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This Third Generation Hawker Is Giving The Traditional Kopi A Modern Twist

It's never easy taking over a family business, especially one that is over 80 years old and spans two generations. But for Faye Sai, 32, who owns Coffee Break with her two siblings, it felt like the natural thing to do. "When I was 19, I started helping my dad out full-time and realised that I really like the business and that it could pay the bills. I wanted to take over then but he told me to go get my degree first."

Faye's dad wanted her to experience the world and explore other options before making her decision. It turned out to be sage advice as in the ensuing years, she graduated with a business management degree and played beach volleyball competitively. 

But the coffee business was still in her heart, and undeterred, Faye continued to improve her knowledge of the industry. "Since my family's selling traditional eastern coffee, I wanted to learn more about the Western side," she explained. "The specialty coffee scene was coming up so I had stints at a couple of cafes as a barista and I even volunteered for the World Barista Championships in Melbourne just to experience the coffee scene on a global stage."

When it was finally time to take over the family's hawker business, Faye was ready to modernise Coffee Break while still respecting the traditions that were laid out. "Our best-selling flavour is the traditional kopi," she said. "That is what we are famous for. But ours is a custom blend. We mix two different beans from two different farms to create this flavour that is unique only to us." Their Sea Salt Caramel latte has also been a hit amongst youngsters. Other innovations include the traditional peng roti accompanied with either Earl Grey Crème or Black Sesame spread.

Given her relative youth, it was a challenge at first for Faye to win over her dad's regular customers. "It wasn’t an overnight thing," she admitted. "We had to work really hard to build their familiarity with us." Her father had carved out a reputation based on quality and that is what she hopes to continue with her siblings as they grow the business. 

For her fellow hawkers who are just starting out, she has this one piece of advice, "Persevere. Things will get rough and tough but if you put in the hard work and sincerity, you will be recognised for it."  

Amoy Food Centre
7 Maxwell Road, #02-78, Singapore 069111

2 Science Park Drive, #01-28, Singapore 118222

Find out more about Coffee Break here

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