About Toby’s Estate
Toby’s Estate was founded by Toby Smith, an Australian lawyer with a tremendous passion for coffee, just over 10 years ago. With flagship cafes in Australia, New York and Singapore Toby’s specializes in specialty coffees where they focus on the origin of the coffee, the roasting of the beans and the brewing process. We we sat down with Justin, the regional head of Toby’s Estate Asia to find out more about Toby’s Estate and its plans for the upcoming Cafe Fest.
On Toby’s Estate
TSL: Could you share with us the philosophy behind Toby’s?
Justin: Toby’s philosophy is serving a high quality coffee experience with a bit of Australian culture. It’s a very relaxed place to chill out and enjoy your coffee. When you come here we won’t dictate what a good cup of coffee is from a high and mighty position of authority.
We believe that Toby’s is about exploring for consumers and us as brewers. We use different brewing methods to highlight different flavours like our cold brew where coffee is extracted gently over 18 to 20 hours. We also offer a journey of exploration for people who want to get to know about coffee. We’re happy to take people on a journey to learn more about coffee.
TSL: Why did you decide to bring Toby’s over to Singapore?
Justin: We knew that there was a very strong coffee culture in Singapore where locals drink strong coffee without milk (Kopi-O). While local coffee tastes different, it’s quite similar to the whole espresso concept that we’re doing.
If we had taken it to China for example, it wouldn’t have been well received. When we started in Singapore in 2011 there was an amazing coffee scene here. There were a few cafes in Singapore before we came in, so we don’t feel like we were the trailblazers here.
TSL: Did you face any unique challenges in starting Toby’s up in Singapore?
Justin: Where do we start? When we first opened the doors here, everybody sounded like us. Meaning that a lot of our clientele were foreigners and we were scratching our heads trying to figure out how to bring more Singaporeans in here.
In the last 3 years between the work that we’ve done in doing coffee classes and the blossoming of the coffee scene as a whole in Singapore, we’ve seen a lot more locals here than before.
TSL: What is the top 3 items people must try when they come to Toby’s?
Justin: My top coffee is the Gibraltar. I like my coffee with a bit of milk. I find Macchiato too little, Flat White too much. The other one i think is worth trying is the Cold Brew. It’s something different and it reminds me a little bit of a whisky.
For food I really like our Scrambled Eggs. That’s my go to breakfast and even as a customer here I really enjoy our scrambled eggs.
TSL: Are there any upcoming plans for Toby’s?
Justin: With the cafe we’re looking at our menu and our offerings. My intention is to offer a better breakfast experience, both in terms of the food and the beverage.
We also want to roast more interesting single origin coffees and have more coffee exploration experiences like letting customers taste the coffee before it’s roasted.
TSL: If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
TSL: Favourite thing to do in Singapore?
Justin: I like exploring the food centres around here because I’ve lived in Australia and Hong Kong my whole life and i think that exploring the food centres is a very engaging and tasty way to discover more about the culture here in Singapore.
TSL: Coffee or Tea?
TSL: What is your favourite cafe or restaurant to go to? Other than Toby’s that is.
Justin: Common Man. They’re a competitor but hand to heart, they’re great. When we were getting renovations done I was parking myself there very often. It’s like cheating on your wife.
On Cafe Fest Singapore 2014
TSL: What do you think of Singapore’s cafe culture and scene?
Justin: What I find the most interesting is the really innovative use of real estate. I used to live in Tiong Bahru when I first came to Singapore and there were only 2 cafes, but now there are cafes every 50 metres. I find that there are just pockets of really interesting architecture that make for very interesting looking cafes.
The local consumers are also really getting into espresso based coffee. We get coffee connoisseurs coming in asking about the weather during which the coffee was harvested in, the seasonal differences etc, all of that bodes well for the local coffee industry. I suppose the challenge for all of us here is to deliver an experience that is catered to the local consumer.
TSL: Toby’s will be featured in the first ever Singapore Cafe Fest. What was the process like? Why did you guys want to participate?
Justin: We wanted the experience of Toby’s coffee to reach everyone who loves coffee and cafes as much as we do. We know that our location here at Robertson Quay is not the most accessible, so we thought that the Cafe Fest would be a great platform to get our coffee experience out there to a broader audience.
It’s a very small community of cafes here in Singapore and we all kind of know each other. We like the idea of hanging out with people who make good coffee and are as passionate as we are about coffee.
TSL: What can cafe goers expect from Toby’s during Cafe Fest? Anything special up your sleeves?
Justin: Great coffee! We’re also working on a food menu for the festival. The whole span will be a demonstration of some sort, we’ll be transparent about the machines we use and the beans we use.
We’ll have people there who will enthusiastically talk to you about coffee and help you explore the world of coffee.
This feature of Toby’s Estate is part of our pro-bono coverage of the upcoming Cafe Fest 2014. Support the growing cafe culture in Singapore and be part of Singapore’s very Cafe event!