Larry Lam, owner of The Lolla Co in Amp Walk chats with The Yum List about what drove him to enter the coffee business and some life-changing moments along the way.
What do you do and how did you get into the industry?
It’s quite a funny story about how I got into the coffee industry. I loved studying in nice and cool cafes (Artisan Coffee HQ was my favourite) when I was doing my law degree. I remember spending north of six hours at a cafe and drinking four to five cups of coffee in one sitting. Then I started talking to the people behind the bar, learning that brewing a cup of coffee is more than just the push of a button. That’s when I fell in love with coffee and became captivated by the intricacies of speciality coffee. Who knew that coffee could be so delicate and complex?
Share with us an interesting story from behind the scenes.
Hmmmm. Good question. What fascinates me the most is definitely how coffee is grown, processed and ends up in your morning brew. I’ll try not to sound too much like a coffee geek but it’s unthinkable that coffee trees can take up to 7 years to fully mature. And the first harvest of crops is usually only ready the second or third year after planting. Then the coffee is transported to a mill for further processing, packaged, roasted by your local coffee shop and finally ends up in your cup! How mind-blowing is that? Something so precious, yet readily accessible every day, such as kopi-o or an iced latte, comes from a faraway land, high in the mountains!
Fun fact: Coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world, behind only second to crude oil! Thank God there were no wars fought over coffee beans.
What’s the best/ worst part of your job?
The best part of my workplace is definitely the people that come through my door. It’s the best feeling in the world when your customers compliment your craft and treat you like a friend. Other than that, I get to explore and taste different coffees from different parts of the world every now and then. Coffees from Ethiopia are my favourite. They are tea-like, fruity and complex. One of the reasons why I tunnelled into this rabbit hole is to share with people that coffee shouldn’t just taste like burnt, bitter liquid, insipid and generic.
The worst part is the washing the dishes part. I remember my training in Singapore. We used to serve up to 800 cups of coffee a day and my days were mainly taking care of the dishes. It was back-breaking every day and I’ll relate that close to a military camp. It’s also one of the best times of my life!
What’s your favourite meal and drink at The Lolla Co.?
Our Mariah Berry sandwich and Long Black coffee. That’s our whole bird, Cajun spice-roasted chicken sandwich with tangy cranberry jam and spicy coriander mayonnaise.
What’s one of the most outrageous things you’ve seen behind the scenes?
That’s definitely the money we pay for some coffee drinks at the big brands. It’s baffling how much people are willing to pay for a cup of heavily flavoured, dessert-like coffee beverage. It’s kinda sad to know that coffee growers are some of the poorest farmers around yet these big brands make big bucks every day.
The perfect day off would be…
Breakfast and coffee fix at VCR Cafe, Pudu. A good book for the rest of the day with a large dose of social media catching-up. I hardly have the brain power for Instagram or Facebook on a regular working day. Maybe lunch at my favourite kopitiams too.
A day in the life of an entrepreneur is…
Early mornings, on your feet most of the day, 3 pm lunchtime, ordering goods from suppliers, catching up with customers, constant quality check on my food and coffee. And listening to TED Talks during closing times.
What do you do for fun?
I like to watch cooking or food-related shows on YouTube.
What’s something you’d like guests to know about The Lolla Co.?
I would like my guests to know that great coffee and food should not be reserved and exclusive. Everyone deserves great coffee and food. It can be simple but good. It’s all in the attention and effort given.
What’s your view of the cafe scene in KL?
It’s quite a mixed bag. Our speciality coffee is amongst the best tasting in the South East Asian region but lacking in innovation and creativity. We still need a sense of openness in this industry and the community is still very fragmented. Coffee shops in our neighbouring countries are just so much more beautiful and interesting! We just need to up our expectations on food and beverages. That would drive our scene to the next level.
Find other interviews with people such as Larry Lam in the food and beverage industry here and read a little more about The Lolla Co here.
Thank you Larry Lam for chatting with The Yum List! We wish you the best!