The sweet aroma of roasted coffee beans had stimulated our senses as we walked along the half empty void deck at Block 77, Commonwealth Drive. It was 8.30am in the morning. The proprietor, Mr. Chua Kee Cheong, 70, was scurrying through his wooden desk for a shear to cut open the giant woolen sack containing the coffee beans.
The half-dressed proprietor then took a plastic cup to scoop the beans up before tossing them over a tray for inspection so as to remove the spoilt and burnt ones. Later, the coffee beans were weighed on a scale and then placed into a grinding machine at the corner of the shop. Within seconds, coffee powder was collected in a pouch at the mouth of the grinder. The pouch was sealed immediately to maintain its freshness.
There is a wide variety of coffee beans stored in huge tins at the entrance of the shop. These beans were imported from countries across the globe such as Colombia, Brazil and Indonesia. When asked if the most expensive coffee beans at the shop would make the tastiest coffee, Mr. Chua responded candidly, “We should not compare whether which coffee beans are the most expensive because those expensive ones may not be suitable to our taste and preferences.”
The grinder and the metallic tins containing the coffee beans have been accompanying Mr. Chua through thick and thin for the past 27 years. There were occasions when he felt like retiring because of the repetitive nature of his work. He said, “It is extremely tiring to carry the heavy woolen sacks every day and my back will often ache when I go home. Nevertheless, I know I have to make a living. What else can I do?”
The relentless bellows coming from the KTM trains opposite the shop ended our little conversation here. Mr. Chua returned to his shop and continued with his arduous and thankless job. Beads of sweat trickled down his temple as he carried a sack of coffee beans from the storage room…
Well, a cup of coffee doesn’t come cheap, right?