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Butter + Beans
Photograph: Butter + Beans

The best cafés for coffee in Kuala Lumpur

Our critics pick the best coffee shops in KL that call the shots. Additional reporting by Darinee Durai

Written by
Time Out KL editors
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KL's coffee culture is an expanding landscape of imported beans, state-of-the-art machines, hip baristas, and silky smooth pours. Pair that with some good grub like a sandwich or even a bowl of pasta, that perfect café day is attainable. Here are the best coffee shops in KL that call the shots.

RECOMMENDED: Local coffee roasters you should know

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  • Cafés

Housed in a converted townhouse within Bukit Bintang, Feeka Coffee Roasters is named for the Swedish word ‘fika’. Spelt the way it is pronounced; the name embodies the cultural concept of taking a coffee break within a social setting. It is said that one cannot have coffee and cake by oneself - that would just be taking a break, not having a ‘fika’. The space is rustically designed with ‘unfinished’ walls and the many windows provide an abundance of natural light.

Their coffee menu includes options from local roasters to the other coffee-producing nations, allowing their patrons to curate an experience suited to their moods. Whether you feel like a cold brew or espresso, there is a synergy to be felt when one sips on a cup of Joe in Feeka while munching on something from their extensive menu. Choose from the all-day breakfast options such as French toast and porridge, or the usual suspects like pastas and burgers. If dessert is what gets you going, feel free to try their range of house-made mille crêpes, cakes and pastries.

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  • Seksyen 17

A name like Butter + Beans conjures up the image of a space that’s cosy with delicious smells wafting through endlessly, till they’re sold out anyway. This is exactly what Butter + Beans is all about. Pastries are made in house by a team of pastry chefs, leaving with diners spoilt for choice with sweet carbs like croissants, Danishes, tarts and cobblers to savoury bites like quiche plus sandwiches. For beverages, they serve all sorts of cuppas with single origin beans and their variety of teas are certified organic by Australia’s Nasaa.

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  • Solaris Dutamas

The Red Beanbag is one of the trendy cafes over in Publika that takes after the coffee culture in Australia. It’s rustically designed with large windows that guarantee a brightly lit space. Their menu serves up innovative western affairs with names sure to inspire a chuckle or two along with house-made pastas and desserts. They’ve got filtered coffees and cold brew for coffee aficionados. Non-coffee drinkers need not fret as the establishment also carries a host of other drinks for you to down with your food.

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  • Bukit Damansara
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Wizard of Oz fans would surely perk their ears up at the name of this quirky café. Yellow Brick Road serves as the home of four-time Malaysian Barista Champion and winner of Time Out KL Food Awards for ‘Best Café’ (2015 & 2017). Rightly so, we might add – as their food and drink does not leave for wanting. The intricacies of Asian herbs and spices can be tasted in their rather extensive menu – it includes a long list of desserts as well as the beverages to pair them with. Get your fill of filtered coffees or your regular espresso shots here.

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  • Bangsar
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PPP Coffee is a dream for those who play with coffee toys. A small space is dedicated to the café where you can sample top-notch brews, but a chunk of it is designed as a coffee retailer and cupping centre, so if you’re an avid coffee consumer, questions about beans, coffee machines and brewing methods can be directed to the well-informed team.

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  • TTDI

Coffee connoisseurs in town are bound to know this brand by its abbreviations: CMCR. Founded in Singapore in 2013, this coffee establishment made its way to Malaysia, in TTDI where it serves speciality grade Arabica coffee. They’ve got a roasting facility (as well as a coffee academy) in Singapore where they roast their own beans – but the beans themselves are scoured from around the globe. Patrons of CMCR KL get to choose from a menu that includes all-day brunch options, house-made burgers, their infamous pancakes and such. They do filtered coffees, cold brews and have roasted beans that you can take home to sate your caffeine needs.

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  • Sentul
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The folks behind Artisan Roast have come a long way since their humble RAW days. This breezy café in Sentul’s airy D7 building is a 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 takes 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. If coffee doesn’t tickle your fancy, they serve hot chocolate made with single-origin cocoa beans grown in the states of Pahang, Malacca and Perak.

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  • Bangsar

​A cafe by day and a bar by night, Transparent Coffee shares the same address as Coley at Jalan Abdullah, Bangsar. Decked out in a chic minimalist decor, this hidden coffee shop will lure you in with its smell of coffee. You may wonder why it's called Transparent Coffee - the cafe is transparent with its coffee trade whereby coffee beans here are directly sourced from farmers, giving you the best coffee quality.

With a selection of white, black and filter coffee, a must-try is the good old Iced Latte – milky, thick and simply satisfying your coffee fix. Order a sandwich to go with your coffee, an option of three cheese or chicken and aubergine sandwich made with home-baked sourdough.

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  • Damansara

Wedged into half a shop lot in Damansara Uptown is this little takeaway coffee bar that serves arguably the cheapest coffee in PJ. Using their own house blend of beans from India, Papua New Guinea and Brazil, Baristar serves drinks with prices that start at an affordable RM5 – think long black or Americano, espresso, piccolo latte, green tea latte or even selected teas. 

More interestingly, you’ll also find creative coffee drinks here, such as the Black Tonic (espresso on ice with tonic water; RM9), Twilight Jeju (iced black coffee with Korean yuzu marmalade; RM9) and Coffee Cubes (creamy milk over frozen coffee ice cubes; RM9). Selected drinks come with an upsize option for an additional RM1.

Artisan Roast Coffee TTDI
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  • TTDI
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Artisan Roast uses the Loring Smartroast coffee roaster, one of the world’s best and the only one of its kind in Malaysia. But that’s hardly the point:

The recipe for Artisan Roast’s success lies in their total involvement in the entire production chain, from the sourcing of the beans to the roasting and the training of the baristas. While they experiment with different blends and roasts, a signature Artisan Roast coffee is one that’s slightly acidic, bold in flavour, and leaves a fragrant bitterness on your palate.

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  • Kuchai Lama

“Less is more,” says owner Nicholas Tay when he is asked about the ethos of The Hub. The Hub is aptly named so as it acts as the coffee hub of KL; coffee beans from all over the world are roasted here. The place has been in operation since 2015 and at that time, there were few options for filtered coffee.

A lot has changed since we opened. If you wanted filtered coffee, maybe 10 shops would serve coffee, but only three would carry filtered coffee with just five varieties.” Tay shares. He firmly believes that the quality of the coffee you drink stems from two main factors: the quality of the raw material and the method of roasting the beans. “Any coffee will taste good if the beans are without defect and well-roasted. If the roasters buy expensive beans, they’re usually afraid of burning them which leads to beans that are usually under roasted. This leads to high levels of chlorogenic acid (the sour taste one would find in some coffees). I for example get a bad stomach after if I consume too much of it.”

Tay affirms that coffee should be sweet. “African coffee tends to be more acidic and if not roasted properly, customers might not be able to appreciate it. Our philosophy here is to roast the beans enough to bring out the sweetness. If it is sweet, anyone will be able to drink it. Just like fruits – some people like mangoes, papayas, strawberries and such. There is no right or wrong; the fruits just must be ripe which means sweetness. Same goes for coffee.”

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  • Pudu

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.

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  • Klang

Located by the Klang train station (follow the scent of roasting beans and you’ll find them), Seraph Awaken is known for its signature hibiscus coffee (Ethiopia Sidamo red cherry brew served with hibiscus tea ice cubes), siphon brews and an assortment of locally baked pandan cakes and jackfruit cakes.

Apart from roasting imported beans such as Panama Geisha Morgan Estate, Guatemala Acatenango Geisha, and Brazil Yellow Bourbon Jatoba, Seraph Awaken also champions honey-processed Liberica beans (the beans usually reserved for our local kopi o) from Johor as well as local single-estate cocoa from Lee’s Cocoa at Tanjung Sepat.

Cream
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  • Coffeeshops
  • Petaling Jaya

Café and coffee roastery Cream is exactly what its name implies: a serene space, airy and light-filled, swathed in palettes of pale wood and off-whites. It’s almost too zen for a coffee roastery – but that’s only because all the action takes place in a room closed off behind the coffee counter, where the machine is located. Cream is an evolution of The Roast Things, one of the city’s earliest micro-roasters, founded and run by Chiam Tow Jin and Ving Lim. Ving, an expert at pourovers and siphon brewing, is the lead roaster while Jin is the resident cupper, buyer and certified coffee judge.

Like all specialty coffee roasters, the beans are roasted medium to medium-dark to avoid burning their natural flavours, a quality best sampled through Cream’s innovative way of serving filtered coffee. There will be two versions of your drink, hot and iced, and you’d be surprised how the temperature can highlight the different characteristics of the beans. It’s a testament to the roasters’ craft and skill that they’re able to bring out those nuanced flavours. Here at Cream, their roasts are a good balance of fruit acidity and sweetness.

For filtered coffee, you can choose from a selection of single-origin beans. Highlights include the Tanzania Kanji Lalji Peaberry, which has a dense body with hints of blackcurrant, and the Kirinyaga Kiangoi from Kenya, noted for its crisp acidity. While filtered coffee might take on an almost tea-like body, go for the espresso-based coffee if you prefer something more robust. Their coffee menu rotates, so do call ahead if you’re looking for that specific blend you’ve been hankering for.

Cream also serves cold brew coffee two ways – you can choose either black or milk-based brew. You’ll also find premium loose leaf tea (oolong, raw puer, puer and white tea), along with a small selection of cakes and sandwiches.

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Craft Origin
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  • TTDI

Craft Origin proudly displays its coffee roaster in a position of prominence in the café. There are two types of coffee served here: pour-over and espresso-based, with the blend for the former changing every week, and the blend for the latter every month. The espresso-based coffee blend is well balanced: bold without being too hard-hitting, with a little acidity to make it an all-round pleaser.

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