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Cover Story: Waking Up to Ipoh Coffee

By Tan Mei Kuan, Ili Aqilah Yus Amirul and Joshua Jacob

Ipoh was recently listed as Asia’s top three best coffee cities, together with Chiang Mai and Tokyo, by the world’s largest travel guidebook publisher, Lonely Planet. In view of that, Ipoh Echo spoke to various all-time favourite coffee spots, both old and new, to find out their respective interpretations of our iconic Ipoh coffee.

Coffee – From Ipoh’s Best Kept Secret to Global Fame

Chang Jiang White Coffee (signature outlet)

Ipoh Echo spoke to husband and wife duo, Kong Kin Loong and Foong Choa Mun who run Chang Jiang White Coffee signature outlet.

Kong grew up helping out in his father’s coffee shop named Chang Jiang Coffee Shop back in the 70s along Jalan Pasir Putih, Ipoh. Then, the family moved on to become a coffee bean supplier to coffee shops, cafes and kopitiams before establishing this signature outlet in 2015.

“Chang Jiang refers to a river in China besides Jiang being a homonym of Kong’s surname. We obtain our coffee beans from Klang (Liberica) then mix it with beans from Indonesia (Robusta) and Vietnam (Arabica). It is added with margarine then later a little sugar and salt to balance the acidity of the coffee accordingly,” Foong, general manager, explained.

“To make aromatic white coffee, the water temperature must be 100 degree Celsius. It should be aromatic yet won’t tire out the palate, smooth and with a bit of fragrant aftertaste. The layer of foam is created to increase the smoothness and thickness,” Kong, director, enthused.

“We want our signature outlet to have a homely and comfy atmosphere akin to going back to your grandparent’s place,” Foong said.

The amiable duo highlighted that they offer free-of-charge training for those interested to learn to make white coffee, especially aspiring cafe/coffee shop owners. “Besides making new friends, we can promote quality white coffee as we do not want the traditional art to disappear. We have educated and shared knowledge with people from as far as Taiwan and China,” she added.

Their white coffee (with condensed milk and evaporated milk) is priced at RM4.20 (hot) and RM4.50 (cold) per cup.

Meanwhile, pre-packed 3-in-1 white coffee (40g x 15 sachets) is available at the outlet at RM15 per pack as the ideal souvenir. It is also on sale in convenience stores and herbal shops.

The signature outlet is located at No. 7 Jalan Windsor, 30250 Ipoh. It is pork free and opens every day from 8am to 6pm except during Chinese New Year week.

Check out their Facebook page (Chang Jiang White Coffee) or call 05 253 8896. For inquiries on training, call 05 3232 702.

Yee Kong Coffee & Food Manufacturing Sdn Bhd

Established since 1974, Yee Kong Coffee & Food Manufacturing Sdn Bhd is an iconic spot at Pasar Besar Ipoh (central market) selling various coffee beans for brewing.

An employee would scoop the beans out of tins according to your preference and then blend the coffee mixture on the spot before sealing it in a bag. Using the sea lion as a brand/symbol, the white coffee (Liberica) is sold at RM20 (1kg) and RM10 (half kg).

“For white coffee, the beans are roasted with margarine while for black coffee, the beans are roasted with sugar. White coffee is lighter in both colour and taste than the black one. Some customers request us to prepare a mixture of both beans for them to brew at home. We source our white coffee beans from Ipoh and roast it in-house in our factory in Pusing. Many coffee shops get their beans from us,” Tan Pit Tiew, an employee at Yee Kong told Ipoh Echo.

“Usually university students and office workers would buy the pre-packed, instant ones as it does not require filtering the coffee grounds during brewing,” Tan stated. Instant 3-in-1 packs (15 sachets x 40g) are available at RM13 each.

Located at C60 & C61, Pasar Besar, Jalan Laxamana, 30300 Ipoh, it opens from 8am to 4pm (closed on Monday). Readers can call 05 253 2442.

Sun Taii Heng

Sun Taii Heng is a name known by most Ipohites. The well-known coffee shop has been operating for over 30 years attracting customers with their rich and mouth-watering white coffee.

Current owner, Peggy Hooi has been running the place for seven years after taking over from her mother. She takes much pride in carrying the family business which was started by her grandmother.

“Some coffees can be too sweet, while some might be too bitter. That is why Ipoh white coffee is loved by all coffee-lovers. It has the perfect balance between sweet and bitter,” said Peggy.

However, a lot of work goes into preparing a delicious cup of coffee. It is not as simple as pouring hot water into a cup of coffee powder.

“The key is to tarik (pull) the coffee. A longer tarik (pull) gives a smoother coffee. You also have to look out for the colour of the coffee. The colour has to be light,” she emphasised as she demonstrated how she prepares her aromatic coffee. Available for an incredibly reasonable price of RM1.90, it is no surprise that customers flock here for their morning ‘cuppa’. Head over to Sun Taii Heng located at No. 11 Jalan Dato Onn Jaafar, Kampung Jawa, to get your coffee!

22 Hale Street

22 Hale Street opened in September 2017. Despite its late entry, the eatery has been a hotspot not only for its admirable collection of antiques, its large selection of lovely handicrafts made by persons with disabilities from Persatuan Daybreak but also for its tasty variety of food.

According to the project executive of 22 Hale Street, Lim Yi Wen, there is one item that is a must on the menu – that is the famous Ipoh white coffee. “Go anywhere in Malaysia and you will not find coffee made like Ipoh’s. It’s a very local brew as it was originally made to suit the palate of Chinese migrants and tin miners in Ipoh,” she enthused.

When asked about what makes Ipoh white coffee different from the others, Yi Wen said that it is because Ipoh white coffee is not too bitter or acidic. “Ipoh white coffee is roasted with margarine only, giving it a lighter colour and a caramelised flavour. With so many white coffee connoisseurs in Ipoh, we ensure that every cup of coffee, hot or cold, with or without milk is consistently rich and tasty at 22 Hale Street,” she said.

Prepared with the old-fashioned coffee “sock” strainer, a delectable cup of Ipoh White Coffee is available for prices ranging from RM3.80 to RM4.50. While there, do sample their local fare and of course the iconic kaya toast. Those interested can head over to the eatery at No. 22 Jalan Tun Sambanthan or contact them at 05 241 3991.

Sin Yoon Loong

Nestled at Ipoh’s Little India, Sin Yoon Loong is definitely one of the must-go places for a good, thick and creamy cup of Ipoh white coffee. The coffee shop was founded back in 1937 and until today it is packed with customers from various generations.

With over 70 years of experience in serving the coffee, the shop was open by two brothers, Wong Poh Chew and Wong Poh Ting. Wong Poh Chew used to be a chef for a British man in a restaurant and after a few years of hard-earned experience and saving, the man opened his own coffee shop. At Sin Yoon Loong, you can have the coffee either hot or cold.

“Many of the customers here prefer to have our coffee hot but we can see the youngsters prefer iced coffee. Either way, the taste remains the best!” said Wong Ming, the current caretaker at Sin Yoon Loong.

At the coffee shop, locals and visitors can enjoy a cup of good Ipoh white coffee with the classic kaya (coconut jam) and butter toast, at RM2 per plate or toast with soft boiled eggs at RM4 per plate. The hot coffee goes for RM1.90 a cup and iced coffee is RM2.10 a glass.

Readers can also purchase their instant coffee, My Cofe that comes in three different flavours; Classic, Tradition and Heritage at RM13.50 (12 sticks per pack) available at the coffee shop.

Sin Yoon Loong is located at No. 15A Jalan Bandar Timah, 30000 Ipoh. It opens every day from 6.30am to 5pm and only closes for two days in a month.

Nam Heong

Another must-go for Ipoh white coffee is none other than Nam Heong. While there are many Nam Heong outlets across Malaysia like in Subang, Damansara, Bukit Bintang and Ipoh Soho at Jalan Sultan Iskandar Shah, the first shop is located at Jalan Bandar Timah where it has been operating for more than 60 years.

Similar to other coffee shops, you can get their version of Ipoh white coffee in both hot (RM1.90) and iced (RM2.20). What’s special about having coffee at Nam Heong is instead of pairing it with the usual kaya (coconut jam) and butter toast, you are advised to try their classic egg tarts.

“A good cup of Ipoh white coffee should be smooth but customers can request for their drinks to be bitter or sweet,” said Siew Mee Sheng, the person-in-charge of the coffee shop.

Aside from their signature egg tarts, you can also get other meals such as char kuey teow (stir fried noodle dish), assorted noodles and also mixed rice.

The coffee shop opens every day from 6am till 5pm and only closes two days in a month. Nam Heong is located at No. 2 Jalan Bandar Timah, 30000 Ipoh.

Conclusion

With all the history of these various outlets behind it, is it any wonder that Ipoh coffee is making its presence felt globally.

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Tan Mei Kuan

Tan Mei Kuan graduated with first-class honours and book prize from University of Malaya majoring in languages and linguistics (English). She is proficient in both written and spoken English and Malay. She is also conversant in Mandarin and has knowledge of Japanese and Korean languages. Mei Kuan has been on the Dean’s List for three years running. Having written for the campus newspaper and residential college magazine, joining Ipoh Echo has helped utilise her writing and language skills. In her spare time she enjoys running (races).

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