The Revolution Has Begun!
Coffee aficionados are becoming increasingly spoiled for choice with the uprising of the micro-roasting industry in Malaysia. Consultation with a local expert notes no less than 12 boutique roasters around the city. That’s not to mention the larger establishments who have assisted to open up the industry in recent years. This means that specialty beans no longer need to be sourced by neighbouring Singapore or further afield. KLites are doing it themselves and us coffee fiends at The Yum List couldn’t be more pleased.
Here we take a look at some of the top-notch small-batch roasters around the Klang Valley.
The team behind BEAM (an acronym for Bean Expedition At Manufactory) has actually been roasting local kopi beans for the past 40 years! Five years ago however they evolved into their current east-meets-west version to invigorate Malaysia’s artisanal coffee movement by combining local and western coffee culture.
Hidden in the industrial neighbourhood of Bandar Sri Damansara, they aim to continue to encourage Malaysian coffee drinking traditions, while educating and providing coffee enthusiasts with premium grade specialty coffee. Besides carefully sourced green and roasted beans, a range of coffee brewing equipment is sold too. In fact, one of the things we most appreciate about this small-batch roaster is the detailed list of instructions on the back of every pack outlining the ideal brewing method for that particular bean.
We try a variety of single origins, blends and roasting styles this month from BEAM, including Ethiopia Red Cherry Sidamo, Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Konga, Guatemala Fancy, and the House Blend. All have various traits that we find appealing, however we’re especially excited to try Kopi O – a local tradition -made with western Arabica beans. BEAM too has a cafe where these beans and a great mix of western and local cuisine can be savoured. Click here to find our food recommendations, see some pics of the cafe, prices and a map.
Seraph Awaken is owned and operated by husband and wife team, Cheau See and Chun Hoong. After a number of years employed in the cafe and roasting industry, they decided to start their own coffee stall by the road. Keeping things simple, they wanted to make a quality coffee experience accessible to everyday people, and their roadside set-up allowed increased interaction with their customers.
They began supplying coffee to a wider audience when a friend requested they design an espresso blend for his café. After experiencing this blend for themselves, more and more café owners commissioned unique blends for their outlets. Building on this popularity they’ve grown from roasting all of their beans by hand, to now using a Feima 1kg Coffee Roaster, and as of May 1, 2015 have moved to a heritage shoplot in Klang.
A duo of blends in reverse from Seraph Awaken gives us a wonderful comparison of how the percentages of different beans in a mix can contribute to distinct finishes. 30% Guji and 70% Kilimanjaro combines notes of cherry and grape, with black tea and orange, to form a longan, green apple and milk chocolate ending. The opposite mix of 70% Guji and 30% Kilimanjaro results in a dried papaya and oolong tea conclusion.
LS Yip, founder, barista, roaster and driving force behind Beans Depot is obsessed with specialty coffee. So much so that beans are triple-picked promising 100% quality assurance, and roasting is done on demand. Time is taken to get to know and educate customers, enabling LS to roast to a desired profile as well as ensure that the full potential of flavours can be extracted with the brewing equipment the customer utilizes at home.
This month we try both a single origin and blend from Beans Depot. The Africa Blend combines Ethiopia Konga (Natural), Red Cherry Ethiopia Yirgacheffe (Natural) and Tanzania Tembo (Washed) to create a floral scent, with notes of citrus acidity, strawberries, dried cherries and plum sweetness in the mouth, developing into a chocolaty finish. Espresso is the ideal style of preparation.
Dokmai Ponlamai (Natural), meaning fruity floral in Thai, is produced on the Nine-One Coffee Farm in Chiang Mai. It’s 100% organic, only ripe cherries are hand picked, and it’s processed naturally. This single origin works well brewed either as espresso or drip, and presents a bouquet of wild flowers. Citrus acidity with orange, apricot and peach like sweetness envelopes the mouth, smoothing to a round finish with a pleasant and lengthy after taste.
Beans Depot – www.facebook.com/beansdepot
New Black Coffee Lab
|New Black Coffee Lab|
New Black Coffee Lab (NBCL) began as a home-roasting café in 2011, mimicking the popular Japanese practice of small batch roasteries. They started roasting just enough for the café’s consumption, but soon expanded to supplying individuals and other cafés too. Not only do they select, roast and supply coffee, but provide advice, training and product customization too.
Their espresso blends tend to be roasted in a medium or medium-dark profile to emphasize a balance of bittersweetness and acidity. For hand-brew and single origin coffees, the roast is lighter in Nordic style, with the aim of enhancing the natural flavours of coffee minus the roasty tones found in darker roasts.
We’re fortunate to try four different coffees from NBCL. With a particular preference for South and Central American coffees (it’s where I first fell in love with individually brewed cups of liquid gold made with much love and passion – and a Latino man too!) I rush to try the Honduras Don Amado (Cup of Excellence). It’s a light roast with notes of apricot, brown sugar citrus and passion fruit: it does not disappoint.
Ethiopia Konga Natural Yirgacheffe is another light roast displaying fruit and berry aromas, a medium body and a mild acidic finish. A Single Origin Espresso Ethiopia Harrar is given a medium roasting to highlight wine and fruit, and rich pungent heady aromas. The Espresso Blend NB2 combines beans from across continents to give good balance, a dense body and nutty and bittersweet chocolate flavours.
New Black Coffee Lab – www.facebook.com/pages/New-Black-Coffee-Lab
Roast Factor Glee
|Roast Factor Glee|
The team behind Roast Factor Glee says that cold brew was what got them started. Before opening the café, Tan Shyue Chin would roast beans on her home balcony and supply bottle after bottle of cold brew to family and friends. After testing out her wares in the local flea market and receiving positive feedback, she took the next leap and started a café.
Passion for coffee was fostered many years back when Tan Shyue Chin and her family lived in Panama. The country has some of the most respected coffee in the world and a serious coffee culture. As such, some of their favourite beans hail from the region including Bolivia Altisimo microlot, Panama Paso Ancho and Columbia Cauca.
All of their beans are roasted by hand in small batches to highlight the origin profile characteristics of each specialty coffee at its peak. We test out three single origins. All rate 85 points and above and are best made via some form of hand pour. It’s also highly recommended to enjoy these special brews minus sugar and milk to appreciate the full flavour of the beans.
Panama Paso Ancho is bright with a distinct berry taste and is one of Shyue Chin’s favourites. Bolivia Altisimo ‘microlot’ turns out to be my preferred bean. I find it full bodied with a gentle honey sweetness and praline notes. The Rwanda Inzovu is an award winner, with aromas of lime, a grape like sweetness and a long finish.
The café, Roast Factor Glee, prepares these specialty beans along with a changing mix of others too. They sell a compact menu of delicious homemade food including some wonderfully buttery Brioche French Toast, Danish Hot Dogs, a tasty Pork and Caramelized Pineapple Pizza, and some flavoursome cookies, pies and cakes. Check out our favourites via this link.
Roast Factor – www.facebook.com/roastfactor
BnB Coffee Roaster
|BnB Coffee Roaster – the famous Panama Geisha from Hacienda La Esmeralda|
Founder of BnB Coffee Roaster, Kok Thong, fell in love with coffee in his travels through Europe. At first starting as a casual drinker many years back, his thirst to learn more turned him into an enthusiastic connoisseur. After years of exploration, study and courses in coffee roasting, cupping and brewing, Kok Thong returned to Malaysia, bringing his passion for all things coffee related with him.
Noticing a gap in the market, Kok Thong chose Shah Alam as the area to begin business and opened the roastery and café Brew n Bread in the lovely neigbourhood surrounding Kota Permai Golf and Country Club.
Wanting to have control over bean selection, Kok Thong sought license to import his own beans, and as such is one of the few roasters in the city who directly source their own green beans from farms around the world. Cutting out the ‘middle man’ not only gives him control over quality, but also ensures he is able to offer competitive and honest prices.
Specialty single origin and blends can be found in the handful of small batch roasters around the city. Some superb high-end exclusive beans however, such as the exceptional RM250-per-cup Panama Geisha from Hacienda La Esmeralda, the most famous estate in Panama, set Kok Thong on a whole new level of coffee loving pedestals. We slowly sip this cup, with a light body and hints of honey and citrus, trying to make every single drop last in our mouths.
As much as we delight in having tasted these exquisite flavours, it’s something in the more affordable range that we bring home with us. The BCR White Series, made with Papua and Indonesian beans, is especially fashioned for drinking with milk. A blend of El Salvador La Reforma and Guatemala Finca St. Clara beans, is best enjoyed black showcasing notes of caramel, red dates, apple and bergamot. A single origin from Kenya Kirinyaga is most advantageously savoured via a handpour method so that its delicate white grape, citrus and black currant flavours are allowed to surface.
These beans can be taken away or enjoyed in house at the Brew N Bread café in Shah Alam, where a beautiful roasting machine is part of the attraction of the décor. For more details on the café’s menu, pricing, photos and directions, you can follow this link.
BnB Coffee Roaster – www.facebook.com/Brew.n.Bread
Jin, founder of The Roast Things formally got into the industry about two years ago after being licensed professionally as an Arabica coffee Q-Grader. The knowledge gained through this Q-grader course, leads the selection of top-quality beans for the roasting business. Jin is accompanied by head roaster Ving, who began her coffee journey while supporting her tertiary education in Taipei with work in a café and micro-roaster.
The philosophy of the team behind The Roast Things is simple, “Source and roast honest great coffees.” Their roasting style follows that of most specialty coffee roasters, of bringing out the highlights of the origin of the bean without tainting the flavour with toasty undertones. They describe the work as a simple representation of the coffee’s natural characteristics.
The source of their beans is of particular importance to the team, and as such they are working on future partnerships and direct trades with farmers. They believe getting closer to the source will put them in a position to better communicate results, creating an improved environment for both farmers and roasters.
Two coffees from Africa reach our cups for sampling, the Kenya Kiungu, and the Ethiopia Adado. The former has been processed using double fermentation and features light floral aromatics, black berry and red tea. The latter is dry processed resulting in a floral scent, with winey fruit tones in the mouth, a citrus acidity and lingering aftertaste.
The Roast Things – www.facebook.com/theroastthings.my
RGB Coffee is another Malaysian micro-roaster committed to elevating the availability of premium coffee in the region. More specifically however, they aim to raise the profile of emerging Asian coffee bean growers. Deciding not to follow the crowd in terms of coffee sourcing, they actively search for their own supplies and have discovered exciting things happening in this region especially in terms of revitalizing and improving coffee grown.
Working together with coffee farmers they investigate how coffee crops can be improved (for example by segregating the plants by their varietal, or by improving processing methods). They dream that one day Asian coffees will be as recognized for their unique flavours as African or South American coffees are today.
In the meantime, they continue to work with traditional coffee sources to bring the best bean to customers and by continually experimenting with their roast. Naturally, their coffee is only batch roasted as needed. In the interest of increasing education and coffee culture, regular awareness and sharing events, where all are welcome to join, are held too at RGB Coffee.
Excited about the regional sourcing of coffee, we try out a couple of beans from Indonesia. The East Timor Letefoho Varietal, owned by a co-op of over 400 farmers, displays notes of coffee flower and caramel sweetness. It’s soft and elegant with a white tea mouthfeel.
A recurring favourite with RAW (former partners have now evolved into RGB) customers, and produced by various small farm holders, is the Sumatra Takengon (Aceh) Varietal. Served black it displays sugar cane sweetness, light lemon acidity and tropical fruit. For espresso with milk, it cuts through milk with a fragrant toffee flavour with a sweet base and finish.
Beans can be enjoyed and prepared by the experts in their café at The Bean Hive, or taken away for home brewers. Follow this link to find our favourite dishes at the café to accompany a masterfully made coffee.
RGB Coffee – www.facebook.com/RatherGoodBeans
Q Cup teaching lab is a certified Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) coffee school. Founded by Yu Tack Yuen, the school is equipped with a comprehensive collection of coffee equipment, roaster and various educational tools. They offer a range of professional development programs and certification by both the SCAA and the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI), as well as some self-designed workshops responding to the needs of casual coffee enthusiasts.
Being the experts in training, you’d expect this team to produce some mighty fine coffee, and that they do! Using Agtron, a roast colour analyser, they are able to check the consistency and quality of every batch of coffee.
Besides expert roasting technology, they too have partnerships with international specialty coffee buyers and have won bids in the highly esteemed Panama Coffee Auction enabling them to source some of the most prized and exclusive coffees in the world!
We feel extremely lucky to get our hands on a couple of these coffees. Carmen Estate rates 91 points on the specialty scale at Coffee Review, and repeatedly gains a place in the top five in specialty cupping contests. In the cup it’s fruity with notes of spice, sweet chocolate, and strawberry yoghurt.
Esmeralda Special Geisha is perhaps one of the most treasured coffees in the world. Each year a single estate auction is held for these rare hand-picked specialty beans and they have fetched phenomenal prices, making it the most expensive coffee in the world. Q Cup has been a winning bidder for the past three years running and were kind enough to share a bag of the 2014 Lot #ESW01 for our tasting. Honey, gingery syrup, caramel, jasmine, complex floral aroma and spices, and a sweet lingering after taste – oh my.
Q Cup Teaching Lab – www.facebook.com/Qcup.coffeelab
But why go to all the work of searching for the best coffee in KL yourself, when you can have a team of expert baristas and coffee connoisseurs do it for you?
The crew at Blaq Coffee hunts high and low for the most delicious coffee from small batch coffee roasters in Malaysia, selects four single origins from four different coffee regions from four of their favourite roasters each month, and delivers them to your door!
You get to expand your taste buds and sample different styles of roasting, beans and regions without leaving your home, or risking substandard experiences – the professionals have already selected the finest for you.
Blaq Coffee – http://blaqcoffee.com/
The same team has just launched another website focusing on selling retail coffee beans (also from Malaysian roasters) online. Sourcing great coffee couldn’t be easier.
Bean Shipper – http://beanshipper.com/