Leon Foo, whose pre-coffee career was in private equities, has told his story before. As the founder of Papa Palheta – now PPP Coffee – he’s ridden coffee’s third wave to become one of the leading figures in Singapore’s speciality scene.
While Papa Palheta began as a lone cafe in 2009, PPP Coffee has grown into a string of cafes; the most well-known being Chye Seng Huat Hardware. It also does wholesale coffee as well as equipment and has a speciality coffee machine distributor arm called Stellar M. And Foo went from being CEO to the chairman of PPP Coffee in 2019 to focus on new horizons.
Today, the 38-year-old has a different story to tell. For the past two years, he’s been working on Morning, a coffee capsule ecosystem with business partner Andre Chanco, who was head roaster at Papa Palheta before co-founding Yardstick Coffee in Makati City, Manila. Morning combines components that, Foo says, have to “talk to each other”. He mentions a coffee capsule marketplace and an app that connects to a coffee capsule machine engineered to unlock the flavours of coffee.
As the capsule market is predicted to grow to over US$41 billion (S$55 billion) in 2021, Foo and Chanco saw an opportunity and went for it. “With the increasing number of speciality roasters putting their coffee into capsules, we found an untapped potential: every coffee is different, so why brew all the same way?” To do this differently, their Internet of Things-enabled Morning machine gives users far greater control than most commercially-available capsule machines do. Brews are weight-based instead of volumetric – which can be imprecise – and users can set brew temperatures and even control the output of pressure over time through the Morning app.
“Roasters can submit recipes for their capsules, so users can brew them exactly as the experts intended. With this machine, you can brew like a pro and get the same results every time,” explains Foo, whose preoccupation with using technology to better the coffee experience includes introducing a bean archival system at PPP Coffee that has the coffee from exemplary vintages deep-frozen and preserved so customers can have a chance to taste them.
Similarly, coffee capsules offer a solution to freshness. Roasted beans, even in a sealed bag, have a shelf life of three to six months. Oxygen-free, nitrogen-flushed capsules keep their contents stable for 18 to 24 months. “Previously, roasters needed to time the roasting date and the date when the beans would reach the consumer. It was such a logistical nightmare for all that many overseas roasters opted to just offer their beans domestically. With capsules, that barrier is broken.”
While the Morning machines are slated for release this month, the capsules are already available at Morning Marketplace, a platform that also aggregates capsules from some of the best roasters around the world. “These aren’t normal coffees. They come with the roasters’ DNA and are ethically sourced, well roasted and properly ground before being encapsulated. “The choice of discovering coffee can now happen at home, conveniently.”
Listen to Leon Foo’s interview on Money FM 89.3 below.
Photography Tan Wei te
Art direction Ashruddin Sani
Hair & Makeup Benedict Choo