Typica Cafe: Not your typical coffee
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 9 — Like many people, I drink coffee every day. Cups of the stuff. Unlike many of them though, I never drink my coffee black. Coffee by itself always seems far too bitter for my taste and so I stick to my caffè lattes and my cappuccinos — combining coffee with milk seems to do the trick for me.
Still, I would always look at my friends who drank their coffee black, some without sugar, and be filled with envy. I felt as though I was missing out on something, that I had forever denied myself entry to an exclusive club.
That is until, one fine day several weeks ago, I stumbled on a new café while hunting down an elusive siew yoke place in Pudu. Nestled in a corner of Shaw Parade Plaza and framed by the fiery red walls of the building, Typica Café was a welcome sight after an afternoon searching for roasted pork belly under the hot sun.
Through glass walls, one first notices the wooden tables and benches (which I later discover to be made from reclaimed and recycled wood) and then the aroma of freshly brewed coffee bidding one to enter.
Established in 2009, Typica Café’s name in Chinese — Dou Yuan — means “the origin of the bean” and relates to their philosophy to showcase the coffee’s most original flavours, beginning with the bean itself.
“Most people who drink coffee may not know where the coffee beans originated from or why these beans were selected to make a particular cup of coffee,” says manager Kai Yin.
“We hope to share with our customers how we make coffee and how every cup of coffee is handcrafted. Instead of using the conventional coffee machines you would normally find in an Italian or American franchised café, we returned to more traditional brewing methods such as the siphon or ice drip.”
Handcrafted coffee? That sounds intriguing. But where does one start? I mention that I am a complete novice at this and ask Kai Yin to recommend a coffee. She suggested a Nicaraguan organic specialty coffee, which was mellow with a dark chocolate aftertaste. Dark chocolate I recognise so I nod happily at this choice.
Siphonist Mei Ying walks me through the process of brewing coffee using the siphon method — starting with grinding the coffee beans while the water is boiled in the pot of what looks like a particularly stylish lab experiment. She places a filter in the top container, followed by the ground coffee.
Then the fun part begins as the heated water in the pot at the bottom rushes up through the siphon, connecting it to the top container, and mixes with the ground coffee. I notice she smells the coffee mixture from time to time while it is brewing and ask her if there is a reason for doing this.
“Definitely. We need to keep smelling the aroma to ensure that the coffee is being brewed properly to the customer’s preference. Also, once it’s ready we will know it’s time to turn off the fire so the brewing stops,” says Mei Ying.
It’s especially mesmerising to watch the coffee falling back down into the pot. Once it’s ready, she lifts the pot from its holder and pours the coffee into a warmed cup. There is a meditative and unrushed quality about the entire process that both relaxes one yet builds anticipation for the first taste of the handcrafted coffee.
One small problem: Where is the milk? Where are the slender sachets of packaged sugar?
Mei Ying tells me because they use single-origin coffee beans, I would not need to add sugar or milk to the coffee. In fact, doing so would dilute or destroy much of the flavours. She suggests that I first smell the aroma of the coffee before taking a sip. As the temperature changes, new flavours will emerge and develop with every sip. I find that, as my coffee cools, the sweeter tones are revealed. I am surprised but very much elated — no more sugar or milk when I have my coffee black. Or as the good folks here would put it — I’m having the coffee as it’s meant to be.
Now if I am honest with myself, I have to admit I am mostly still unable to discern the different layers of aroma, body and flavour that everyone seems to capture with such ease. I’m no coffee connoisseur, I’m afraid. (I’m simply glad I don’t have to add any sugar.) Perhaps I will always be a beginner at this, always a bit of an outsider.
Somehow that doesn’t really matter as I continue to sip my coffee as it cools (is it my imagination or does it taste a little fruitier now?) and listen to the chatter of other customers. One is cradling a book at the table by the corner, lost in her reading. I hear the clatter of coffee beans as they fall into a bowl before being weighed and ground. The smile on the face of the siphonist as I ask her more questions about her craft is sublime.
There is much joy to be experienced while one learns more about coffee, but for me, there is as much joy, if not more, in simply taking in the coffee, the chatter and the craft — the entire atmosphere of spending time in a café run by folks truly passionate about their brew.
Typica Café is at GL-08, Ground Floor, Shaw Parade Plaza, Changkat Thambi Dollah, 55100 Kuala Lumpur (Tel: 03-2145 032811). Business hours: 11am to 9pm Sundays-Thursdays; 11am to 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays; closed on Wednesdays. Website: http://typicacafe.blogspot.com