Roving pop-up invites people to chat with a therapist over a cup of coffee
Coffee Talks by Goodity Co. functions as a safe space where customers are free to share about anything under the sun, confidentially.
Nestled at a small grass patch at *SCAPE is a unique pop-up selling coffee and tea. Lounging on foldable canvas chairs in pairs, people sip on fresh brews under white parasols.
While it looks no different from your regular cafe, the “baristas” also serve a listening ear.
A concept by private counselling collective Goodity Co., the roving pop-up invites customers to pen down their thoughts on the side of a paper cup before making their order at the counter. After payment is made, one of the three “baristas”, who are actually licensed therapists, serve the drink, along with a 15-minute chat. Each drink – or session – starts from $12.
Called Coffee Talks, it functions as a safe space where customers are free to share about anything under the sun and confidentiality is strictly adhered to.
After sharing, or ranting, the therapist will then present a few reflective questions, with the main purpose of encouraging customers to introspect and think about how they can improve their situation.
“I found that words and conversations can be very powerful, in terms of changing people,” shares Daryl Tan, Goodity Co.’s managing director and co-founder. However, he cautions that the short chat does not equate to a therapy session, but rather an experience offering the therapeutic nature of having a conversation with someone else through drinking coffee.
“You can tell me anything. I’m not here to do therapy on you. I’m here to listen and give you some questions to reflect on. The premise of it has to be clearly set with our customers.
“Let’s say a person comes and says that they’re stressed out at work. We’ll give the customer the space to share what is going on, to rant… after that, we’ll ask very reflective questions like ‘What would you hope to be different?’, ‘What could you do differently?’ and these are simple questions but it allows them to reflect,” Daryl explains.
According to Goodity Co.’s website, therapy is a longer process where therapists work with clients for a longer period of time to resolve certain issues that they are facing. Sessions at private clinics are also significantly more expensive, with prices averaging around $250 to $300 per hourly session.
Having previously worked as a social worker for over a decade, the 36-year-old explains that unlike social work which is “very administrative”, simply sitting someone down and talking to them is a lot more impactful.
“I found that a lot of things can change if you can help them alter the way they perceive their own life and perceive themselves.”
Prior to starting Goodity Co. in May 2022, Daryl pursued a Bachelor of Social Work at the Singapore University of Social Sciences, then known as UniSIM. He only got to know about the course by chance after a friend brought him to the university’s open house. Incidentally, it was also during a period where he felt “lost in life” as he didn’t know which career path to take.
Upon graduation, he ventured into social work full-time and it was then when he met his fellow Goodity Co. co-founder, 38-year-old Charmaine Marsh.
The duo were inspired by how bartenders are often dubbed as “accidental therapists”, listening to patrons pour out their woes as they drink. They were also driven by the desire to “make therapy as accessible as coffee” as they didn’t understand why it is such a luxury.
“Everyday, somebody orders coffee. It’s so integrated, you don’t even think about it. What if therapy can be as accessible as that?”
“In Singapore, the social service landscape is such that one either qualifies for subsidised rates at social service agencies or coughs out a large sum for private therapy sessions – there is no middle ground, says Daryl.
In addition, at community-based agencies, as the counsellors are so overworked, “clients become just case numbers, case files”.
He explains: “There’s not a lot of in-depth value in the counselling there.”
Birthing Coffee Talks was “a crazy idea”, as no one in their team of six is a barista.
In fact, Daryl thinks he is far from what people would consider as a coffee connoisseur.
“I’m a kopitiam person. I make my own kopi in the morning. That’s how rudimentary I am. I don’t know anything about espresso, I don’t do cafes.”
The team didn’t allow this obstacle to stop them from bringing the concept to life. They hired a coffee consultant to teach them the ropes of brewing coffee and, according to Daryl, the training went on for months.
Even then, he makes it clear that they are not baristas and Coffee Talks is not a cafe.
“I don’t call myself a barista because that’s a real profession… People spend years perfecting the craft. I can make a cup of coffee. That’s it. It’s decent, approved by the consultant,” he states.
“We’re just making coffee. It could be 3-in-1 for all I care. The idea isn’t about the coffee. It’s having therapeutic conversations through a cup of coffee. The coffee is just a platform.”
When asked if he has ever been affected by the problems his clients share with him, Daryl firmly states that the moment his client leaves, “that’s the line, (his) job is done”.
In the initial stages of his career, he’d often worry if he’d done enough for his clients. But as with every job, after hardening through experience, he’s learnt that it’s crucial to understand one’s role.
“I always tell students when I used to teach – don’t dabao your clients’ problems home. It’s not your problem. You’re not there to carry their burden. Your job is to facilitate their thoughts, provide a professional service for them and then leave. The line must be drawn very clearly.”
While Coffee Talks recently wrapped up their first run at the Somerset Belt, from December to January, those interested can look forward to a yet-to-be-determined location in March.
In the meantime, if you’re in need of someone to talk to, Goodity Co. also offers therapy administered via WhatsApp, at $30 for a 45-minute session.
To struggling individuals, Daryl shares: “I know it’s hard but if you were to take that first step, what’s the worst that could happen? You still continue feeling bad. But what’s the best that could happen? Things change. So go for it. There’s nothing to lose.”