Kuala Lumpur had a bad case of the caffeine jitters earlier this year. Three days of it, to be precise. Malaysia’s 2nd Cafe Malaysia exposition was held at the MATRADE Exhibition Centre from January 14 to 16, 2016. This three-day long exhibition showcased an international, regional, and local cadre of coffee industry equipment, supplies, and technology experts, gathering a total of 102 exhibitors from 13 different countries. Its halls and exhibits were visited by over 10,000 traders and public guests.
Malaysia in general, and Kuala Lumpur in particular, has a growing coffee/café culture and is cultivating a varied and refined taste for the aromatic beverage. It was lovely to see a healthy number of local roasters showcasing a variety of specialty coffees, originating from usual suspects such as Indonesia and Vietnam, to the more far-reaching such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Jamaica, Colombia as well as other Central and South American producers.
Cafe Malaysia included big industry name coffee companies with equally big exhibits and tempting swag, but our attention focused on the small mom-and-pop shops that bring a unique flair to artisanal coffee preparation in Malaysia. We were happy to find many in the industry using environmentally-friendly methods, minimizing our carbon footprint in the pursuit of caffeinated pleasure. Many cold-drip and hand-pour techniques were exhibited, as well as traditional crafting techniques. A wide variety of artisanally-roasted coffee from a very diverse range of coffee producers, technical expertise, as well as traditional espresso-based beverages.
Examples of such local but significant companies exhibiting at Cafe Malaysia that stood out were:
Lighthouse: Originally from Penang, Lighthouse offers freshly roasted coffees from single origins or premium blends from around the world. Although no longer running its Penang coffee house, Lighthouse is also a purveyor of espresso machines and equipment and advanced barista training. Aside from their mouth-watering beverages, one highlight of their large exhibit was a functioning gorgeous vintage brass espresso machine. www.lighthouse-coffee.com.my/
Aitch Roasters: The relatively new Aitch Roasters delivered an edgy, modern twist relative to the other more austere exhibits. They provided a lab-like setting to try their coffee beverages, accompanied by techno music coming from a DJ’ed turntable on the exhibit. Additionally, they served a wicked, buttery Guatemalan/Colombian blend flat white that I can still taste in my mouth. www.facebook.com/aitchcoffee/
Artisan Roastery: A more established, local company, Artisan Roastery not only delves into the world of coffee roasting and crafting (Artisan Roast), it also produces chocolate (Seniman Chocolate) and nitro kopi (Stone Cold Brewing), all of which we sampled at their exhibit booth. Suffice it to say, it has become a key supplier of premium coffees to many popular cafes throughout Kuala Lumpur, including their own Artisan Roast Coffee. www.artisanroast.com.my/locations/
Three Bears Dutch Coffee (3B Inc.): Will Jung, a Korean coffee enthusiast, is an independent roaster who early on identified the gap in extensive coffee bean selections in Malaysia. Since then, he selects to work with premium beans from all over the globe, including the exclusive Panama Geisha bean from the esteemed Hacienda Esmeralda. As part of his exhibit, he used his coffee beans on different paraphernalia, including ice drips, hand drips, and, especially, the Dutch coffee process. www.facebook.com/threebearsdutchcoffee
Concurrently, and in parallel to the exhibits offered by the Malaysian coffee industry players, there were events to crown the top coffee makers and crafters in the country: the Malaysian Barista Championship, Malaysia Latte Art Championship and Malaysia Brewer Cup.
The Cafe Malaysia event is still rather nascent, but seeing how it is only in its second year, it seems clear it will continue growing as the demand and interest in this emergent industry is evident. Not only targeted for the industry big shots, it is definitely an event for fledgling start-ups and coffee enthusiasts alike to participate in. Given that it is open to the public, I encourage fellow coffee drinkers to attend and learn about this delicious craft. I know I left understanding loads more about coffee roasting, preparation, as well as the options available as a coffee consumer in Malaysia. And I will make more of an effort to support local mom and pop-run cafes from now on, one delectable sip at a time.