Malaysia in search of good Kopi
“Every ingredient is essential. Right from how you pour the water, what temperature is the water at, grind size of the beans….” Bright sunny Sunday morning and coffee! Oh, what a combination! Correction! Anyday paired with good coffee- oh what a combination!
I never miss a chance to learn about coffee. Here I was at yet another at-home-coffee-brewing session in namma Bengaluru. “Next one, baarbara estate. have a sip and share the tastin…” before the barista could complete his question. I blurted “Cocoa and almonds” he could tell I am one enthusiastic cutlet, in this case, an espresso shot!
India has a steaming coffee culture. But, my love for this mysterious drink developed on my trip to Vietnam. The Vietnamese method of brewing coffee using the fin filter intrigued me. The flavours were very different from my usual cappuccino from costa coffee (Yes, until 2014, that’s the only coffee I drank). A couple of days in Vietnam and I was legit overdosing on ca-phe. (Here is my blog on the coffee culture of Vietnam. Read up!) After which, I made it a point to try different brewing methods and roasts from wherever I travel.
So when I was travelling to Malaysia, It had to be no different. Our journey began in Kota Kinabalu from where we went on to Sandakan, Sepilok then over to Kuala Lumpur and Cameroon highlands. Well, if you thought remembering those names was challenging try ordering the right Kopi (Coffee) in Malaysia!
If you can tell the difference between Kopi-C and Kopi-O-kosong-gau- God bless you! But if you can’t, I am sure by the end of the blog you will be an expert at ordering coffee, at least in Malaysia.
“Ummm what’s the difference between Kopi-c and Kopi-o,” I asked the lady at one of the stalls at a food court. It was a simple set up, with a dozen of washed milk-shake glasses on the top shelf, 3 blenders on one of the sides. They had a life-sized menu card printed on either side of the stall, with photos of dishes clearly taken from the internet.
“It is coffee,” she said matter of factly. I tried again this time I spoke real slow with a crazy lot of hand gestures “I mean, how are they d-ee-ff-e-rent?”
“Kopi-peng nice!” her thumbs-up was not quiet reassuring, but I thought, why not! Let’s try it. And that kids, is how I met your.. had my first encounter with Malaysian coffee. Kopi-peng was 80% coffee, 20% condensed milk and ice cubes- sweeeeet heavens!
We were at Radha’s restaurant in Kota Kinabalu, after a long day of island hopping. Covered in sweat, sand and sweet memories “So I will have a Kopi-C. COLD!” I said, “No, that’s warm,” the waiter said with a what-a-noob look on his face! “But, I want it cold” “You want good coffee? Have it warm” aye aye captain, warm it is! Kopi-c was a steaming cup of brown liquid – coffee, evaporated milk and sugar.
Towards the last leg of our journey, we visited Kuala Lumpur, and we thought of trying out some third-wave speciality coffee. We head to the Sunday market – a place where you will find everything you need and more! Also, a great place to try some local fast food and sweets.
We passed stalls selling animals, souvenirs, dream catchers, bags, sweet treats some more dream catchers. Somewhere in that maze of all these “items”, we found a Kopitiam – coffee shop – with a bunch of old plastic furniture strewn around, the setup looked very 70s a rather unassuming shop. A big wooden signboard in Chinese and in Malay hung over it. We thought of spending some time here, before heading to the third-wave speciality cafe.
The shop is run by a woman (like many shops in south-east Asia, feminism to the win!) she took my order; Kopi-c-peng-kosong basically coffee evaporated milk with ice cubes.
A man next to our table was eating, what looked to me like, toast and jam. It looked appetising, and I couldn’t help but stare. “Have that?” said the owner pointing at the dish flashing a crooked smile. I gave a thumbs-up, till now Malays have not gone wrong in placing an order for me. I had a bite of the toasted bread with butter and kaya and the last sip of some good old Kopi. While the old uncles read newspaper and others play cards. Somehow they all know one another, looks like a regular hang-out spot.
It was a good idea not to try that speciality coffee. After all, every ingredient is essential. Right from the vibe of the place, the warmth of the waiters, the chatter of locals, the gratifying joy of feeling you belong here …”
I found this Kopi guide extremely helpful! Check it out.