Why Ipoh white coffee was listed as one of the world's best coffee drinks


Ipoh White Coffee was recently ranked 10th in the list of Top 39 Coffees in the World by TasteAtlas. — Photos: Bernama

It is no secret that Malaysia’s popular breakfast staples such as roti canai and nasi lemak have garnered international acclaim, solidifying the nation’s reputation as a food paradise.

In fact, nasi lemak has even caught the attention of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which featured our "national dish of Malaysia” on its World Factbook page on Facebook on April 20.

In March, another local favourite, Ipoh white coffee, found its way into the list of elite foods and beverages. It was ranked 10th in the list of Top 39 Coffees in the World by TasteAtlas, an online ‘encyclopaedia’ of flavours and a world atlas of traditional dishes, local ingredients and authentic restaurants.

The ranking succeeded in placing the city of Ipoh on the global coffee lovers’ map.

Freshly roasted coffee beans at the Chang Jiang coffee factory.Freshly roasted coffee beans at the Chang Jiang coffee factory.

White coffee manufacturers are, of course, over the moon about the international recognition accorded to the beverage that originated in Ipoh.

One of the earliest producers of Ipoh white coffee Chang Jiang International Sdn Bhd’s operations can be traced back to 1988.

Its managing director Kong Kin Loong said at that time, he and his father Kong Wing Kheong tried to introduce white coffee associated with the Chinese from China’s Hainan province in their coffee shop Kedai Kopi Chang Jiang at Jalan Pasir Puteh here.

"(Before that) I researched its history and found that in order to make the coffee creamier and more caramelised, the coffee beans need to be roasted with margarine," he said when interviewed by Bernama recently.

Kin Loong, 47, said to make the beverage tastier, he also experimented by adding a bit of margarine, condensed milk and evaporated milk into the coffee when it was being brewed. Just before serving, the coffee was "pulled” to make it frothy. "Pulling” is a technique where a beverage is poured back and forth from one container into another several times.

"The resulting coffee was noticeably more delicious and had a creamy and slightly salty taste to it,” he said, adding their very first white coffee product was eventually developed based on the feedback from their customers.

A worker at Chang Jiang International processing coffee beans at the company's factory in Ipoh.A worker at Chang Jiang International processing coffee beans at the company's factory in Ipoh.

He said in the early days of learning to make white coffee, among the complaints he would receive were the beverage was not strong enough ("tak kaw”) or was too milky or did not have enough coffee powder.

According to Kin Loong, to make a cup of authentic creamy and slightly salty white coffee, besides using margarine-roasted coffee beans, it is also crucial to get the proportions of condensed milk and evaporated milk, and the water temperature, right.

"Not many people may know this but white coffee can also be enjoyed without adding any milk,” he added.

The unique taste of the white coffee served at Chang Jiang coffee shop was well-received by customers. To meet the hike in demand, Kin Loong opened a factory in 1990 to produce white coffee powder bearing the Chang Jiang Ipoh White Coffee trademark, named after China’s longest river Yangtze.

"Among the people of China, the Yangtze River is also known as Chang Jiang,” Kin Loong said.

A worker at Chang Jiang International Sdn Bhd, processing the freshly roasted coffee beans.A worker at Chang Jiang International Sdn Bhd, processing the freshly roasted coffee beans.

His factory, which has 200 workers, specialises in producing ready-to-brew white coffee powder and other coffee products, with the coffee beans sourced from Indonesia and Vietnam as well as locally,

"I made many improvements to the original (white coffee) recipe to ensure our customers can enjoy the best taste of white coffee,” he pointed out.

Does he have a secret ingredient for his brand of white coffee? None, declared Kin Loong.

"Our blend of coffee beans is mixed with margarine, sugar and salt, then roasted. There is no secret ingredient because the distinct taste of our coffee powder lies in the technique and proportions of ingredients we use during brewing,” he said.

Kin Loong also said his company is not afraid of competition and willingly shares information about their products with entrepreneurs wishing to open cafes or coffee shops.

"Any recipe for a delicious product must be shared so that people can taste it.

"They (competitors) are not a threat to us because we are the creators (of white coffee),” said Foong Choa Mun, who is Kin Loong’s wife and also chief executive officer of Chang Jiang International Sdn Bhd.

Freshly roasted beans at the Chang Jiang factory.Freshly roasted beans at the Chang Jiang factory.

She said their company accounts for 80 percent of the coffee powder supplied to retailers in Ipoh, adding there are cafes nationwide using their white coffee brand.

"There are also cafes overseas including in Los Angeles (in the United States) using our coffee,” she added.

She said their coffee products have penetrated markets in Indonesia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Australia, the United States, Canada and England, with their annual export value estimated at RM5mil.

Foong, 46, said the company has also ventured into the café business – its Kafe Chang Jiang Ipoh White Coffee now has four outlets in this city.

"We opened the cafés in appreciation of our customers who have been with us for a long time and to cater to coffee enthusiasts who enjoy freshly brewed coffee at the shop. I am delighted because our cafés are patronised by people of various races who want to enjoy the best white coffee that has become the identity of the city of Ipoh,” she said.

She said the company is also committed to serving their Muslim customers better, adding their café in People’s Park here has obtained a temporary halal certificate while the three other outlets are awaiting theirs.

As for the coffee products manufactured at their factory, all of them received halal certification in 2014. – Bernama

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