“What you need is a coffee with character
We recently met Wilson Siew, the roaster and founder of The Crackpots Coffee, an online roastery based in Puchong, Selangor.
Through a quick chat, we were pleasantly surprised to find out about his colorful background as an ex-scriptwriter for TV shows and also a lecturer in Mass Communication.
Curious to learn more about his journey into the coffee community, we requested for an interview, to which he graciously accepted.
What was your first encounter with coffee?
Growing up, I would never have described myself as a coffee person. I generally avoided coffee as I always developed uncomfortable tremors after drinking it.
I only really started paying attention to coffee in the last 4 years. All credit goes to my wife, Yee Fong, for bringing me to specialty cafe.
I can vividly remember the strong blueberry notes of the espresso I tasted that day and my subsequent surprise to find out that I do not develop any adverse reactions to it.
What was your background prior to roasting?
I majored in Performing Arts for my Bachelor’s degree and I furthered my studies in Linguistics for my Master’s.
My professional interest is mainly in writing. While I was doing my Master’s, I freelanced as a scriptwriter for TV shows and dramas. I also did copywriting and translation for ads, books and blogs.
After graduating, I became a lecturer in Mass Communication in KDU University College, which I am still doing now.
What sparked your interest in roasting?
As newly converted coffee enthusiasts, my wife and I did a lot of cafe hopping in Malaysia and whenever we get a chance to travel abroad. It was during a fateful stay in an AirBnB cum coffee roastery in Taiwan that ignited my coffee roasting journey.
Watching the process of how our Taiwanese host and roaster turned some tasteless green coffee into an aromatic and flavorful product left me in awe and a burning desire to try it out myself.
How did you learn to roast?
Coming back to Malaysia, we bought ourselves a tiny roasting machine and started experimenting with home roasting.
I wanted to learn everything there is about roasting and so I spent countless of hours crawling roasting articles, videos and forums.
As you can imagine, this is not an easy method as most online resources will only describe how to roast but do not explain the principles behind the steps. I had to learn through experience and waste a lot of coffee along the way to acquire my coffee roasting skills.
When and how did you start The Crackpots Coffee?
I co-founded Crackpots together with my wife, Yee Fong in 2017. We named it Crackpots as a wordplay that hints at the cracking of coffee beans during roasting, and us being total crackpots for having this crazy idea of starting a roasting business out of nowhere!
Which coffee roaster are you using now?
I am currently using Proaster THCR-01 which is manufactured in Korea by Taehwan Automation.
I’ve been using it for about a year now and I am happy with its performance so far. I like its sturdiness and built. It also comes complete with data bridges, which means it is ready for data logging without any further modification.
What is your roasting principle?
As our tagline goes “what you need is a coffee with character”, I truly believe that coffee is best enjoyed in its original character and taste profile.
Each coffee has its unique taste and my job as a coffee roaster is to accentuate these tastes without overwhelming it with the roasting process. This way, you can appreciate each coffee for what they truly taste like rather than me forcing my roasting style on you.
How is your roasting journey so far?
As with any endeavor, it was not smooth sailing from the get go.
I found myself struggling to juggle between a full-time job and running a business. The breaking point for us was when we received our first 10 kg order and we had to stay up all night roasting.
In early 2019, I made the decision to take the plunge and run the roasting business full-time. I am still lecturing part-time but most of my focus are now on the roastery.
It has been a fruitful journey so far and I am glad that our roastery has managed to get on track. In the near future, we hope to establish a physical store and continue to widen our selection by sourcing from more origins.
Any advice for people interested to start roasting?
Find a good source of green coffee beans that is available in small quantity.
When we first started, we had a lot of trouble sourcing for affordable green coffee due to the small quantity that we needed. We either had to pay a lot for a small amount or risk buying greens in bulk.
One option is to connect with your local roasting community and buying greens together. At The Crackpots, we are always happy to meet fellow roasters and share our green coffee in small yet affordable amount.