Coffeeshop a meeting point Bekok

Chin Hoong busy making coffee for his customers.

Many villagers never miss going to their favourite coffeeshop in Bekok New Village, except maybe on the first day of Chinese New Year.

The almost 80-year-old Chop Nam Kye coffeeshop in Labis, Johor is very much part of their life.

“They were mostly rubber tappers in the good old days and they would get their first cup of coffee here before proceeding to the estate.

“Most of them had since retired but the routine of rising early and going for their cup of coffee stays,” said shop owner Mah Chin Hoong who opens for business at 5.30am daily.

He said Bekok is still a predominantly agriculture area and many villagers continued to come for a cup of coffee before going to work in the farms.

Mah, 64, is the second generation running the shop after taking over from his father Mah Yap Kee.

The exterior of the coffeeshop.
The exterior of the coffeeshop.  

Continuing his father’s work routine, Chin Hoong wakes up 4.30am to get ready to open the shop an hour later.

This shop in Bekok New Village is famous for its coffee and handmade kaya bread.

“We continue to provide the same taste and aroma over the decades and this brings back fond memories of the good old days,” said Chin Hoong of his shop where the majority of patrons are regulars.

The fondness for the shop is not confined just to the elderly folk in the village though.

He said children who grew up in the village and are working outstation now, including Singapore, would visit the shop when they returned for holidays.

Some, he added, also packed the coffee powder and kaya to take back.

On how to make a cup of good coffee, Chin Hoong said it involved a combination of factors; from the coffee beans, milk, temperature of water to the cup used.

“Experience counts when coming up with the same good cup of coffee consistently,” he shared.

The shelves are as old as the coffeeshop and the items on display are from different eras.
The shelves are as old as the coffeeshop and the items on display are from different eras. 

Chin Hoong’s 57-year-old wife Lim Yee Nee is a teacher in Bekok and helps her husband at the shop after school.

Lim said the shop is more than a place to come for a cup of coffee and kaya bread.

“It is also a place for us (villagers) to meet, exchange ideas and share our ups and downs.”

Lim said the Chinese traditions which continued to be observed in the village have kept the villagers close to each other.

For instance, she said the tradition called “Pak Ka Mai” (literally translated to rice from a hundred families in Cantonese), which was observed in the run up to Chinese New Year is a meaningful practice.

The coffeeshop was the collection point, with the villagers given a week to deposit their bags of rice there.

Lim said the rice was then mixed together before they were repacked and distributed back to the villagers shortly before Chinese New Year.

On the long-term plans for the business, the couple who have three children, said their eldest daughter, Mah Ji Xian, 24, is helping out in the shop.

The shop is also seeing more business these days, thanks to Labis MP Datuk Chua Tee Yong who has been making efforts to put Bekok on the tourist map.

Chin Hoong said his shop had seen an increase of about 20% in business on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays after the Bekok Festival last year to promote the interesting places and eateries in Bekok.

Good coffee and kaya bread aside, Chop Nam Kye, with its traditional decor and long history is certainly charming in its own way and worth visiting.

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Metro , Southern Eastern Region , hailam


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