Swayed by aromatic brew


A mural drawn by renowned Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic is an attraction at Ipoh Oldtown Cafe in Ipoh, Perak. - Filepic

THE saying “humanity runs on coffee” holds true for many around the world as mornings are not complete without a cup of joe.

While Ipoh is known for its array of mouth-watering food and beverage treats, its white coffee probably tops the list of must-haves when visiting the Bougainvillea City.

In 2018, Lonely Planet featured the iconic Ipoh white coffee as one of the famous attractions in the city.

The travel guide’s publication, Global Coffee Tour, described the coffee as famously hot, sweet and almost buttery in taste.

The onset of Covid-19 on March 18, 2020, gave rise to the birth of entrepreneurs keen on impressing taste buds with their take on coffee.

In the last two years, new coffee nooks have emerged in Ipoh offering more than your average cup of java.

Tourism Perak chief executive officer Nurmalis Musa said plans to promote local coffee destinations were in the pipeline.

“The growing number of local coffeeshops in the city has definitely attracted tourists to Ipoh.

“Next year, Tourism Perak plans to create an Ipoh Coffee Map to help local shops as well as attract more visitors,” she said.

While Tourism Perak is visualising a road map to encourage coffee aficionados on a discovery of tastes, the city has seen the mushrooming of coffee cafes in several residential areas.

In fact, the Covid-19 pandemic paved the way for these coffee entrepreneurs to share their love for the drink with others.

Wan Zulfadhli Initizam, 31, has been dreaming about opening his own coffee business.

“I used to carry utensils and tools for making coffee when I travelled and I have been wanting to start my own business for a long time.

“I procrastinated because I did not have the budget nor the experience in the food and beverage industry.

“But it all changed when the company I worked for cut my salary in half during the movement control order period.

“That spurred me on to pursue my dream as I needed money,” said Wan Zulfadhli, adding that he was inspired by what he had seen in neighbouring countries where people set up coffee cafes in their homes.

“I used my own machines and tools to grind the coffee beans, and distributed samples to my friends.

“They posted about my coffee on social media and I started receiving messages requesting that I set up a physical shop.

“Although Ipoh is known for its signature white coffee, I prefer black coffee made from local ground coffee beans.

“I was also intrigued by the French press and learnt how to use it to make coffee,” he said.

With his mind set on opening a little business, this inevitably led Wan Zulfadhli to quit his full-time job.

“I resigned because I felt unappreciated at my former workplace.

“Despite feeling that way, I am thankful it happened as it gave me the courage to start my business in the middle of the pandemic.

“My cafe opens only on weekends as I also run another business operating photo booths,” said Wan Zulfadhli.

He added that the growing number of local coffee destinations in Ipoh was a good sign.

“We have tourists coming in from other states to Ipoh just to try the coffee. They call it ‘coffee hopping’.

“For cafe owners, this is one of the ways for us to bond as coffee enthusiasts.

“By visiting each other, we are able to exchange knowledge, develop ideas and grow our business.

“The higher the demand for coffee brewers, the better it is for the local economy.

“We also hold classes, workshops and mini events such as picnics where the public is invited to join to experience coffee made from pour-over methods while educating them on the taste of coffee without sugar,” he said, adding that while the company had been registered, he was still in the process of getting a business licence for his cafe, which is based at his residence in Taman Meru, Ipoh.

Wan Zulfadhli, who relies on Aceh Gayo (Robusta beans), Bagan Nigret (Liberica) and Ethiopian Bale Mountain (Arabica) coffee for his creations, has just completed several food preparation courses.

A salesman, who wished to be known as Henry, uses his residence in Taman Song Choon, Ipoh for his coffee business.

“I was struggling during the MCO as my permanent job is commission based.

“So my sister and I decided to set up a home-based coffee business.

“The business has its ups and downs but I am glad that I was able to earn some money as I could not secure any sales during the lockdown,” said Henry who opens pop up stores at various areas in Ipoh.

He said he and his sister were forced to try their hand at something new during the pandemic, even it if meant taking a risk.

“The pandemic gave us the right push to start a new venture. Before this, we joked about selling affordable coffee.

“There were days when we had fewer than 20 customers.

“Some of my friends from other states are also considering setting up a coffee business.

“We shared our knowledge with them, including ways to register their business, enrol in food preparation courses and get their typhoid jabs,” he said.

Henry, who is in his 30s, said their business venture involving Liberica and Robusta coffee beans had brought them closer as siblings.

“I was born and bred in Ipoh so the city’s coffee culture has definitely influenced me.

“I remember my late grandfather taking us to the kopitiam in the morning for classic white coffee.

“I look forward to seeing more local coffee joints setting up in the city,” he added.

Meanwhile, administrative assistant Mohd Faizul Supardi, 40, started his coffee business in Bandar Baru Tambun, Ipoh, after doing in-depth research online on coffee beans during the MCO.

“My wife and I start our day by drinking black coffee and during the MCO, we read a lot about coffee to kill time.

“Then we decided to set up a small coffee business selling coffee drinks using Aceh Gayo coffee at home.

“The business has helped us financially to get through the pandemic,” he said, adding that he planned to register his business soon.

Mohd Faizul opined that the state government should put more emphasis on coffee as a tourism product.

“Ipoh is known for its coffee so it is certainly wise to make it a tourist attraction.

“Those of us who set up home-based coffee businesses belong to a community called ‘Jemaah Ngopi’ where we share ideas and plans on educating the public about coffee,” he said adding that these engagements worked on a hybrid setting.

For corporate communications officer Muhammad Ghazali Rosli, 31, drinking coffee is not merely a trend but a culture.

“Just like tea, everyone has their own preference when drinking coffee.

“Some people like flavoured coffee, others prefer speciality coffee drinks.

“That is why it is essential that new coffee business owners serve good quality coffee.

“That was my intention when I started,” said Muhammad Ghazali who uses quality Arabica beans for his brew.

Prior to becoming a coffee entrepreneur, he made a living as a wedding photographer.

“But during the pandemic I could not get any photography jobs.

“I am glad that now I have a coffee business.

“My business was inspired by Ipoh and I want to belong to the coffee culture,” he said.

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