Coffee consumption has become serious business in countries all over the world and Malaysia is no exception. The days of drinking cheap instant coffee simply to be able to get on with your day are firmly behind us. Coffee drinking is now much more of an experience and so it should be. With all of the work that goes into growing, roasting, pouring and serving your favourite espresso, mocha or flat white, we should all learn to appreciate modern-day coffee culture.
Malaysia has its very own coffee farms, however, for the most part, they grow the Robusta variety, which is typically grown at lower altitudes. In other countries, and at higher altitudes, Arabica coffee is usually found growing which to most coffee connoisseurs is the bean of choice. However, whether it’s local Robusta beans or internationally sourced Arabica coffee, Malaysian coffee culture has exploded in recent years with more independent coffee shops opening all the time, which are typically favoured by locals over the big chains.
Let’s take a quick look at the history of Malaysian coffee culture and how it has grown in the last number of years.
While nowadays, hip trendy coffee shops avail of coffee machine rental to get their shops set up with the latest and greatest equipment, this was not always the case. Long before the explosion of coffee culture as we know it today, Malaysia had its very own coffee shops known as “kopitiams”. Originating from the combination of two different words, “kopi”, the local word for coffee, and the Hakka or Hokkien word “tiam” which means shop, the term “Kopitiam” was born.
These simple coffee shops typically served the local Robusta coffee beans which are generally roasted with margarine or palm oil to be darker than most other beans. In existence since the beginning of the coffee trade in the region, Kopitiams have been at the forefront of the Malaysian coffee scene for hundreds of years and continue to be popular with locals.
Evolution Of Coffee Culture
In the last number of years, countless coffee shops have started popping up around Kuala Lumpur and the rest of the country. Inspired by the coffee culture of Melbourne, one of the great coffee capitals of the world, these new modern cafes have proved incredibly popular. The concept is originally thought to have been brought back to Malaysia by students who studied in Australia. However, the quick uptake is largely thought to be due to the large Italian population that call KL home.
Kuala Lumpur is home to the largest Italian population anywhere in the world, outside of Italy. Since the Italians are responsible for the invention of espresso, lattes, cappuccinos and other popular coffee-based drinks, it should come as no surprise that the local Italian population was quick to get excited about the new wave of coffee shops opening up around the country.
The Big Players
The big international coffee chains have been in Malaysia for more than two decades now. Starbucks opened its first store on December 17th 1998 in the KL Plaza. As of June 2020, there are a reported three hundred and sixteen stores nationwide, including the first Starbucks signing store in the world, which hires deaf baristas. The number of stores just goes to show how popular coffee drinking has become in Malaysia and with more Reserve stores that serve rarer beans and offer more brewing methods, opening all the time, it’s clear that coffee culture is continuing to boom in this corner of Southeast Asia.
Malaysian Coffee Culture Will Continue To Go From Strength To Strength
As coffee culture continues to grow in popularity in Malaysia, we can expect to see more independent coffee shops open around the country. For locals, the ex-pat population and tourists alike, this is an exciting time to be a coffee drinker in Malaysia.