Coffee News: from Seed to Cup

5 Specialty Coffee Shops to Visit in Kuala Lumpur

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Since 2013, Malaysia’s specialty coffee scene hasn’t just bloomed; it’s transformed our entire coffee culture.

We used to be a nation of Nescafe and Kopi-O drinkers, Kopi-O being a popular local coffee. Yet the formation of the Malaysian Specialty Coffee Association in 2012 heralded the rise of specialty cafés and micro-roasteries throughout the whole country. In January, Kuala Lumpur, our vibrant capital city, held the 2nd World Coffee Events sanctioned Malaysian Barista Championships, Malaysian Brewers Cups, and Malaysian Latte Art Championships in January; the category champions will continue to represent the country at the world stage in Dublin and Shanghai.

The rise of specialty ensures that anyone visiting a Malaysian city will be able to get their hands on some truly special coffee brewed by amazing people. But with so many choose to from, it can be hard to pick where to go. So read on for our carefully curated list of cafés that you should visit in Kuala Lumpur.

SEE ALSO: Top 5 Specialty Coffee Shops to Visit in Thailand

Why These Five?

The problem with writing a list of must-visit cafés is that everyone has an opinion as to which is the best, whether it is for the coffee, food, or general ambience. The cafés listed below are not necessarily Kuala Lumpur’s top five cafés. However, they are five fantastic cafés that are definitely worth a visit.

They are also five very different cafés, with each one representing a type of coffee house you’ll find in Kuala Lumpur. From the cafés run by specialty geeks to the specialty mall cafés (yes, they exist!), this list captures a large section of the landscape of Malaysian coffee houses.

1. The Champion’s Café: VCR Cafe

If a single place deserved accolades, it’s this gem of a café located on Jalan Galloway in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. It’s outstanding not only for its photogenic qualities, but also for its star line-up of baristas.

This year, three of their baristas placed highly in the Malaysian Barista Championships, Malaysian Brewers Cups and Malaysian Latte Art Championships. Keith Koay is the 2016 Malaysia Barista Champion, Jun Lim the 2016 Malaysian Brewers Cup 1st Runner-Up, and Jeffrey Tan the 2016 Malaysian Latte Art Championship 1st Runner-Up. And the café’s managing partner, Andrew Lee, is no novice himself – he served on the panel of Judges for the competitions.

This formidable set-up has made VCR Café a must-visit destination for any visitor to Kuala Lumpur. Quality is of paramount importance here; every shot is weighed before being pulled so as to ensure the highest consistency.

Recline back with a slice of cake or try out their brunch menu – but save plenty of room to sample their house and guest blends and single origins. And don’t hesitate to chat with the baristas, who would be more than happy to give you their expert recommendations.

VCR coffee shop in Kuala Lumpur

VCR coffee shop in Kuala Lumpur

The bar at VCR.

Where No.2 Jalan Galloway, (Off Jalan Pudu) Bukit Bintang, 50150 Kuala Lumpur
Style Independent café located in a row of terraced houses
Espresso Machine Synesso Hydra
Grinder Nuova Simonelli Mythos One
Coffee Offerings Espresso and filter options from various local roasters

V60, Kalita, AeroPress, and Chemex

Roaster N/A
Food Brunch and lunch menu available, with cakes and pastries
Retail Offerings Espresso-based drinks ranging between RM7-RM16, bottled sodas also available

2. The Old Guard: The Red Beanbag

Long before specialty coffee began trending in Malaysia, husband-and-wife team Yew Keong and Lee Hai Lin were already pushing the boundaries. They provided an Australian-inspired café experience which, over the years, has evolved into their own distinctive style. And today, they also have a second café: Yellow Brick Road.

Just like VCR Café, The Red Beanbag can boast of its big names. In this case, it’s Jason Loo, Malaysia’s first Barista Champion. He competed in the World Barista Championships 2015 in Seattle.

Red Beanbag coffee shop in Kuala Lumpur

Run by a husband-and-wife team: The Red Beanbag.

Yew Keong and Lee Hai Lin don’t do anything by halves. In addition to their excellent coffee, they also offer customers their own range of artisan juices, Smooshies. These have become so popular that they are available, not just in The Red Beanbag and Yellow Brick Road, but in many other cafés across the country.  

The Red Beanbag has a wickedly talented kitchen crew and an amazing team of passionate baristas. Drop by for lunch, sample their range of homemade cakes and desserts, and let the baristas craft you a cup of coffee which is sure to leave you smiling.

Red Beanbag coffee shop in Kuala Lumpur

Baristas working hard to bring you that great coffee experience.

Where A4-1-08, Solaris Dutamas (access through Publika), Jalan Dutamas 1, 50480 Kuala Lumpur
Style Independent café located in a row of terraced houses
Espresso Machine Nuova Simonelli Aurelia
Grinder Nuova Simonelli Mythos One
Coffee Offerings Espresso blend by Grand Central, Australia and filter by various local roasters

V60 available

Roaster N/A
Food Brunch and lunch menu available, with cakes and pastries
Retail Offerings Espresso-based drinks ranging between RM7-RM16, bottled juice available 

3. The New Kid on the Block: New Chapter by The Owl’s Café

This category celebrates Kuala Lumpur’s new cafés, and this one really is new. Thomas Ooi and partners only opened New Chapter by The Owl’s Café at the end of January – yet it has proven to be an instant hit.

The Owl’s Café, however, has been in existence for a bit longer. The hardworking people behind it developed a reputation for outstanding coffees and equally outstanding waffles, as well as for actively engaging with the local community. This combination left the café crazily busy.

New Chapter coffee shop in Kuala Lumpur

The Owl’s Café decided to expand – and opened a New Chapter in Kuala Lumpur’s specialty coffee history.

Now they’ve opened a second, much larger and brighter, location just a three-minute drive up the road. It’s located at the back of the Calvary Convention Centre mega-church in the suburb of Bukit Jalil, yet all will be made to feel welcome, irrespective of their race, creed, or religion.

The team have also taken the jump into roasting; you’ll be able to try both their espresso blends and single origins in New Chapter. They’re also retaining their signature waffles, which have become a cornerstone of their brand. With their incredibly friendly and tenacious team working behind the bar, I’m certain that their success will continue for many years to come.

New Chapter coffee shop in Kuala Lumpur

Inside New Chapter, where all your coffee cravings and waffle dreams will come true.

Where Calvary Convention Centre, Jalan Jalil Perkasa 1, Bukit Jalil, 57000 Kuala Lumpur
Style Independent café at the back of the building. Collect a pass from security.
Espresso Machine Kees van der Westen Spirit Duette
Grinder Nuova Simonelli Mythos One
Coffee Offerings Espresso blend and single origin, both roasted in-house  

V60

Roaster Giesen W6
Food Waffles, lunch menu available soon
Retail Offerings Espresso-based drinks ranging between RM7-RM16, bottled sodas also available

4. The Specialty Geeks: The HUB

In the quiet neighbourhood of Overseas Union Garden, husband-and-wife team Nicholas and Yuki Tay strive towards perfection. They have dedicated themselves to an understanding of roasting precision and to brewing with some of the world’s finest offerings. In fact, Nicholas is not only a micro-roaster but also a certified Specialty Coffee Association of Europe Authorised Trainer (AST).

Every coffee made here is an act of love. The shots is weighed and ground in one of three Mahlkönig EK-43 grinders, produced in their Sanremo Opera machine (which was personally autographed by 2015 World Barista Champion Sasa Sestic), and brewed to perfection.

The HUB coffee shop in Kuala Lumpur

Yes, you’ve seen this right. All the roasting magic is worked on this pink Diedrich roaster.

The HUB also has what is perhaps the most extensive selection of Ninety-Plus coffees in the country, all roasted in-house by Nicholas himself. Each filter brew has its TDS recorded and assessed by the barista before being served in an elegant English porcelain teacup (you weren’t expecting that bit, were you?). Alternatively, you could grab a bag to take home and brew it yourself.

The HUB coffee shop in Kuala Lumpur

Also run by a couple, the HUB offers and incredible selection of coffees which are hand-brewed in the shop.

Self-professed coffee geeks, you have to visit this place. Not only is the coffee excellent, but you can geek out to your heart’s content in conversation with the Tays.

Where 61, Jalan Hujan Rahmat 3, Taman Overseas Union, 58200 Kuala Lumpur
Style Independent café located in a row of terraced houses
Espresso Machine Sanremo Opera
Grinder Mahlkönig EK-43
Coffee Offerings Espresso and filter coffee, all roasted in-house

V60, Chemex, Clever, and AeroPress

Roaster Diedrich
Food Brunch and lunch menu available, with hot food, cakes, pastries, and waffles
Retail Offerings Espresso-based drinks ranging between RM7-RM16, bottled cold-pressed juice available. 

5. The Mall Café: Infusion Specialty Coffee Co.

The phrase “mall cafés” normally call to mind places like Starbucks. This is particularly true when the café in question is an island kiosk with bright orange signs. Yet don’t let that stop you from visiting Infusion Specialty Coffee Co.

This particular café is located in the largest shopping centre in Malaysia: 1 Utama Shopping Centre in Petaling Jaya. It’s a departure from the typical Malaysian specialty café, which you might expect to have a more rustic décor and to be tucked away somewhere less commercial.

Infusion coffee shop in Kuala Lumpur

Although a shopping mall isn’t the most obvious place to find specialty coffee, Infusion successfully tackles this notion.

Yet co-owners Douglas Tan, a 2015 Malaysia Brewers Cup Top 6 Competitor, and Terence Tong, a 2016 Malaysia Brewers Cup Sensory Judge, form a formidable specialty team. They offer up their own blend of coffee, “Symphony”, containing specialty-grade Robusta, as well as a constantly changing selection of filter coffees. And as a result, Infusion Specialty Coffee Co. has developed a loyal and well-deserved following; hoards of regulars line up every day for their caffeine fix.

Visitors who come to shop (one of Malaysia’s favourite pastimes) will find this to be the perfect place to relax with a great cup of coffee in the hustle and bustle of the mall. You can even bring any blasphemous friends who “don’t like coffee” since their range of premium hot chocolates is superb – as are their truly delicious cakes, sandwiches, and handmade macarons.

Infusion coffee shop in Kuala Lumpur

Enjoying a great cup of coffee while taking a break from shopping? Sounds great to me!

Where Lot SK-108, 1 Utama Shopping Centre (Old Wing), Bandar Utama, 48700 Petaling Jaya
Style Independent café located inside the shopping centre
Espresso Machine Wega Concept
Grinder Fiorenzato F64 Evo
Coffee Offerings Custom espresso blend by Coffex Coffee, filter by various local and overseas roasters

V60, Clever, Chemex, and AeroPress

Roaster N/A
Food Brunch and lunch menu available, with cakes, macarons, empenadas, and sandwiches  
Retail Offerings Espresso-based drinks ranging between RM8.50-RM18, bottled juice available

Kuala Lumpur has an excellent range of specialty coffee shops. You’re sure to find something you love in all of these five cafés, but don’t just stop there. Treat this list as a springboard for your exploration of the city’s coffee culture – and let us know what you find!

Written by D. Townsend and edited by T. Newton.

Perfect Daily Grind.

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