Shaun Liew: From Master to Mentor

When talking about ‘trendy’ cafes, the hype surrounding them never seems to last long. However, Shaun Liew’s belief in his products and their sustainability through time forms the core of his cafe Wizards @ Tribeca, located in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. The two-time Malaysian Brewers Cup champion and co-founder of Yellow Brick Road cafe doesn’t overcomplicate recipes or join fads, resulting in a menu that is straightforward yet innovative in its conception.

With experience ranging from marketing to academia, the former events and marketing lead opened Wizards in 2017 following Lowyat Group’s desire for a contemporary space within the Tribeca building.

How was the transition from marketing to opening up your own cafe like, and how did it materialise?

It was crazy intense. I was already heavily involved in the coffee industry as a lot of my friends are cafe owners, and I was working as a part-time barista at Standing Theory. After that, one of my best friends and current business partner, Jason, who was then a barista at Red Beanbag, wanted to open up a cafe of his own and asked if I was interested. So, four of us – Jason, two other owners of The Red Beanbag, and myself – opened the Yellow Brick Road cafe in 2015.

What’s your proudest accomplishment to date?

I’m proud about winning the Malaysian Brewers Cup in 2017, as it was the first competition I’d won, then opening up Wizards @ Tribeca in the same year, and winning the Malaysian Brewers Cup in 2019 once more after a year away from competing. However, ultimately, titles don’t matter to me at the end of the day – I’m proudest of cultivating and strengthening the bond between myself and my teammates. I also learnt that being the champion isn’t about the glamour, but about what you can contribute to the industry, and how to be a role model for the newer generation of baristas.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

For recipe inspiration, I credit my parents for constantly exposing me to new flavours as I was growing up. Additionally, in my free time, I love travelling, and that kind of exposure opens my eyes to new possibilities as I’m pretty open to trying anything. There’s a lot of conscious effort that goes into pairing flavours and figuring out which components will compliment each other.

What are some of your favourite flavours?

I like either really clean or really intense flavours, but I don’t have any dislikes. I’m open to trying anything and everything to improve my own understanding of flavours, taste, and quality. I generally like both refreshing alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. I like floral coffees that have stone fruit qualities. For a comfort drink, I like anything run on the espresso machine – especially the typical milk-based Indonesian and Brazilian coffee.

What are your favourite MONIN products?

I love MONIN’s White Peach syrup and Le Fruit de MONIN Yuzu.

How do you stay focused and motivated within this industry?

Without my team, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Their energy, eagerness to learn, and passion keep me focused and grounded. I want to make sure everyone does well, I want to understand their career progression, and what skills and knowledge they need to enhance their careers.