MELAKA: Over the past few decades, coffee culture in Malaysia has expanded its reach far and wide.
In fact, many Malaysians swear by the stuff, with their daily routine left in shambles if they don’t start with a good brew in the morning.
Here’s something surprising: did you know that each of the 13 states in the country has its unique take on coffee? As surprising as this sounds, most Malaysians are unaware of this.
Jonker Street is possibly Melaka’s most famous tourist attraction, with its many charming shops and stalls drawing folks from inside and outside the state, and even the country.
Located a stone’s throw away from the tourist trap is the Calanthe Art Café that more than lives up to its visual aesthetics.
However, what keeps customers coming here time and again is the unique coffee brews they serve from all over Malaysia.
Every state – from Perlis to Sabah and right down to Johor – is represented here, making it nothing short of an accomplishment.
But to whom shall the credit go? On some days, you might spot a spectacled gentleman sitting in the back of the café.
This is Joe Ng Kim Chew, self-professed coffee aficionado, who opened Calanthe back in 2005 as part of a personal passion project.
Speaking to FMT, Ng explained that his collection of 13 States’ Coffee was a long-time dream as a proud Malaysian coffee addict.
“One fine day, I got a fine idea. I wanted to compile the coffees of Malaysia’s 13 states, something which no one else has done before.”
Over time, he found coffee suppliers that best represented each state’s coffee culture.
Ng claimed that the differences in flavour and aroma between the states can sometimes be more obvious than that of different countries.
“Brazilian and Colombian coffee taste about the same, but our authentic Malaysian coffee is extremely different. After travelling here and there to look for more coffee, I discovered Malaysia has something very unique we can promote to the world.”
According to Ng, there are three major factors that make Malaysia’s 13 states’ coffees so different from each other.
The first is simply the kind of coffee beans used, with the three main varieties being Robusta, Arabica and Liberica.
Next, you have additional substances that are added to the coffee beans such as sesame seeds, salt and wheat.
Then there’s the roasting method. Some coffees derive their distinct flavours from the types of wood used as fuel for the fire.
The coffee from Perlis for instance has an herbal hint as it’s infused with tongkat ali. Coffee from Kedah however is a little sour while Penang’s is dark and bitter.
And Ipoh’s white coffee with its light hues and distinct aroma need no introduction. Down in Selangor, firewood is used in the roasting process, giving their coffee beans a somewhat smoky aroma.
What about Negeri Sembilan’s? Well, that’s anyone’s guess as the supplier refuses to divulge his trade secrets.
Melaka’s coffee beans are an equal mixture of Liberica and Robusta while Johor uses 100% Liberica for their coffee.
Ng, who owns a coffee plantation in Tampin, said Johor is among the world’s biggest producers of Liberica coffee beans.
In Pahang, sweet corn is added into the coffee while Terengganu is represented by Arabica coffee. Kelantanese coffee is distinct due to the use of rubberwood in the roasting process.
As for East Malaysia, Sarawakian coffee has wheat added into the mix, whereas Sabah’s Tenom coffee has a distinct bitter aftertaste.
And while you’re here enjoying a cuppa or two, why not sample Calanthe’s famous Laksa? It’s listed on Malaysia’s Top 50 Laksa by Grab!
Alternatively, try out the Claypot Asam Pedas Fish or Spiced Chicken; they’re both good options to go with a cup of strong brew.
Either way, Calanthe is the place to be if you want to learn all there is about Malaysia’s unique and wonderful coffee culture.
Calanthe Art Café
11, Jalan Hang Kasturi
Melaka Bandaraya Bersejarah
Business hours: 9.00am-10.30pm (closed on Thursdays)
Contact: 06-292 2960