Best coffee in KL
Our critics pick the best coffee shops in KL that call the shots
Photo: Stacy Liu
KL's coffee culture is an expanding landscape of imported beans, state-of-the-art machines, hip baristas, and silky smooth pours. Here are the best coffee shops in KL that call the shots.
The paper-cutting room for the nearly 50-year-old Art Printing Works factory and warehouse on Jalan Riong may have gotten the makeover it deserves. Pulp, helmed by Singaporean coffee boutique Papa Palheta who also runs Chye Seng Huat Hardware and Loysel’s Toy cafés, has been integrated with the time-honoured factory. Although the stellar coffee and desserts here encourage lingering, the owners insist that Pulp be described as a coffee retailer and supplier, rather than as a café. Get serious in a cupping room where you learn from baristas who work their gear with topflight technique. Or marvel at the mementos of the warehouse over a Blue Batak brew.
- 29-01 Jalan Riong, Bangsar
If there was a standing theory to the perfect cup of coffee, the boys of this PJ hideout don’t have it. Instead, their experimental bubble-and-whiz ways with coffee defy the norms and stretch boundaries. Take their excellent cold brew – the dark, broody mix is left to steep for a whopping 48 hours and is served on the rocks. The first sip is harsh and bitter, but the flavours round up and mellow as the ice melts, opening up gateways to notes you’d never associate with coffee – bourbon and whisky.
- 26 Jalan SS2/103, PJ
We like Coffee Stain’s medium body espresso; its intense, long finish is a result of a delicate blend of beans from Papua New Guinea (for the smooth acidity), Guatemala (for that touch of sweetness) and Columbia (a balancing act to round off the flavours). The beans – especially roasted in Singapore, with a KL-based Japanese master overseeing the tasting and blending – are brewed using a top class Nuova Simonelli machine. Like your coffee pure? Then try the single origin coffee prepared by siphon, dripped, or brewed using the really cool, hourglass-shaped Chemex manual coffeemaker. There are around ten different beans available at any time.
- Solaris Dutamas, KL
The folks behind Artisan Roast have come a long way since their humble RAW days. This breezy new café in Sentul’s airy D7 building is testament to their maturing style and quality. We suggest you lock your spot at the outdoor patio where vines entwine around thick ropes; for a precious while, you’ll feel completely disengaged from the city buzz. A Three Little Birds coffee blend is in the making, but take temporary refuge in a punchy Mandheling roast or other rotating single origins. If you’re lucky, coffee connoisseur Joey Mah will be your trusty barista behind the whizzing machine. Meanwhile, hot chocolates here are made using single origin Kalingo 65 percent Valrhona, superbly expensive French-imported chocolate buttons.
- D7 Sentul East
Adam, Neil and Danial, the tattooed coffee boys of Sections 17’s Butter + Beans now run a breezy café in Hartamas, and thank the coffee Gods it seats more than 20 people. The boys use Kuda Mas, a single origin Mandheling variety with dark, well-rounded notes complemented by hints of cocoa. As you sip on one of those, flip through the magazines (think Wonderland Magazine) strewn on tables, or glance at the decorative vintage treasure chest. One of the year’s nicest new spots.
- 2 Jalan Sri Hartamas 8, KL
There’s a reason this neighbourhood coffee joint was voted ‘Best Place for Coffee’ in the Time Out KL Food Awards 2012. Artisan Roast places importance on handcrafted coffee good enough to drink on its own, as proven by their full-bodied espresso with just the right amount of acidity and sweetness – there’s no such thing as syrups here. They personally roast their beans at RAWcoffee (of which the founders of Artisan Roast also have a stake in). However, don’t expect the same blend all the time as it constantly changes, with the Sumatra Mandheling blend the most frequently used.
- 4 Lorong Rahim Kajai 14, TTDI
Serious coffee aficionados concerned about how coffee beans are sourced can take comfort in knowing that Typica gets its beans directly from farmers. Aside from offering beans from the usual places like Costa Rica and Ethiopia, a highlight of the café is the Chamek Liberica Coffee, locally grown in Johor, which they use to make their siphon ice drip coffee. Called the ‘forgotten’ coffee, the beans give off a nutty aroma with a fruity-sweet aftertaste (the baristas liken it to the taste of cempedak). Those looking for a sweeter, refreshing concoction can opt for the Gula Melaka ice drip coffee.
- Shaw Parade, Changkat Thambi Dollah, KL
VCR isn’t just a café for discerning coffee drinkers; as a bonus, it’s also starkly attractive. Remodeled from a building on-site, the café retains much of its original charm and old-world feel while an airy, breezy, rattan-chaired setup dominates the first floor. Owner Andrew Lee and business partner Lee Ee Han strive tirelessly to make ideal cups of coffee from single-origin beans and unique blends. On a hot day, sneak in a cup (or pitcher) of cold brew, only enhanced by a slice of Frost & Flourish’s peanut butter-banana cake
- 2 Jalan Galloway, KL
TTDI is a burgeoning district for new coffee bars, and this eye-catching spot leads the pack. Owned by buddies Hadri and Hanif, this Melbourne-inspired set-up sports a feature slant wall that provides the illusion of a falling warehouse – it’s all a bit cool. The boys have an undoubtedly tasteful eye for style, proven with the execution of a clear theme without the curse of convolution. Count yourself lucky if you get your hands on a slice of peanut butter cheesecake with M&Ms, best paired with a cup of Singapore’s Common Man.
- 22 Lorong Datuk Sulaiman 1, TTDI
The variety of beans here is one of the strengths of this tiny café that sits within Publika’s Ben’s Independent Grocer. Their house blend is a roasting of Indonesian, Brazilian and Ethiopian beans, and the purest form of this dark, acidic brew is an espresso. The finish with every sip is rich and inky with bitter chocolate tones and a fleeting tang. If a long black suits you better, go for one of their many single origin blends expertly pulled by their informed baristas.
- Level UG1, Publika, Solaris Dutamas.
Want Vietnamese coffee instead? Try these two
This major brunch player is one of the rare cafés in town to serve Vietnamese-style drip coffee. Choose beans from various (Indonesian) regions like Java, Acheh, Lintong or Sumatran Mandheling and watch the brew drip slowly onto a layer of condensed milk below. Once mixed into the milk, the medium-strength Acheh variety is thick, sweet and tastes like dessert.
This little treasure in Damansara Uptown run by two young boys from Hanoi may pull in weekend crowds for excellent bánh mì sandwiches, but their Vietnamese coffee is equally praise-worthy. Vietnamese beans are imported and brewed to produce potent, half-filled cups of coffee; it (almost) rings close to the kind of coffee you’d typically sip on low stools at a busy Hanoi junction.