Julian Mou, the Barista of the North

There is something you need to know about the Australian people. Their coffee drinking culture. The point that drives the message across cannot be better put by citing Starbucks' failure to break into the Australia market. Since Starbucks entered Australia 14 years ago, they have reported a loss of $143 million. That is $10 million bucks blew away every year with spare change to buy you a several brand new Mercs. To rub the salt in, Starbucks actually opened up the lifestyle coffee drinking market. However, Aussies are so passionate about coffee drinking that their small independent cafes, at least 6500 of them across Australia, beat the global giant leaving it with just 22 joints in Australia today. To put things into perspective, Starbucks have 11,500 stores across the US alone, 1396 stores in Canada and 1219 stores in China.

That's amazing. If you still can't see it, just imagine Singaporeans starting their own individual burger joints after McDonald's enter the Singapore market and do beat the hell out of them and cause year on year losses to McDonald's until their store counts reduces to a tiny fraction of their peak. That will be a day when Singaporeans can stand up proudly and tell the world, "Don't fuck around with us, we make the best burgers." Unfortunately, that's not going to happen. The saddest part is that this is not going to be limited to burgers but every aspect of life worth standing up for, at the least for the fun of it. So you can say all you want about the Aussies but they can stand up to your Ya kuns anytime and win the day.

That being said, I'm no coffee drinker. I have always been a tea guy all my life. However I made myself a cup of bland tasteless coffee while writing this in hope to get a better feel of something I have absolutely no idea about. My apologies for a needlessly long prelude. I have to make it very clear. Although I always call Julian Mou, "Chiobu kopimaid," it is my term of endearment that many Singaporeans will mistaken as a demeaning one. You see, that is how most Singaporeans view the profession in Singapore - a low class "blue collar" job. A stark difference over here. The Aussies are proud of their coffee and hold their barista in high regard. Now that the differences have been clearly established, I would like to introduce a Singaporean girl named Julian Mou - the Barista of the North.

I have not met Julian in person. How we knew each other online have became fuzzy in my memory. After observing so many Singaporeans all over Australia seems to know Julian, it doesn't seem a surprise to me that I came to know her, despite that fact I can't seem to remember how and when. Having spent so many years in Australia, Julian may have already renounced her Singapore citizenship by now but let's not get so technical today. She is after all, a born and bred Singapore daughter. The reason why I never forgot Julian was that she seemed to emit a aura of spunk. Even though I have never met her in person or speak to her over a phone call, I can feel it by just reading her texts alone. She may be a completely different person to the image in my mind but I am confident that I will not be too far off the mark. Lately she affirmed it by flying solo, running her own little cafe by herself in the edge of the city of Darwin - just like what I thought a person like her will eventually do.

Satki Yoda urged me to write about Julian's start up to "boost her business," and I told him it was pointless due to a few reasons. Firstly, "no one" reads this blog. What I mean is that the figures are insignificant in terms of achieving an effective advertorial attempt. Secondly, what are the odds that someone reading this passes by Darwin for a holiday or business trip and have time for a cup of freshly brewed goodness? The purpose of this post, instead, is to point out the Singapore environment is what that limits Singaporeans and not ourselves or our nationality. Once the wings are spread, we have Stephen the brick layer, Thomas the photographer, Julian the barista, Shawn the automobile mechanic and so on. All of the above are happy with what their professions. Meanwhile, how many Singaporeans among your friends are working in a profession outside the usual handful such as the engineer, accountant, manager or executive (of some sort), lawyer, doctor, banker and administrator, and feel happy - and proud - of their jobs? Among my friends, I can only single out Larry the make up God(dess). The rest are pretty much dragging themselves to work. Lately Lucius' dad, Mr Lexis Ow finally showed his finger to his cushy IT Engineer job in Singapore and strike out on his own and started go photography full time. [please support cos he is fucking good] Needless to say, that is a move probably more frowned upon than applauded behind his back but I am a moral supporter and I hereby salute Lexis for having the courage to pursue his passion and wish his family (they are all in it, united as one) all the best.

Back to Julian. She is not your ordinary kopimaid. She is damn good. How dare I make this audacious claim, since I haven't even met her, much less taste her coffee? Well just not too long ago, she took part in a barista competition that saw 14 teams coming from all over the world to compete on stage, to produce quality, well presented coffee at double quick time under high pressure. You don't get there if you are mediocre. 

Julian (centre), the only girl in her team, ready to get onto stage to take on the world

And I can't even make a cup of decent coffee to save my life. We read about outstanding Singaporeans all the time but it feels entirely different once one is someone that you know. Though I have never told Julian personally, I admire her passion towards her trade. She is probably going to be the only Singaporean barista I will know here.

I wonder if we can still find young Singaporeans doing this in Singapore in the future, just like how the Aussies do it with a passion. If not, how do we justify our complains when the others do a serve shitty coffee to us? That applies to other trades as well. Hawker food, welding, tailoring, whatever...

If anyone of you pass by Darwin, please say "hi" to her for me. Her little cafe is at 1/2 Harriet Pl, Darwin NT 0800, just off the edge of the inlet to the port. Order a cuppa and tell me your experience. 

If I ever make the extremely unlikely trip to Darwin one day, I'll definitely drop by Harriet ExPresso Bar to order a special dose of 黯然消魂咖啡



  1. I will do Julian. From behind or in front. Love kopibu to the moon and back.

  2. You do realise that Starbucks coffee is not a very good coffee compared to real Italian Barista coffee.

    Starbucks have fancy flavouring I give them that, but the reason why it's so popular in the US is simply the fact that the traditional coffee alternative served in diners and most restaurants are shit coffee and often instant.

    1. Btw the Italian migrants imported real Barista machines to Australia long before Starbucks even existed in the US