The accidental ‘barista’


Ng (centre) chatting with customer Leo Chin and his son Jack as he serves them drinks at his coffeeshop in Kajang.

HAVING an aromatic cuppa at the local coffeeshop is how many Malaysians start their day. As such, it is paramount that the people making the drink know their stuff, lest they ruin someone’s day! 

Most of us are so used to having someone whip up our drinks that we don’t realise the kind of skill and knowledge these local “baristas” have to be armed with to serve that cup of wake-me-up. 

Mitchell Ng, 31, who runs Ah Boy Coffeeshop in Kajang, learnt this the hard way.

For at least a year, his days were rife with complaints from customers who felt that their drinks did not measure up.

“I may find a cup of coffee or tea perfect, but it could be a different story for someone else.

“Every customer has different preferences, so how are you supposed to serve something that pleases everyone? Still, as a coffeeshop operator, you need to figure this out,” he said.

From sourcing the perfect coffee powder and tea leaves from suppliers to getting the formula of the many beverages correct as well as training his kitchen helpers, everything at this unassuming neighbourhood coffeeshop is a challenge.

The fact that Ng holds an associate degree in architecture as well as a diploma in music makes it even more mind-boggling that someone with his qualification is doing this job.

He took on the business to help a friend who pulled out at the last minute. Guidance and encouragement from his mother, whose siblings run coffeeshops, helped him plough through the initial stages.

“I felt quite shy at first as I have never served others before. Furthermore, we only make 20 sen to 30 sen from each cup, and in return, get an earful from customers over various unthinkable issues.

After a while though, I learnt to see these customers as my teachers because their requests and criticisms help me grow.

“This coffeeshop shows me it takes all sorts to make this world, and I learnt to be a better person through this little place,” he said.

A normal day starts with Ng arriving at the coffeeshop at 5.30am to get the ingredients and hot water ready before the shutters are lifted at 6.30am. This was initially quite difficult for Ng who liked to sleep late.

Customers start trickling in by then, and he will be kept busy until past lunch time.

Ng operates only half-day so that he can still teach drums and handle interior design projects.

Time flies and it has been five years since Ng took on this task,

but he has never thought of raising prices.

Coffee and tea here are still sold at RM1.50 despite GST, and now, SST.

Ng considers the coffeeshop as his way of serving the community.

He hopes to help residents start the day in high spirits with a satisfying drink.

“If you ask me, I don’t know if I can say I love my job now but I sure enjoy one thing; I can buy my friends a drink anytime!” he quipped.


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