When it comes to baking and brewing coffee, the act of perfecting and adapting to everyone’s tastes can be a challenge.
For Eunice Lo, the sole proprietor of Lane MicroBakery and Coffee, she has taken this challenge and turned it into a professional endeavour.
Nestled along a scenic alleyway flanked with greenery located at Jalan Pretty, Kuala Belait, Lane Microbakery and Coffee specialises in handmade pastry and brewed coffee.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Eunice to learn about her journey in becoming a local pastry chef and cafe entrepreneur. It all began after she graduated from Leicester, United Kingdom (UK) during the peak of the global pandemic.
She recalled on her time in the UK being exposed to the culture of drinking coffee. “When I was in the UK, we went to a lot of cafes where we tried different types of coffee. As the culture of drinking specialty coffee grew in Brunei, we decided to open the micro-bakery.”
Before starting her business, Eunice took several online courses to practice making latte art as well as learning about the locals taste in coffee.
“I would say that coffee is very subjective. Some customers would like it more fruity and acidic, and some would prefer a darker roast with greater body and a bitter taste. We try to find something that’s in between. We want our coffee to have a balance of fruitiness as well as a bit of the bitter aftertaste.”
Her experience in both pastry-making and coffee-brewing leads to the creation of Lane Microbakery and Coffee in December 2021, following her graduation in the same year.
In establishing her foothold as an entrepreneur, especially during the height of the global pandemic, I asked Eunice how this has impacted her business. “I think when we started, the COVID-19 situation in Brunei was not that bad but it escalated quickly around March and April of 2022. Customers were not allowed to enter the shop and can only do takeout, which led to customers not being able to have a good experience at the cafe.” Despite this, she said her business was not heavily impacted by the pandemic as they were still selling pastries daily.
With the shift towards the Endemic Phase and the lifting of restrictions, she said customers will have a better experience. “We have music playing in the background and customers can enjoy their coffee and pastries in the cafe.”
However, she highlighted that many businesses, including hers, are not out of the woods yet as world events and conflicts have had an impact on the nation. “We do have some hiccups getting supplies with the delays in terms of delivery and transportation as well as the increased price rates.” This extends to both pastry-making as well as coffee-brewing, though she did said that for the latter she was able to source coffee beans grown locally, which not only alleviates some of the issues in terms of cost but also supports local farmers and their roastery.
As someone who has started her own business, she said, “If you have a passion, go for it.
You can have plans, but they won’t turn into reality until you act on it. Baking takes effort and a lot of endurance. Make sure you have the passion and willing to carry on for the long term.”
As a newly established small and medium enterprise (SME) in the Belait District, she expressed her gratitude at being able to take part in the DreamBuilder online training platform, being among the 22 local female entrepreneurs under the first Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE), a worldwide initiative of the United States (US) State Department.
Eunice was one of the three women on the platform to have received USD3,000 to help develop and nurture her business.
Looking to the future, she said, “We are still quite new; we are only around six to seven months old. So in the future, we want to expand and cater to more customers from outside the district.”