Take a 20-something law school graduate from Australia, send him on a six month trip around the world and you’ll find him in Kenya 10 years later with 12,000 acres of wheat. Add another 6 years and you find him as a coffee ambassador with a brand new startup in Singapore delivering the best coffees, freshly roasted, to your doorstep, as and when you need it. Paul’s journey into coffee started in a rather unlikely location. Born in Melbourne, Australia, growing up in Canberra and then studying law at the University of New South Wales, Paul graduated 6 months early and used that as an excuse to go on a six month round-the-world adventure. Back then, he already knew that he didn’t want to be a lawyer but somehow convinced his parents that taking some time out to travel was exactly what he needed to do before starting his career. As many young Australians embark on journeys around the world after Uni, Paul too, started off on his adventure with no specific plan in mind. But when he landed in Africa, he fell in love with a country so vast, chaotic and beautiful, that he ended up staying there for over 15 years.
As a young college graduate, Paul decided that Africa was where he would stay and make something of himself. Starting in grain trading, he tried his hand at property and various other pursuits. He then became an unlikely farmer with absolutely no agricultural experience. Shall we call him a risk taker? He began with a small plot, only 300 acres of land, but he soon built his farm up to over 12,000 acres growing wheat and maize (corn). From his inexperience within the farming industry to drought to lucky chance encounters with the right people, Paul’s tenacity gave him the ability to grow his business in a land where the learning curve was steep.
So one would ask, how did this Aussie bloke end up in Singapore with a coffee startup? I suppose the answer is a story about passion and meeting the love of his life. Paul’s wife, Serena was born and grew up in Kenya. Chinese by heritage, her grandparents started the first ever Chinese restaurant in Mombasa. Paul had met and worked with her uncles for almost ten years though even then, the introduction had not made through their connection. It was a random meeting by Paul’s mum and Serena’s mum that started it all.
Paul’s mum is of Malaysian heritage and had gone to Kenya for two years to help Paul run a hand bag shop. Seeing her from across the shopping center, Serena’s mum had decided to go speak to her (seeing as she didn’t often see a Chinese face in that particular area). As mums do, when they realised they both had single children, they decided to matchmake them. They had their work cut out for them, however, Paul was really not interested in meeting anyone at that time and he bailed at the last minute when they first set them up. It was the second try that got them together. Invited to Serena’s house for dinner, Paul knocked on the door and when she answered, he was kicking himself that he didn’t make the first appearance.
What ensued was whirlwind 5 days together before Serena went back to Boston where she was studying to be a dentist. They agreed to have a long distance relationship. One that lasted for nearly three years and took them from Boston to Hawaii where Serena specialised in pediatric dentistry. In two years, Paul travelled literally to the other side of the globe from Africa to Hawaii 12 times. In the end, it was Serena who brought him to Singapore. The adventurer that he is, Paul had barely thought that living in Asia would mean living in this concrete jungle, but Serena always wanted an Asian experience and what better place than Singapore would there be to have that.
Now let’s get back to coffee, a passion of Paul’s for a number of years. As a farmer in Africa, he met and became friends with several coffee bean farmers and both Serena and Paul fell in love with coffee there, visiting gorgeous highland plantations and learning about how the beans were grown. While in Hawaii, they again explored the plantations of Big Island, taking in exotic views over the sea and breathing the fresh air that the coffee was grown in.
Here in Singapore, while Serena pursued her career, Paul had decided that his next step would be to work with coffee somehow, this being his passion. After a few months of cafe hopping and hitting the ground looking for inspiration and opportunities, he decided that there was a gap in the market for those coffee lovers, both novice drinkers and connoisseurs, who love having their coffee at home. Frequently having to dash out and buy a bag of beans for his own use, Paul decided that he himself, would enjoy the ease and convenience of having coffee delivered directly to his door. The key to this would be, of course, the quality of the coffee provided to his customers. Combining his coffee experience, knowledge of making artisan coffees, passion for fresh roasted beans and of course, his background as a farmer, Paul decided, with Serena, to found Perk Coffee, a company that roasts your coffee beans to order, ensuring the freshest beans delivered to your door just a few days after being roasted.
Paul tells us about his bean selection process. “Our coffees are specialty grade, traceable, ethically and responsibly sourced from all over the world. They’re grown by some of the world’s best farmers who are just as committed as us in producing great tasty coffees.” With his background as a farmer, Paul is passionate about and has huge empathy for who and where the beans come from. “Generally, we’ll feature one or two coffees from each of the main Arabica coffee growing regions of the world – the Americas, Africa, and Asia. Occasionally we get our hands on some special micro lots from off the radar origins like Hawaii or Rwanda. We also offer a seasonal blend for the espresso drinkers.”
As an avid coffee drinker myself, I stumbled across Perk Coffee on Instagram and within five minutes had placed my first order. For me, it is the most frustrating thing to wake up in the morning and not have any beans to make me and The Vegetarian a good coffee. Yes, I am also a cafe hopper, spending huge amounts of time at various cafes that are featured here on Ordinary People, but my first coffee, the one I make at home before starting my day, can’t be discounted and while I’m not a barista in any means, I do love my home coffees. So I was very intrigued by this mail order coffee and slightly pessimistic, expecting to be ripped off for average coffee beans. Perk Coffee really impressed me though. After placing my order, I was immediately notified of the next roasting date, which at the moment occurs once a week. Not less than a week after I placed my order, I was told that my beans were being roasted and they would have them out to me as soon as possible. I was absolutely thrilled when I received my very nicely packaged coffee beans two days later (this is dependant on SingPost) in my post box. I was even more thrilled when I ground my freshly roasted coffee beans the next morning and made a fantastic coffee with my Aeropress.
There is so much that could be said about Perk Coffee and having met Paul, the founder, I realise that he is really knowledgeable about coffee and how to make it right. He’s passionate about demystifying the finer arts of making coffee, allowing people to make cafe quality coffee in the comfort of their own home. I’m hoping to see them do some classes, tastings or videos to help us home brewers know more about making great coffee at home. You can discover more about Perk Coffee on their website which is terribly easy to use. I’ve chosen their “Explorer Mode” which means they will send me a surprise selection of beans with every order. Trust me, this is really the only type of surprise that I will enjoy thoroughly. I have a grinder at home so I get the whole beans, however you have a choice for three different grind settings and if you aren’t sure what grind size you need, it’s as easy as choosing one of five brew methods – espresso, drip, aeropress, mokapot and french press. Hooray for taking away the guesswork and mystique around grind sizes!
You also have an option to jot down your notes about the specific coffees sent to you. I just discovered this feature so have been making a note about the ones I like and once I’ve tried them all, I’ll only have my favourites sent to me. Although this may take a while, as various regions are added and removed based on seasonality and quality. They had already sold out of my favourite from my first delivery but replaced it with with an equally yummy Ethiopian bean. Confession time… I have had to go back and change the amount of coffee I drink so that I get my deliveries more often. 😉
For more information on Perk Coffee:
Images provided by Perk Coffee.