A café for me is like a little haven of escape from whatever it is that I need to escape from. I have an intense passion for finding them, falling in love with them and becoming a regular. So much so that sometimes, when I wander in, they know me by name.
Join me as I talk to the different café owners that I’ve met along the way. My hope is that by producing this little interview series on cafés and their owners, I can give back to these wonderful people who have helped me along the way. Their premises have been my meeting rooms, my focus zones, my work spaces and my friendly places. The first of these places is Group Therapy, owned by Wei Lin and Deborah.
Group Therapy became my place-to-be after I started doing yoga. That year, their second branch had just opened at Katong V and from my yoga studio upstairs, it was always a direct line to their comfy sofa at the front. Though I can’t even begin to count the number of times I have sat in their sofa, for coffee, hot choc o’clock (right before school pick up), brunch or a mid afternoon snack of chicken wings or fries, it was only this year that I learned that they, literally, began as group therapy – the psychological kind.
How did it all begin? Why did you open a cafe?
Deborah is a trained psychologist who specializes in Group Therapy. The initial idea was to have a collective event space for corporate offsites, interest groups, exhibitions etc. so as to conduct “group therapy” in a less formal setting.
We found a perfect space in a conservation shophouse along Duxton Road and in 2010, Group Therapy was thus born!
As we conducted more events, more and more people began to appreciate the space and wanted to come hang out with a cup of joe or a hot sandwich in the afternoons. The cafe aspect then grew into a full fledged kitchen and then into another cafe in Katong as well as an ice cream shop in that same neighbourhood. We still do frequently host events as we do love that aspect of the business.
Who are your regulars?
We have regulars from all walks of life, from teenagers to the office power crowd, fabulous mums, families, yuppies. I guess it speaks to how cosmopolitan and diverse our little island is.
What’s in your hopper?
We are currently serving up a medium roasted Brazilian and Ethiopian blend. It’s less acidic, more full-bodied, a little nutty with a hint of caramel at the end.
Describe your menu?
Our menu is a reflection of food that we are comfortable with and familiar with growing up.
We have 2 mantras in the kitchen: “Do it simple, do it well” and “If you won’t eat it, don’t serve it”.
We have the usual brunch staples with eggs, pancakes, waffles, salads, pies, pastas, sandwiches and stews. Over the years as we expanded into more cafes, we also expanded our kitchen as well and currently do almost everything ourselves from ravioli to bread, sauces, cakes etc.
What’s your favorite part of having a cafe.
I think all of us have a different favorite aspect of our job. For me, personally, it is being able to do what I love everyday which is being able to cook, bake and create food. Our company believes and invests in youth and one of the things that keep Deborah and myself going is seeing how each of our staff grow, improve and eventually take on leadership positions.
Any interesting things you’re working on at the moment?
We recently opened Scoop Therapy in Katong which is our homemade ice cream and dessert arm. Aside from ice cream we are continually experimenting with new flavours and desserts to serve both there and at the cafes.
We also recently started doing customized cake orders which, while not groundbreaking, is novel and challenging for the kitchen team.
We might have more projects and pop ups in 2017 but at the moment we are focusing on and enjoying these three cafes.
What would you say to anyone opening an independent cafe or wanting to be a barista?
It’s as rewarding as it is frustrating. For both, discipline and a calm head are equally important as no matter how bad the crap hits the fan today, you still have to get up the next day with a smile on your face and do it all again.
Thank you, Wei Lin, for sharing the story of Group Therapy with us!
For more information on Group Therapy:
Group Therapy Duxton
49 Duxton Road, #02-01
T: +65 6222 2554
Tuesdays – Sundays (including PH): 10am-6pm
Kitchen closes at 5pm, Bar closes at 530pm
Group Therapy Katong
30 East Coast Road, Katong V, #01-11
Mondays – Sundays: 9am – 9pm (last order at 8.15pm)
11 East Coast Road, The Odeon Katong
T: +65 6247 9335
Tuesday – Thursday: 2-10pm
Friday & Saturday: 12pm-12am
Have you got a favourite cafe that you would like featured on our Café Interviews? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with their details so we can talk to them. Better yet, meet us there for a coffee on us and tell us why you love them.
All images from Instagram @grouptherapycafe