October 27, 2014

The KL Cafe Crawl

I moved to Kuala Lumpur (KL) nearly five years ago and at the time, apart from a couple of Illy cafes, if you wanted a coffee and didn’t want the local Kopi, you had a choice of Starbucks or Gloria Jean’s!  

But over the past two years and in particular the last year, coffee has taken off in the Malaysian capital and also in places like Petaling Jaya and Georgetown in Penang. Coffee shops seem to be springing up all over the place.

More often than not, the reason for the high demand and interest in coffee is closely related to Malaysian students going to Australia to attend university. Some of these students find work in coffee shops on a part-time basis while they are studying, while others just enjoy sitting around in cafés chatting and drinking coffee and taking in the ambience.

I’m definitely not complaining, as the scene here is as if some of Australia’s best coffee shops have been picked up and dropped smack in the middle of KL, which suits me fine!

When these cafés started appearing a few years ago, the coffee quality was generally not of a high standard but with the help of some amazing baristas, including Jason Loo of Red Bean Bag in Publika, the standard is improving on a daily basis. Initially we were lucky to receive a blob of foam on the top of our latte, but now each and every coffee is being delivered with amazing latte art, which the Asian baristas really excel at.

There is now even a website called Café Hop KL, which promotes the independent coffee shops both in the city and out in the suburbs, including the details of the cafés around the area you are in. I checked it out the other day, and while I noticed a few of the newer ones in the area weren’t on the

site yet, there were still 129 cafés listed! This is pretty amazing compared to what we had just a few years ago.

The KL Café Crawl

Some of my favourites and others I have heard good things about.

Podgy and the Banker

The first café I popped into was Podgy and the Banker, Sri Hartamas. It is a decent size café with seating for around 30 people. The atmosphere is great, with large white washed tables, lots of glass and complemented with splashes of yellow.  Run by three guys, Adam, Neil and Daniel, the staff are always friendly and really keen to make everyone feel welcome. The coffee is excellent, and I must say that the cakes look and taste amazing!


Next stop was Feeka, Jalan Mesui, Bukit Bintang in KL city. We first visited this café after dinner one evening and were lucky to get a table, it was so busy. My friend recommended the affogato, and I was not disappointed. Not only was it a great shot of espresso, but also some pretty amazing vanilla ice cream topped with crumbled crunchy. Yum! I went back to Feeka a few days later, to meet the baristas when it wasn’t so busy and was welcomed by Joseph, who made me a very tasty coffee as we chatted.  He told me the café had been opened for eight months and that it was doing very well. The decor is hip, with buffed concrete walls, funky light bulbs and loads of seating both inside and out. Well presented latte art goes out on every coffee.

Red bean Bag

My next stop was to one of my absolute favourite cafés in KL, Red Bean Bag in Publika. The head barista, Jason Loo, is the 2013/14 Malaysian Barista Champion and not only does he pull a great shot, he is really passionate about coffee and he’s more than willing to help out others in the industry, particularly those just starting out. Not only does Red Bean Bag constantly produce great coffee, they also do great food. On a weekend for brunch there is a constant queue patiently waiting for a table.  They offer excellent service, fantastic food and amazing coffee – a winning combination. The café seats about 50 people inside and another 20 on the verandah. On a weekend they would turn the tables at least three times just for breakfast, which is pretty impressive. The menu is quirky, the decor interesting, and they always make you feel welcome.

The list goes on …

Some of the other great coffee shops in and around KL include:

Lucy in the Sky: Jalan Tun H.S. Lee, China Town KL. Great coffee, great location, fabulous food.

Antipodean: Bangsar, Mid Valley, Ampang and Penang. These cafés are run by a couple of New Zealanders, consistently good coffee, great food (including real bacon, that we miss out on in most of the cafés in Malaysia due to Halal requirements). They also roast their own coffee, which is used in their cafés, as well as sold retail through some of the supermarkets.

RAW: Jalan Ampang, opposite KLCC. Also roast their own coffee, which is first rate, and they serve delicious food specialising in raw ingredients. Their humos is amazing.

Plan B Roasters: These guys have coffee shops in BIG supermarket, Plan B restaurants and Bens, to name a few. Plan B also roast their own coffee and are pretty impressive all round.

Artisan Roast, located in both Bangsar Village II and TTDI and Thursdys in TTDI both have a great following and also come highly recommended.

With a new coffee shop opening every other week in KL, it looks like I might have to stay a while longer just to get around to sampling them all.

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