EDKL Interview: Auresso founder Ramesh Sinniah on learning to love lattes & bringing better coffee beans to Malaysia

October 5, 2023


How did a Malaysian engineer who never drank coffee change his mind so dramatically, learning to love lattes and founding a company that now supplies freshly roasted Arabica beans, organic teas and more to 350-strong cafes and restaurants across the country?

For Ramesh Sinniah, the path to running specialty beverage supplier Auresso began in Perth over a dozen years ago, launching a journey that has made Auresso one of Malaysia's most respected providers of coffee, tea, chai, chocolate and matcha for cafes and public consumers.

We caught up with Ramesh for a chat at one of his longtime cafe clients, Whisk, for an industry insider's perspective on how Malaysia's landscape for cafes is shifting and how business operators can evolve to confront these challenges.

EDKL: Hi Ramesh. Tell us how your passion for coffee began.

Ramesh: I’ve always had a passion to do something on my own. Unsure of what to pursue, I enrolled in an MBA program under WOU (Wawasan Open University) on a part-time basis while still working as an engineer in the telecommunications industry. 

In 2010, a trip down to Perth changed everything.

Back then, I wasn’t even a coffee drinker. I used to shy away from coffees as I felt it was bitter and not something that I enjoyed drinking much as a beverage. 

The cafe scene in Perth at that time was different and lively. You can see plenty of independent cafes compared to the common coffee franchises that you would see in Malaysia. 

This intrigued me to visit some of the cafes and try their coffees. I mainly tried their lattes and was really taken aback. The coffees were brewed smooth without harsh flavours or bitterness. 

EDKL: What was the state of the coffee scene in Malaysia when you founded Auresso, and how did you feel that Auresso could play a part in helping cafes and customers? 

Ramesh: Upon some research, I realized that one of the key aspects differentiating the coffee scene in Malaysia and other more matured markets such as Australia was the access to specialty-grade Arabica coffee beans. 

Most cafes and coffee shops in Malaysia were still using the more commonly available Robusta and Liberica coffee beans. While it’s not so straightforward now, back then Robusta and Liberica beans were generally associated with lower quality - hence the less favourable taste notes.

This led to the birth of Auresso. Our primary objective is to bridge the gap in access to specialty graded Arabica beans in Malaysia by importing freshly roasted Arabica beans from prominent roasters in Australia and offering them to consumers here in Malaysia.

EDKL: How has Auresso evolved since the beginning? What prompted these changes, and what makes Auresso a distinctive business at this point? 

Ramesh: While Auresso initially started as an e-commerce business intended to serve the B2C (business-to-consumer) community, it expanded very soon to include B2B (business-to-business) after receiving interest from cafe owners. 

With volume in coffee and the number of B2B clients both increasing, we added more relevant products to complement our supplies such as organic teas, drinking chocolate powders, matcha and hojicha powders, chai latte powders and coffee cascara.

With the coffee scene in Malaysia getting more developed, there was a sharp rise in the birth of local coffee roasters offering specialty graded coffee beans. 

Sometime in 2018, we decided to revamp our offerings. 

We partnered with a few local roasters to offer their beans mainly to our cafe clients. At the same time, we also started featuring many international coffee roasters on a seasonal basis.

This gave us an edge in the industry - to serve as a platform for consumers to source not only a variety of locally roasted coffee beans of different grades and roast levels but also access premium and rare single-origins from some of the world's top coffee roasters.

EDKL: What have been some of your most memorable experiences since starting Auresso, both good and bad? What have been the most rewarding points of this journey, and what keeps you excited about this industry and your work? 

Ramesh: What keeps me motivated is the industry itself. The cafe scene in Malaysia is so vibrant that cafes have been mushrooming, especially in Klang Valley and other cities. While some shops exist only for a short time, you’ll see another shop taking over the next day. 

What this means is that there are tremendous opportunities for building new relationships within the industry, which includes cafe owners, baristas and other industry professionals.

Of course, there have been some hiccups, most recently during the pandemic. 

Auresso was not spared as well. We had to downsize and relocate to a facility with lower rent. Sales payment collections were slow and painful. Sales was down to almost zero especially during the first lockdown. But we managed to persevere and are currently doing even better than pre-pandemic revenues.


EDKL: Over the past decade, an abundance of speciality coffee bars and cafes have opened in every area. What do you believe is the future - how can the industry continue to grow, what are the challenges it faces, what needs to be done to keep customers engaged and supportive? Are there lessons we can learn from industry players in other parts of the world?

Ramesh: When we look at the specialty coffee bars in Malaysia, many owners are passionate about coffee but may not have the necessary business experience to run a successful operation. It would be highly beneficial for these owners to take up a business course or hire a consultant to help with their operations. 

Also, consumer expectations can be high when visiting specialty coffee bars. Thus, owners need to ensure quality is always consistent - for example, by investing in quality equipment, training staff properly, and sourcing high-quality beans from reputable roasters.

Specialty coffee is a rapidly changing industry, and coffee shops that fail to adapt to new trends are at risk of losing out. For example, offer alternative milk options and pour-over coffees to your customers.

EDKL: What are the key products and services that you'd like people to know about Auresso if they're a cafe or business owner?

Ramesh: For wholesale supplies, we currently focus on five categories. First, for roasted coffee beans, we partner with selected local and international roasters to offer a variety of blends and single origins on different roast levels. 

Next we have tea supplies from XO Teas Australia. All teas are certified Organic by NASAA and come in seven flavours, both in teabags and loose teas. My personal favorite is the Popsicle, an infusion made from a blend of hibiscus, raspberry, lemon myrtle and other herbs. Best taken with ice on a hot day!

For drinking chocolate supplies, we have partnered with The Original Cocoa Traders Australia, one of the most popular and revolutionary gourmet drinking chocolates in the world. There are four different options available, ranging from 35% to highest 63%. All chocolates are Halal & Organic certified, all natural and contain no artificial preservatives. Sinfully delicious!

Nowadays, no specialty cafe is complete without offering matcha-based beverages. Through our partnership with Kiyosen Japan, we supply unsweetened Uji matcha and hojicha powders. One key difference from other products in the market is that we direct trade on small batches, and it comes in small 100g bags to ensure longer freshness.

Our final and fifth category of core wholesale products is our chai latte supplies. We have partnered with both Chai Me Australia and Prana Chai Australia. From Chai Me, we have their original blend, which comes in powder form. From Prana Chai, we carry their original sticky chai blend. Regardless of which you choose, the aroma of spices is so energising and will definitely satisfy your chai latte cravings.

EDKL: And what if they're coffee enthusiasts? 

Ramesh: For coffee enthusiasts, we highly recommend our International guest coffee roaster offerings. This option is not meant to downgrade our existing coffee options from local roasters but to complement them. In Malaysia, as we’re geographically far away from the big coffee-producing countries, so most roasters are dependent on the options supplied by coffee importers. However, with the International roasters that we partner with, some do their own sourcing and are able to work with coffee farmers directly. As such, you can expect some rare and premium single origins available through this option.

Some of the notable roasters that we have worked with include Onyx Coffee Lab in the U.S., Square Mile Coffee Roasters from the U.K., Gardelli Specialty Coffees from Italy, The Barn Coffee from Germany, Coffee Collective from Denmark and more. For more information, follow us on on our Facebook group - look for ‘Pre-Order Specialty Coffee Malaysia’.

There are two international roasters offered every month, and ordering is based on preorders on the 1st to 7th and 14th till 21st of every month. Delivery is roughly within 10 days once we close the preorders. Wholesale pricing is also available for cafe owners.

EDKL: How do you try to make these products particularly worthwhile in a market saturated with many local coffee roasters and suppliers? 

Ramesh: While there are many suppliers and products in the market, our emphasis has always been in relationship-building through excellent communication, service and support to our clients. Check out some of the Google reviews on Auresso and you’ll notice why customers like to do business with us. Our track record speaks for itself.