Young coffee shop entrepreneurs in Johor Bahru are taking artisan coffee connoisseurship to new levels
It’s not just Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Malacca that are full-swing in the coffee and café scene – head south to Johor Bahru and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the steady stream of café culture fueled by a group of devoted entrepreneurs who know their way around coffee beans.
Here are three establishments worth checking out:
Sweet Blossom Coffee Roasters, Taman Pelangi
Back in October 2014, partners Ang Yeesiang and Stella Teo opened up a (really) small café that was tucked away in the back half of the second floor of an art gallery. Behind a solid door and with only three tables for patrons, it was like a tiny secret underground hangout place. Don’t be fooled by the makeshift-like setup, though. Ang has real passion for coffee-making and is very enthusiastic about serving simple yet very good quality coffee. This was apparent for a regular customer who has become their investor, which led to the two moving their operations to a roomier, less-clandestine spot, and attracting more customers with their coffee and cakes.
Nowadays, you can find And and Teo running Sweet Blossom Coffee Roasters, located in Taman Pelangi, in a cosy part near a boutique, a hair salon and a Malaysian-Western fusion restaurant, where like-minded entrepreneurs support each other. However, while the location has changed, the couple’s coffee concept is still the same. They endeavour to serve the best quality coffee by ensuring that a certain standard is met at every stage – from the coffee farm to its coffee bean pickers, to roasters and baristas, until the final product reaches the drinker. They have their coffee roasted in Singapore, by a company that helps oversee and maintain good relationships with the micro farmers that provide the beans.
When they first opened Art 52, one of the reasons for setting up in JB was because “we couldn’t find the coffee we like in JB.” Now, their coffee at Sweet Blossom Coffee Roasters are the ones JB coffee-lovers like.
Just Want Coffee: Factory 30, Taman Mount Austin
If you ever needed a really cool industrial-like space as the backdrop for a photo shoot but without the grease and grit of a real factory, come to Factory 30, part of the Just Want Coffee chain of concept coffee shops. Although most people come for the really good coffee. And don’t let the word “chain” sway you, they’re all owned by the same people who started the first café with a real passion for brewing and sharing great coffee. The story goes that the founder, Nelson, used to roast his own coffee at 300 grams per batch in his kitchen when he first started Just Want Coffee. Going from strength to strength, he later had to buy another coffee roaster that could do 3kg per batch before switching to a 12kg roaster to keep up with demands.
Now, everything is done here, including roasting and cupping, which is the tasting of different brewed coffees. Cool fact: Factory 30 is also an academic centre, where they are authorised to run diploma courses in Specialty Coffee, accredited by the Specialty Coffee Association of America.
Recently, two of Just Want Coffee’s brewers, Chris Wong and Lucas Eng Boon Hong became Malaysia Brewer’s Cup Champion and Malaysia Latte Art Champion, defeating over 90 participants, in January. They will soon represent Malaysia in the 2016 World Brewers Cup Championship in Dublin, Ireland and the 2016 World Latte Art Championship in Shanghai, China. If this is not proof of how excellent Just Want Coffee’s coffees are, we’re not sure what is.
In Johor Bahru but not heading anywhere near Mount Austin, other JWC cafes can also be found in Taman Molek, where the café is known as Homies; there’s Headmost in SunCity, Taman Pelangi; Ink Brew on Jalan Trus and JWC Sutera in Sutera, Skudai. So what should you get at Factory 30? Their JWC Cold Brew is really popular. It consists of their house blend, which mixes a few beans, mixed with milk and espresso and chilled for 48 hours. JWC are often trying out new coffee recipes, though, so you might just find something new and interesting to try on your visit.
My Liberica, Taman Molek
The four brothers who opened My Liberica have a mission to fulfil with their coffee shop venture. And it wasn’t just to become ready customers for their father’s coffee farm. Rather, these enterprising siblings want to promote our local Malaysian coffee to an international level. They hope to elevate the status of Malaysian coffee inline with other specialty coffees, which in turn will encourage farmers to plant more coffee plants and export the beans. They acknowledge that it is a long and arduous process, but they seem to be making inroads. For example, they have noticed that since they acquired their own processing meal, the quality of coffee they produce with beans from their father’s farm were better.
That is not to say that their coffee is below par, for they do have a good number of regulars, some even coming in up to 3 times a day. Their most popular orders here are for the cappucino followed by their latte, made with their own Liberica single origin coffee. Meanwhile, iced latte is a favourite with the younger crowd. For a more interesting experience, you might want to try the rose latte or the civet or luwak coffee, which is seasonal as the beans are from civets that roam freely in the farm so supply is limited depending on how much of the beans they can find (read: animal friendly!).
And if you’re not a coffee drinker, you might still find your cup of tea in the café’s relaxed setting reminiscent of simple Korean cafes, literally. My Liberica strives to offer innovative products to keep their offerings exciting, and one of these is their coffee cherry tea, made from the skin of the coffee cherry with ice that is also made from the same ingredient. Hence, no dilution of taste when the ice melts. Meanwhile, matcha latte made with matcha powder from Japan is another option for customers not into caffeine.