Coffee with extra oomph

Chew’s coffeeshop in Ayer Hitam town is well-known for its curry mee and coffee.

It was like any other day at the town’s favourite coffee shop, Meng Heng, except that the boss was sporting a pair of dark sunglasses.

Fifty-seven-year-old Chew Kia Tin’s new look has nothing to do with the latest fashion trends though.

Having undergone cataract surgery did not mean that he could not work, even if he had been advised to recuperate at home. For Chew, who took over the reins of the family business from his father Chew Ho, 25 years ago, taking a few days off work is not an option.

“My father had operated the business for almost 40 years before handing it over to me,” said Chew of the business which is very much part of him.

Despite all the hard work and long hours toiling in the shop, Chew who fondly refers to the shop as an “old brand” and his customers as “old friends” finds pleasure in being there.

“Many of my friends will come here daily to have a cup of coffee and chit chat,” said Chew, the second generation to run the business.

It used to be just a coffeeshop until about 10 years ago when Chew expanded the menu to include economy rice and curry noodles.

The shop is now famous for its coffee as well as curry noodles.

Chew continues to work at the restaurant even though he had just undergone cataract surgery.
Chew continues to work at the restaurant even though he had just undergone cataract surgery.

Chew, who learned the traditional way of frying coffee beans from his father, still does it the old-fashioned way despite the countless brands of coffee powder that are available nowadays.

He is proud to continue to serve the same coffee that many of his customers have enjoyed for decades. This is in addition to younger customers who have also grown to like its taste.

Chew has honed his skills in frying coffee beans, and has also incorporated mixing beans from other countries.

“The imported beans are getting more expensive because of the falling ringgit.

“I manage to mix two types of imported coffee beans, an expensive and cheaper variety to come up with a good cup of coffee.

“The composition of the beans and frying them at the right temperature makes the difference,” he explained.

Although using high quality imported beans would probably result in a very good cup of coffee, Chew said this was simply not viable in a small town.

He still charges between RM1.40 and RM1.60 for a cup of coffee, adding that his profit margin was much lower now due to the rising cost of business.

The fact that it is a family-run business has also enabled Chew to cut costs.

“We are a three-man show,” quipped Chew who operates the business with his wife Song Sian Seen, 51, and sister Chew Kim Wah, 62.

Chew said he got the curry recipe from a friend and his curry noodles and curry pork ribs are popular with customers.

Although busy serving customers, Chew, juggled between his work, chatting with friends and fielding questions from StarMetro with ease.

The shop is open for business between 7am and 2pm.

But work in the kitchen starts at 4am and continues after 2pm.

Chew said almost all of his customers were locals and many also liked to take away economy rice for lunch.

On his customer profile, he said they ranged from lorry drivers to farmers.

“Despite the rising cost, I want to continue serving good quality food and drinks at affordable prices,” he added.

A plate of economy rice, including three types of vegetables, is priced between RM3.50 and RM4.

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