You may know about the best places in town for coffee, but what about local roasters? Get to know the city's new generation of specialty coffee roasters that are breaking new grounds.
Filter coffee bar The Hub may seem like your usual neighbourhood café, patronised by families and yuppies hunched over their laptops. But the pink micro roaster at the shopfront hints at a slightly more serious pursuit – husband-and-wife team Nicholas Tay and Yuki roasts their own beans, and uses at least 41 bean varieties (from Thailand, Indonesia, Congo, Tanzania, Colombia, Yemen and more) for their filtered coffee; ten more varieties are sourced from Miami boutique coffee producer Ninety Plus and its offshoot Levelup Taste Profiles by Ninety Plus. Fun fact: Ninety Plus owns coffee estates in Panama and recruits some of the best baristas in the world to create rare blends, which have won awards globally.
Photo: Stacy Liu
The Hub is simple: the decor boasts narrow interiors, wooden tables, framed eggshell boxes, with natural light pouring in through the skylight. If you ever drop by, we recommend the caramel-hued Ethiopia Lomi Tasha. Served in a small jug, delicate floral notes with a hint of black tea emanate from the light brew. You can pair it with their cakes or a light brunch, but we say go straight for the filtered and ice drip coffee.
Collective roasts and supplies specialty coffee beans to some of the city’s top cafés: Their Ratawali beans from Sumatra, with distinct dark chocolate notes and honey-like sweetness, are popular among cafés to use in espresso drinks. If you manage to locate this boutique roaster, hidden in the labyrinth of industrial warehouses in Section 19, we highly recommend the Cambara from Brazil for its almond notes and vanilla aftertaste, or the Ethiopian Mormora with its creamy body, berry notes and clean finish.
Photo: Daniel Chan
What really stood out for us, besides its lofty warehouse space, is that Collective goes beyond just roasting coffee and pulling shots. Its founders, Barrie Nasim and Hashraf Hashim, are regular figures in the coffee industry: Barrie founded Bellboys Coffee Crafters in London while Hashraf is a director at Mollydooker’s Coffee Bar. Zulkefle Yup, a roaster at Coffee Collective, also founded Brew Platform, a community of coffee traders, roasters and baristas that aims to promote our local coffee culture and elevate the skills and knowledge of everyone involved. Together, they organise latte art throwdowns and coffee brewing workshops that sometimes travel to other cafés in the Klang Valley and beyond.
Onsite at Collective, watch out for their twice-monthly cupping sessions. You’ll be tasting four to six beans, but more importantly, these sessions are a sensory experience that will also help you develop your tasting skills and palate – perfect for coffee novices.
Tunku Hadi, the founder and master barista at Aitch micro roaster, strongly believes that a good cup of coffee starts right at the beginning – the farms. As such, he gets his green beans from a reputable supplier in Sydney who educates and works directly with the farmers to not just improve their quality of life but also the quality of the crop. With these specialty beans, Hadi experiments with every batch to discover new blends and roasts. He now supplies to some of KL’s most popular cafés, namely Thursdvys, Sudo Brew and Yellow Brick Road. Moving forward, he’s considering going all molecular on coffee, fuelled by his fascination of how different types of water can affect the taste of coffee.
Tucked away in a nondescript shophouse in Mutiara Damansara, Aitch has a casual, lab-like vibe. The roaster sits in one corner, operating three times a week; the huge coffee counter is the focal point, placed at the front of the shop next to a small vinyl collection; there’s a temperature- and humidity-controlled room at the back, where the beans are stored. Aitch is also a gallery of sorts; it has hosted several small, indie art and design events in the past.
For coffee, we suggest the clean-tasting Ethiopian Adado (if available) – better yet, inform the barista about your preference (fruity, floral, dark and chocolatey, etc) and go with their recommendation. It’ll be a great education process. You’d also be glad to know that Aitch plans to organise public cupping sessions in the near future.
After a year of brewing coffee by the roadside and roasting coffee at home, Cheau See and Chun Hoong finally opened Seraph Awaken early last year. 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.
Photo: Joyce Koh
Now that they have a space to call their own, Cheau See and Chun Hoong have moved their roasting operations to the café. 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.
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 pour overs and siphon brewing, is the lead roaster while Jin is the resident cupper, buyer and a 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 Awesome 2 espresso blend (a mix of Brazilian and Colombian beans) is one of their top sellers, which they supply to other cafés.
Cream also serves cold brew coffee two ways – you can choose either black or the milk-based brew. You’ll also find premium loose leaf tea from Yunnan (oolong, raw pu er, pu er and white tea), along with a small selection of cakes and sandwiches.