Friends in Totes: Gary Au

Coffee is the lifeblood of many designers, and it’s not any different for us.

In Hong Kong, where we’re based, Urban Coffee Roaster is one of the finest independent coffee shops and roasters around. We first started hanging out at their coffee shop about 4 years ago, and met the friendly co-founder Gary Au, who is one of the most passionate purveyors of coffee out here.

 
Gary Au of Urban Coffee Roaster

Gary Au of Urban Coffee Roaster

 

Q: Hello! Can you quickly introduce yourself to us?

A: I am Gary, I run a coffee roastery and 3 coffee shops in Hong Kong. I’m a green coffee buyer, roaster and also a barista. I travel much more often these two years, visiting some coffee origins to source green coffee and also go to some cities to promote the brand and the coffee we roast.

Q: What does a day (weekday or weekend) in your life look like?

A: There isn’t too much of a difference between a weekday or a weekend for me. My schedule is usually pretty full, but I’m always super excited for my first cup of coffee of the day.

 
Gary is wearing  NOTCH bag in Black

Gary is wearing NOTCH bag in Black

 

Q: What are the items that follow you on a daily basis, or things you love to bring on your day off?

A: My money clip wallet, my iPhone SE (which I love so much due to its small size), a power bank, keys and sometimes with an umbrella.

Q: Coffee or tea? What is your go-to order?

A: Coffee! But more than 80% of the time I make my own coffee. I don’t have a go-to order, but I love trying new things, especially any signature drinks when I visit others coffee shops.

 
 

Q: What do you love most about the city you live in?

A: It used to be freedom and safety, however it seems like these are disappearing before our eyes, sadly.

Q: Introduce us to a cause/belief you care about, and why others should too.

A: Always be open-minded. Every belief or concept that is right, or even perfect at a moment in time may eventually become outdated.

Q: If there’s a young person who wants to enter your field of work, what advice would you give them?

A: Find a good mentor and learn from them. People often say I “learn how to run before I learn to walk”, but I find that I learn and achieve my goals much faster, so don’t be afraid to be yourself and pursue your dreams.

Q: Share with us one way you express yourself creatively?

A: Sometimes I will create signature drinks when I got really happy or moody moments, but none of them has made it to the menu of shops yet.

 
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Q: When you are looking to buy green coffee, what qualities do you look for?

A: To me, the quality of the green coffee is the single most important factor that affects the quality of the final cup. I mostly focus on clean cup and sweetness when buying green coffee, and I look especially for good coffee from smaller producers, since I really hope we can work and grow together.

Q: If you had a free day all to yourself, where would you go?

A: I will ride my Vespa to the beach, get wet, get some tan and relax.

 
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Q: Share with us an important lesson you learnt over the past few years.

A: Dare to make any decision. Dare to be different from others.

Q: What is the most attractive quality of a person?

A: Smile. Everyone can be super attractive and pretty when they’re smiling!

 
 

Q: Where do you get your daily inspirations?

A: I get inspired from reading blogs or Instagram stories by baristas from all over the world. That and my first cup of coffee of the day goes a long way!

Q: Finally, what's your favourite ice-cream flavour?

A: Vanilla! Whenever I’m trying a new ice cream brand, I always choose vanilla. It is the most basic and therefore the raw qualities really shine through, it is the best gauge whether an ice cream is good or not.


 
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Editor’s note: We just want to thank Gary for taking the time out of his busy schedule to share with us about his passions, thoughts, and we greatly appreciate his efforts in posing for us :P

Gary is extremely friendly and passionate about coffee, and will frequent his shops whenever he has the time. So next time you visit one of his fine establishments and see him, feel free to say hi and ask him about coffee!

Urban Coffee Roaster

Website: https://ucr.hk/

Facebook: Urban Coffee Roaster

Instagram: @UrbanCoffeeRoaster

Enoch HoComment
Friends in Totes: Sim Chan

Friends in Totes returns with talented Hong Kong artist Sim Chan (@simchancom).

 
Sim Chan (陳閃)

Sim Chan (陳閃)

 

We sometimes work late into the waning hours of the evening, and from within an industrial building, it’s usually pretty darn quiet. But there are also nights where we can hear faint sounds coming from another studio down the hall, sounds of music, sometimes banging, sometimes drills. Those sounds came from the studio of Sim Chan, we later found out, and when we met him we instantly gravitated towards his work.


 
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“My name is Sim, I am a painter from Hong Kong.”

 
 
 

Q: What does a day in your life look like?

A: My life revolves a lot around work.

I usually sleep very late, because I enjoy working late at night, when it’s quiet out there. I often listen to the radio or music when I’m working, sometimes watch movies over lunch or dinner. When I get to rest I like playing games on my phone.

Q: What are the items that follow you on a daily basis?

A: I’m pretty simple, my basic phone and wallet, a sketchbook and a pen, and a light jacket for when it gets cold.

Q: Coffee or tea? What is your go-to order?

A: May I have water?


 

Q: What is the most attractive quality of a person?

A: Kindness.

 

Q: Introduce us to a cause/belief you care about, and why others should too.

A: I’ve always held the belief that human beings are a virus to this world. Setting aside the damages that we do to the environment, purely observing our populations, we’re growing so rapidly and are over-crowding the earth. Observing satellite maps we can see how our cities are becoming so populated, houses are popping up everywhere, we’re spreading like a virus. Then there’s the damages that we do to the environment based on our insatiable greeds, the ever increasing demands to satisfy our desires at the expense of our planet. No matter how much we try to recycle, things we create will always outnumber the things we recycle.

Q: If there’s a young person who wants to enter your field of work, what advice would you give them?

A: Keep believing in yourself. Also, save more and be frugal with money, you need to prepare for a long-term battle.

 
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Q: Share with us one way you express yourself creatively?

A: As a painter, I tend to observe the city a lot, and often use it as inspiration for my work. I try to distill those observations and sincerely express them in a tactile way onto my artworks. Sometimes it is via the interaction of light and colours, sometimes it is about how the buildings juxtaposes with the sky. A lot of my work evolve around my experiences of this unique city.

Q: What do you love most about the city you live in?

A: I love the environment, and especially the buildings of the city. In fact they feature quite heavily in my artworks, as I often contemplate and observe the cityscape’s interactions with our environment. I also love the Hong Kong language (Cantonese), it’s fascinating.

 
 

Q: Share with us something you learnt or discovered over the past few years.

A: Having perseverance as a creative is difficult, but I realised it is even more difficult to give up. Not only would I deal with a lot of regrets, but it would also mean disappointing the people who support me and my family. Letting myself down is awful, but I would feel even worse about letting down those who invested in me.

Q: If you had a free day all to yourself, and could just pick up your bag and leave, where would you go?

A: I don’t normally get free days, so if I do I would love to just sleep and do nothing. But there are also things I love doing when I’m not working. I really enjoy slow-walking in the city, observing people and things along the way, or sitting in random parks. There is something about slowing down, aimlessly wander and mentally decompress.

Sometimes I’d head to the Sai Kung Pier and stare into the ocean, it’s a refreshing escape from the city. Since I grew up in the Ma On Shan area, I also enjoy visiting the local Twin Bridge (孖橋/雙子橋).


AFTERWORD

Below, we just wanted to share some of Sim’s amazing work. He has a unique view on the interaction between cityscapes and its negative spaces, often the sky, and creates very tactile and introspective work. Although his primary medium is painting on canvas, he continuously seeks to redefine his canvas space, from creating unique shapes and frames, to paintings that intermittently-illuminate to reflect the passing of time.

Sim is truly a gifted and unique artist, we’re very proud to be able to call him neighbour and friend. Please view and support his work from the following links:

Web: https://www.simchan.com

Instagram: @simchancom

Facebook: /simchancom

Enoch HoComment
Photoblog: Apartment Coffee (Singapore)
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You know the moment when you realise everything falls into place in a strange way? That’s how we felt when we stumbled across Apartment Coffee during a recent trip to Singapore.

After visiting Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee (very cool shop in their own rights), we asked around to see if there are other coffee shops we should visit, and someone kindly pointed towards Apartment Coffee.

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Apartment is located near Bendemeer MRT station, and upon arrival you get this shock of cleanliness, almost like a visual reset from the usual busyness of Singapore. The shop is in a long horizontal shape, of which half of the walls consist of large floor-to-ceiling windows, flooding the shop with ample natural light.

There isn’t a lot to the shop, straight ahead is a long horizontal coffee bar with seats on one side, and the barista’s station on the other. To the left of the entrance is a row of seats along the window sill, and to the right is a large table with a couple benches. The interior is almost entirely white, with light wooden furnitures and an occasional plant, causing anyone to feel an instant calm and homeliness.

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We also got to commend the baristas for their knowledge and passion in coffee, and their willingness to share with customers. Instead of serving up a multitude of food items like many coffee shops tend to do these days, Apartment only offers a few pastries and focuses on serving the best coffee they possibly can, and their dedication shows.

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Conclusion: Apartment Coffee is a place where it will make any minimalist swoon, stay a little too long and leave feeling internally satisfied.


Visit Info: Apartment Coffee

161 Lavender Street #01-12, Singapore 338750

9am-6pm Daily

Enoch HoComment
Friends in Totes: Ben Tse
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Friends in Totes continues with our friend Ben Tse!

Ben is multi-talented, and is someone we appreciate for his perspective, geniality and all-around coolness. We had a fun afternoon catching up and walking past his favourite back-alley paths in Kowloon, and are excited to share his thoughts with you!

 
 
Ben Tse, wearing  NOTCH Bag in Haystack

Ben Tse, wearing NOTCH Bag in Haystack

 
 

Q: What is your name and what do you do?

A: Hello! My name is Ben. I do a bunch of jobs at RTHK (TV presenting, radio news-reading, voice-overs, and script sub-editing) and I also teach ESL to adults once or twice a week.

Q: What does a day in your life look like?

Every day is slightly different, but most days involve a lot of walking (I walk to and from work when possible) eating an early lunch at 11am, and just hanging out with my wife outside of work. I try to keep life fairly simple and predictable.

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Q: What are the items that follow you on a daily basis, or things you love to bring on your day off?

Wallet, phone, keys, lip balm, Fitbit, Shure RMCE-BT2 earphones for walking, Shure SE215 earphones for work, a light jacket for indoors, foldable umbrella, and a water bottle.


Q: Coffee or tea? What is your go-to order?

Iced black coffee (preferably cold brew) from any coffee shop or Hong Kong-style iced milk tea with no sugar from any cha chaan teng (茶餐廳, local-style diner).

Q: What do you love most about the city you live in?

Despite all its flaws, what I still love most about Hong Kong is simply the fact that I would never feel quite at home anywhere else in the world.


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Q: Introduce us to a cause/belief you care about, and why others should too.

The Hong Kong government needs to provide adequate and affordable housing, implement a basic living wage and introduce a universal pension. Something is seriously wrong when an administration has so much wealth in its coffers but somehow can't even meet the basic needs of its people.

Q: If there’s a young person who wants to enter your field of work, what advice would you give them?

Honestly, I happened to be in the right place(s) at the right time. But apart from luck, practise, practise and practise, and always keep trying to improve in a particular skill or craft. I still don't consider myself particularly good at what I do, but I have worked at it long enough to reach a standard which I find acceptable (and sometimes decent too). Also, don't ever let what you do go to your head.

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Q: Share with us one way you express yourself creatively?

I occasionally write music and play in a couple of noisy bands, but mainly I just pick up the guitar and improvise, and dance for fun in the comforts of my own home to obscure 70s disco.

Editor’s Note:

Ben plays in Hong Kong punk band Oh Nullah, you can listen to and support their work here - (https://ohnullah.bandcamp.com/)

The other band he is involved with is The Lovesong (https://lovesong.bandcamp.com/)

Ben also creates music mixes under the name Hong Kong Soul Radio (https://www.mixcloud.com/hongkongsoulradio/)

Q: If you had a free day all to yourself, and could just pick up your bag and leave, where would you go?

Lion Rock Hill. I try to get up there at least once a week, but I would do it every day if I could. Maybe Needle Hill and Grassy Hill if time allows, but that would take a bit longer.

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Q: Share with us an important lesson you learnt over the past few years.

Accept people as they are. Everyone struggles in one way or another.

Q: What is the most attractive quality of a person?

Humility, sincerity, being able to relate to others, and self-awareness. I.e. someone who is basically kind and down to earth.

Q: Where do you get your daily inspirations?

Good weather, good music and good food.

Ben wears NOTCH Tote Bag in Haystack, available  here

Ben wears NOTCH Tote Bag in Haystack, available here

We want to thank Ben for spending his time posing for us and taking us around his daily route. You can catch Ben’s presenting from RTHK’s show The Works, exploring local arts and cultural scenes. Below are links to the bands and music projects Ben is involved with, check them out!

Oh Nullah - https://ohnullah.bandcamp.com

Lovesong - https://lovesong.bandcamp.com/

Hong Kong Soul Radio - https://www.mixcloud.com/hongkongsoulradio/

Enoch HoComment
Friends in Totes: Caleb and Shiren

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” ― C.S. Lewis

Friends are such gifts in life.

When we meet friends, we connect with them because there’s often a common thread between us (or multiple common threads), and that reflects a small part of who we are. When we discover those common threads, it’s an unrivalled joy.

We realised that we have some pretty inspiring friends, and so for our blog, we decided to start a series based on our friends. Many of them are very talented, and we wanted to share with everyone who they are, the things they do and thoughts that they have. So we gave them a tote bag, followed them around for a bit, and asked them some questions.

So without further ado, let’s begin the series!

 

 

introducing: Caleb (@calebtwinskitchen) and Shiren (@shirenhomusic).

Left: Caleb with  Piñatex DIAGONAL tote bag   Right: Shiren with  Natural U tote bag

Left: Caleb with Piñatex DIAGONAL tote bag

Right: Shiren with Natural U tote bag

Q: What is your name and what do you do?

Caleb (C): Caleb Ng (Co-founder of PRESET and Interval Coffee Bar, Common Ground).

Shiren (S): Shiren Ho; Interior designer.

Q: What does a day in your life look like? (Feel free to describe a weekday or a weekend)

C: Work, work and work.

S: A typical weekend: Exercise, relax, meeting family/friends, and dinner at home made by my husband (if I'm lucky).

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Q: What are the items that follow you on a daily basis, or you love to bring on your day off?

C: iPad Pro, Apple watch, iPhone, sun glasses, black t-shirt, reusable straw.

S: Sunglasses and umbrella.

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Q: Coffee or tea? What is your go-to order?

C: Morning: espresso, Afternoon: pourover coffee or tea.

S: Coffee; I usually make my own latte or pour over.


Q: What do you love most about the city you live in?

C: The courage to stand against something wrong.

S: The diversity and interesting people. Hong Kong is a city that gathers people from different backgrounds and those who have been exposed to other cultures. This diversity encourages different points of views, which I see as valuable a resource to expand my own horizon.

Q: Share with us one way you express yourself creatively?

C: Cooking.

S: I write songs that mostly reflect on personal experiences. Some of them are related to my faith, some are more light-hearted, but they all intend to bring a cheerful and positive vibe to the listeners. Writing songs allow me to stay creative even outside of work. And since I'm not a professionally trained musician, I also want to encourage those who are not to express themselves through a medium that they like - whether they're good at it or not.

(Editor’s note: Might I add, very beautiful, soothing songs, check them out at https://www.facebook.com/shirenho/)

Iced Latte from ( @commongroundhk )

Iced Latte from (@commongroundhk)

 

 
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Q: Introduce us to a cause/belief you care about, and why others should too.

C: Freedom of accepting yourself. A lot of the times we want to be someone else, or we don’t understand our true strength. It’s like Michael Jordan playing baseball. There’s so much power from simply accepting who you really are.

S: Reduce food waste and recycling; We are creating our own future. Don't create it with more garbage!

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Q: If there’s a young person who wants to enter your field of work, what advice would you give them?

C: You need to be a workaholic.

S: Be open to failures and challenges. There are many things that you simply can't learn from books, but through the experience of trial and error. When you're not afraid of failing or taking up challenges, it opens up to a lot more possibilities and allows your imagination to expand, which is particularly important in any creative field of work.

Q: If you had a free day all to yourself, and could just pick up your bag and leave, where would you go?

C: A hike at Sai Kung!

S: I would go hiking alone.

(I guess they really are made for each other)

 

 
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Q: Share with us an important lesson you learnt over the past few years.

C: Accepting yourself as who you are.

S: Learn better by failing. After a "mistake", take time to intentionally reflect. Don't be too hard on yourself and focus on moving forward. Most of the time, when you make a "mistake", it seems like a big deal at the time but when you look back, that "mistake" usually helps you grow. So be thankful for these "mistakes".

Q: What is the most attractive quality of a person?

C: Kindness.

S: Humility.

Left: Caleb with  Piñatex DIAGONAL tote bag   Right: Shiren with  Natural U tote bag

Left: Caleb with Piñatex DIAGONAL tote bag

Right: Shiren with Natural U tote bag


P.S. If you haven’t noticed yet, Caleb and Shiren are expecting a new addition soon, join us in wishing these parents-to-be a wonderful journey and efficient sleep cycles!

 
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Enoch HoComment