffee company, my father, Mr Tan Tiong Hoe, started his coffee business at the young age of 19 with the sole motivation of providing quality coffee beans to households and small F&B establishments. The business slowly grew with its penetration into the hotel and clubs industry, cafes and restaurants, caterers and wholesalers, supermarkets and offices.
Since my teenage years, I’ve followed my father in his shadows, helping him with the menial labor of the business. I was taught to repair and perform maintenance on coffee machines. I was taught how to make business. I was taught to provide customer service of high standards. I was taught how to roast coffee. These just felt like work to me, until I got the chance to really see what my father would do for his business.
Back in the 1970s, due to the massive increase in raw (unroasted) coffee prices, the trend of mixing coffee with maize, margarine and sugar became common industrial practice among local traditional coffee roasters in Singapore. Prices were high, and it was difficult to survive. Tensions were high, and many sleepless nights ensued. However, my father insisted on providing only top grade, gourmet coffee to our customers. He started making more door-to-door sales to households, canvassing for more potential customers, all while striving to perfect the craft of making and roasting coffee. Despite his weariness, he never failed to take the extra step to provide good customer service.
I was utterly moved by his unrelenting passion for coffee. I was inspired by his persistence towards customer service. In 2010, I took over my father’s traditional Nanyang coffee business as he intended to retire. As his son, it was natural for me to inherit the family business.
To meet the changing needs of the industry and our consumers, I co-founded Tiong Hoe Specialty Coffee in 2014 as a step forward into the world of Third Wave Coffee, while simultaneously running the family business. Our vision of Tiong Hoe Specialty Coffee is to carry on my father’s passion for coffee, and also to inspire a sense of endearment, comfort and nostalgia. My father’s office of 20 years was thus renovated into the cafe that we have today.
The most challenging part of the coffee business is to learn what our consumers like, and search for coffee beans that are very close to their preferences. And at every step of the value chain, from sourcing coffee to storage, from roasting to preparing that cup of coffee and then finally presented to our customers, we must ensure that every step is carried out to our upmost standards.
Of course there are days we feel disheartened when our efforts are not reciprocated with results. But our customers’ continuous support and encouraging words are what keep us going. The delight on their faces whenever they sip our coffee has always warmed our hearts, and invigorate our passion.
Although the operations for the traditional coffee side and the specialty coffee side differ, the common denominator for both businesses has always been what my father taught, through his words and actions: persistence in providing quality coffee and customer service. And I hope that some day, someone will be inspired by what we do and what we believe in, and then carry on to inspire generations after generations.
Tiong Hoe Specialty Coffee