By Caitlyn Ng
I’m sure when you read the title of this article, the first places to pop into mind aren’t those chain franchises that you can find in even the most remote parts of almost any town (read: Starbucks or CBTL). If you managed to guess it’s the quaint artisanal cafés and coffee joints that have been sprouting up in the Klang Valley, most notably in places like Bangsar, Mont Kiara and the KL City Center, kudos to you! And who’s complaining? But what exactly is the pull these coffee connoisseurs have on the customers, apart from the avant-garde art and the quick caffeine fix?
It can be said that the quality of the coffee beans which these joints use that actually play a major part when it comes to the handcrafted java. To get coffee that good, something’s gotta give though, and it comes in the form of the price for one serving. In order to get the right grade of beans to produce these delicious cuppas, they’re flown specially into Malaysia from all over the world, and they don’t come cheap! The costs are then passed on to the customers, and we do feel the pinch on our pockets.
On that note, we decided to round up a list of 5 of the popular, yet more affordable, coffee cafés that one can head to in order to fix those jitters or blues. Nothing beats the aroma of freshly brewed coffee and the cosily warm atmosphere of most of these places!
Artisan Roast Coffee, TTDI / Bangsar/ PJ – RM5 to RM10
Considered to be one of the pioneers on the scene, one of the great things about Artisan is that the prices of their coffees are really affordable, considering the origins of the beans used. They only create handcrafted coffee from specialty grade beans that make up the top 2% of those produced in the world. Which means the beans have zero defects, and that translates into an almost-perfect result. And how much would that set you back by? If you can believe it, the prices for the coffee range will only set you back by RM5 – RM10, depending on your choice of beverage. In addition, there’s the dutiful selection of sweet treats such as cakes to add a saccharine buzz to your day.
Antipodean Café, Bangsar – RM6 to RM10
Located in Bangsar, some people would usually grouse about the limited parking spaces available, and the sometimes long wait for tables but this is usually quelled by the tantalising cuppa awaiting their taste buds! This is one of the cafes which still have crowds of people thronging it, especially on a weekend, even though they’ve been on the scene for the past 3 years. Featuring a top-rate menu with lots of classic good food to warm the tummy, it’s the freshly brewed coffee that catches our eye! The beans are only sourced from Indonesia’s top specialty roaster, Merdeka Coffee, so you can be assured of the quality. Expect a price range of RM6 – RM10 for their brews.
Coffee Societe, Publika – RM5.50 to RM11
It’s very important to ensure that customers are happy as they sip on their handcrafted beverages, and here at Coffee Societe, one can find enough happiness to chase those blues away. Apart from the hearty comfort food and decadent desserts served here, there’s their Melbourne-inspired coffees with a price range of about RM5.50 – RM11 for their hot and cold beverages. For all those addicted to caffeine, hearken up to good news! There’s an ongoing promotion where on the 1st and 3rd Friday of every month, you can have a free flow of as much coffee of your choice as you want for only RM15 nett. That’s right, more reason for you to celebrate!
Top Brew Coffee, Hartamas – RM6 to RM10
This café, tucked away in Sri Hartamas, is led by one of espressolab’s former employees who managed to win the 2012 national Malaysia Barista Championship as well as emerge 2nd runner-up in the regional Food Hotel Asia Barista Challenge: JH Yee. An unpretentious café, the coffee beans are the stars of the show as they are sourced from 2 different suppliers: Lighthouse (Penang) and 5 Senses (Australia). There’s even a special blend of coffee available at the café called the Panama Don Pachi Geisha that will set you back RM25 per serving! Worry not, the coffee blends there have a price range of RM6 – RM10 for those who are looking for their regular fix.
Ministry of Coffee, Mont Kiara – RM5.80 to RM12.80
Finally, if you are someone who would like to enjoy a good brew made from fair-trade beans (it will feed your conscience as well), check out Ministry of Coffee and their coffee beans! They are sourced from Doi Chaang, located north-west of Thailand, and the profits are shared fairly amongst thousands of indigenous Akha farmers. With that said, how are the prices like? They can cost a wee bit more, with prices from RM5.80 – RM12.80, but they have the equipment and expertise to whip up a fairly mean cuppa. And for those who wish to satiate a growling stomach, rejoice for they serve savoury brunches and hearty mains all day!
We are well aware that there are heaps of cafes that are just as outstanding in their coffees, with matching price tags as well; there could probably be new ones popping up even as the writer is typing this! But we’re definitely not capable of covering all of them in one article, the list might be a mile-long by the time we’re done!
However, one thing is for sure. For the ultimate caffeine fix (though perhaps not as healthy or individually brewed specially for you), your local mamak will be the place to go! Now this is the place where it’s cool to be seen, whether for that quick catch-up session with pals, a late supper or for a general chill-out. It doesn’t hurt that the price of a “kopi o ais kaw” will cost you about the same price as 1/3 of the cheapest blends at one of the cafes above!
By Diana Chai | RinggitPlus.com – Mon, Mar 17, 2014
It’s one of the most traded commodities in the world and many consider it a staple in their everyday lives. Coffee has transcended both geographical and cultural barriers, having established itself as one of the most socially significant drinks in history.
Malaysia is no exception to this as coffee plays just as much as an important role within our society. You can see this in the way coffee is present within the traditional “mamak” and even trendy cafes in most towns. As more Malaysians continue to drink coffee on a daily basis, one question comes to mind: how much are they paying when compared to their neighbouring counterparts?
Starbucks is the unanimous king of all modern coffee houses, with more than 20,000 branches in over 60 different countries worldwide. As a brand synonymous with high quality coffee, the logo has gained worldwide recognition from a diverse audience. In Malaysia, Starbucks first announced its presence in 1998 and has since grown to more than 140 stores nationwide. The café offers not just an array of creative caffeine concoctions but a comfortable environment for social interactions.
Starbucks coffee remains a luxury item for most Malaysians, with prices averaging around RM14 for the typical Grande (medium) Frappuccino, only a select portion of the population can afford to make it a daily affair. Hence the question dawns, how much are Malaysia’s neighbours paying for their Starbucks?
Singaporeans pay around SG8 (RM21) for the average Grande Frappuccino. While most Malaysians would gasp at the thought of paying RM21, comparing the average income between both countries shows that it is in fact Singaporeans who are getting the better deal. The average working professional in Singapore earns an average of SGD3,800 (RM9,880) monthly, alternatively, the average Malaysian in a similar line of work would rake in around RM3,600. Using the figures above, the cost of a single Grande Frappuccino is equivalent to approximately 0.21% of the average Singaporean’s income, much lower when compared to the 0.38% equivalent to the average Malaysian’s income.
While the figures speak for a single cup of coffee, how does the Starbucks addict in Singapore match up to the Starbucks addict in Malaysia? Drinking a single Grande Frappuccino on a daily basis for an entire month in Singapore will set you back by SGD240 (RM624), the equivalent of 6.31% of the average working Singaporean’s income. Alternatively, doing the same in Malaysia will cost you RM420, the equivalent of 11.66% of the typical working Malaysian’s income. In conclusion, the Starbucks addict living and working in Singapore would generally find it much more affordable to maintain his/her habit than his Malaysian counterpart.
Indonesians, on the other hand, pay around IDR20,700 (RM5.7) for the average Grande Frappuccino. Using the same approach as above, the cost of a single Grande Frappuccino is equivalent to around 0.63% of the typical working Indonesian professional’s monthly salary of IDR3,250,880 (RM902). Drinking Starbucks every day for an entire month will cost you IDR621,000 (RM176), the equivalent of 19.1% of the average working professional’s income. In a reversal of the results above, it appears that the Starbucks addict living and working in Malaysia now gets a much better deal when compared to his/her Indonesian counterpart.
Local “kopi” houses
Starbucks is certainly not the coffee haunt for everyone, suffice to say most Malaysians are usually just looking for a simple place to get a quick breakfast and not necessarily an eclectic ambience of jazz music and art nouveau furnishings. The typical “kopi” joint in Malaysia definitely doesn’t offer a wide variety of coffee drinks, certainly no mochas, lattes or cappuccinos. Instead local traditional “kopi” houses offer a simple cup of coffee at an affordable price.
The generic Malaysian “mamak” usually charges around RM1.80 for a simple cup of coffee, though some places may charge a higher rate. Assuming a typical income of around RM3, 600 for our average Malaysian working professional, a single cup of coffee is equivalent to 0.05% of total income. Drinking one cup of coffee daily for an entire month, which is probably a daily routine for most Malaysians will get you back by RM54 or 1.5% of total income. Relative to Starbucks, the local “mamak” seems like the economic choice for our coffee addicts, but how does the Malaysian “mamak” coffee price compare with the equivalent from neighbouring countries?
Air-conditioned food courts are a popular dining destination for a majority of Singapore’s population. Coffee at generic food courts around Singapore usually charge around SGD1.2 (RM 3.1) for a cup of coffee, equivalent to 0.03% of the average Singaporean’s income. Drinking a cup a day for an entire month works out to SGD36 or 0.94% of total income. Comparing between the two countries, it appears that once again our coffee addict is getting the short end of the stick in Malaysia.
The Indonesian local coffee shop, on the other hand, boasts home grown coffee beans in a rustic environment, offering a humble cup of coffee for around IDR3,000 (RM0.85) or an equivalent of 0.09% of the average Indonesian’s income. Drinking coffee every day for a whole month works out to a cost of IDR90,000 (RM25.5) or 2.76% of the average Indonesian’s income. Just like the Starbucks comparison case, it appears that the Malaysian coffee addict gets the better deal compared to his/her Indonesian counterpart.
So should all coffee addicts pack up and move to Singapore?
Despite the different prices of coffee amongst the three countries, it’s good to keep in mind that the three also have contrastingly different costs of living. For example, even though coffee addicts in Singapore may be paying a lower percentage of total income to upkeep their habit, they may in contrast be paying a higher share of their income for rent than someone in Malaysia. Hence, while Singaporeans may appear to be getting a better deal for their coffee, they may be more strapped from other costs when compared to Malaysians.
Even with the difference in costs, as many are still dependent on their coffee, you can bet that people will be willing to pay whatever it takes for that one cuppa joe. And no one can blame you, so order that cup of coffee, pay what you must, and enjoy it the way you like it.
The Star, 20 Feb 2014
DIAMONDS may be a girl’s best friend and dogs may be a man’s trusted companion but coffee keeps everyone happy.
Even if you are not a coffee drinker, you would have relied on a cup or two while pulling an all-nighter completing an assignment or to cure a hangover following a night of too much fun.
It also works wonders for those with sleep deprivation. But having a cup of coffee is no longer just about getting a caffeine fix.
It has evolved to something more than a just a drink that can keep you calm, sharpen your mind or provide the vital boost to make it through a boring mid-day meeting.
This can be seen in the number of cafes springing up around the country.
Spilling the beans
The meteoric rise of coffee cafes not just in Malaysia, but around the world — dubbed the “Starbucks effect” — is amazing.
In Brazil, where the level of poverty is well above the norm for a middle-income country, cafes that serve premium coffee and sell the coffee drinkers lifestyle are booming.
According to research conducted last year by market research company Mintel, a quarter of Brazilian coffee drinkers claim they prefer premium over regular brands of coffee and the market volume for coffee in Brazil is growing faster than in the US, year on year.
Two of the most populous countries in Asia are also latching on to coffee culture these days and their long relationship with tea may never be the same again.
Many specialist coffee cafes are opening up in China and India — two countries that are synonymous with tea.
In India, specialist coffee chains have started taking over urban districts and business areas, firmly establishing themselves as hangout spots for youths.
It is predicted that by next year, there will be 4,000 specialist coffee outlets in India, almost double what the number is now.
In China, the number of coffee houses has nearly doubled in the last five years to over 31,000. In contrast, the number of tea houses has only grown by 4%, according to some reports.
Closer to home, Vietnam’s local coffee culture is booming. The country now consumes two million 60kg bags of coffee beans just a few years after its economy opened up to foreign investment.
Coffee culture has also been booming in Malaysia with coffee cafes mushrooming all across the country.
“Malaysians are starting to appreciate a good cup of coffee. From their travels, they now know the difference between a good cup of coffee and a bad one,” said Tan, who has been in the business for 15 years.
“When I started making coffee, the lifestyle was not so popular. It all started five years ago when the outlets of global chains such as Starbucks, Gloria Jean’s and Coffee Bean started opening up. Malaysians enjoy the lifestyle that came along with it,” he added.
Tan and his two of his partners launched Ministry of Coffee last year after seeing a rise in the number of coffee drinkers in Malaysia. Set up with an investment of about RM500,000, Ministry of Coffee uses 100% organic coffee beans from their own plantation in Thailand.
“We wanted to be different by providing our customers with the plant-to-cup experience. So, we decided to invest in a plantation and grow our own beans. That way we can guarantee the quality of our beans,” said Tan.
Ministry of Coffee uses 100kg of coffee beans every two to three months and each cup starts fromRM9.
Targeting teenagers who are crazy about the hipster lifestyle and working class adults who want to taste different coffees, Tan expects this culture to continue growing.
However, he is quick to warn those who are interested in capitalising on the boom to properly educate themselves about coffee.
“In my experience I have seen many indie coffee houses close within six months. Coffee is just like wine. You can’t learn about wine after a seminar or a workshop. You need to perfect your taste buds and that comes with experience. It is the same with coffee,” said Tan.
As the coffee culture continues to boom in Malaysia, it is has also sparked a rise in the sales of coffee making machines.
Taking it home
RoastCoffee2u, though started as a coffee roaster, switched its business model to bringing fresh premium coffee to homes and offices a few years ago.
“Coffee has many perks. It can help people stay sharp during a meeting and bring people closer. This is a proven fact. It is an healthy alternative,” said RoastCoffee2u chief executive James Khoo.
“A coffee machine can blend a perfect cup of coffee.” he added. RoastCoffee2u started selling coffee machines in 2010 and business has been growing ever since.
RoastCoffee2u now aims to capture the home market as more Malaysians are appreciating a good cup of coffee.
“About 90% of our clientele are business owners who take their coffee seriously. Now, we are planning to expand into homes,” said Khoo.
He also believes it will not be long before Malaysians start investing in coffee machine just like they would a microwave or a television.
“We hope that every beautiful home has a beautiful coffee maker. This is possible as our machines have won design awards globally,” said Khoo. With prices for a machine starting from RM2,900, Khoo thinks that it is an investment for those who need their coffee fix at home. He says coffee consumption in Malaysia is expected to rise and more Malaysians will be looking to have their house with coffee makers.
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 20 — Big things are happening with Artisan Roast Coffee. After the successes of their Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI) and Bangsar Village II cafés, the craft coffee specialists launched Artisan Roast HQ, their largest outlet yet in June this year. One of the reasons for more space was to accommodate a central coffee roasting area.
Due to overwhelming response from fans, that space was given over to tables for customers. Back to the drawing board then: a new space was found in d7 at Sentul East for the roastery, now simply called Artisan Roastery.
To fulfil the market’s growing demand for high quality coffee, Artisan Roastery will be employing a SmartRoast Merlin coffee roaster (which costs approximately RM450,000) by Californian-based manufacturer Loring. On hand to help the Artisan team along with what is touted as the greenest coffee roaster in the world is Michael de Renouard, an experienced roasting trainer from Denmark.
Having won the best filter coffee at the 2007 Nordic Barista Championship, de Renouard is no stranger to great brews. He shares, “I’ve been in Asia three times this year already. I’m pretty happy to be out here and see how the coffee industry progresses. Normally when I visit Asia, I consult on behalf of Speciality Coffee Association of Europe (SCAE) and Loring.”
The affable and humble coffee professional claims that he only offers his customers some pointers: he believes the sharing of information and knowledge is essential to the overall growth of the industry.
“I’m just giving the Artisan team some additional input; you might call it tools to work with. I get new knowledge when I go to conferences and exchange ideas. I learn a lot from everybody. Also I learn a lot about people – whether they are flexible or not.”
This flexibility, or lack thereof, has become a potential obstacle to the coffee industry embracing innovation. de Renouard observes, “It is a conservative industry. Roasters haven’t basically changed since the 50s. The brand of coffee roaster I used to use in Copenhagen was about the same as the model that was introduced just seven years after World War II.”
This lack of innovation meant that Loring, as a small startup, had to innovate to avoid stagnating like their competition.
“Loring had to come up with something new as a new manufacturer. They were asked to build a smokeless roaster, and they discovered there was good coffee coming out of it. But they didn’t plan it that way.”
Built with Loring’s patented single-burner design, the SmartRoast Merlin used by Artisan Roastery not only produces smokeless roasting but also captures precise roast data, which allows specific roast profiles to be accurately recorded and reproduced time and time again.
“Instead of using an afterburner to burn off the gases that come out after roasting, the incinerator is used to roast the coffee as well, which is a much more efficient system. This then reduces energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80 per cent, making this one of the most environmentally friendly roasters in the world.”
In addition, the high-speed cooling also prevents baking and helps lock in flavour. de Renouard explains, “This produces a different taste to the beans. Compared to what you get with other roasters, Loring-roasted coffee is cleaner and brighter with better high notes.”
The master coffee trainer warns that a great coffee roaster alone is not the entire story. “Yes, it takes good instruments to make good coffee. But what we also need is the access to decent green beans. Most coffee roasters who buy expensive equipment try and save money on beans. So it makes me happy to see that Artisan is working very hard to obtain really good green beans too.”
In fact, earlier in the year, the Artisan Roast team travelled to Brazil to source for a consistent supply of high-quality beans. de Renouard shares, “What they are doing is very important. If you think in terms of quality, from the entire chain from when you receive the green beans, roast, grind, and brew them, then you really need to maintain this really high level of quality all the way. If you fail at any stage, then you are wasting your hard earned beans.”
It’s clear that an expensive and technologically advanced coffee roaster alone isn’t enough. As the Artisan Roast team continues to build on their pioneer status in the local specialty coffee scene, they are wisely looking at every aspect of their chain to deliver better coffee to their customers.
As to whether they achieve this worthy goal, the proof is in the brew. Every cup counts.