Traditional local coffee with its strong flavour that wakes you up in the morning is synonymous with our kopitiams.
The coffee beans used is of the Robusta varietal which is usually grown in places like Indonesia and Malaysia. And the traditional local coffee scene is known as the First Wave.
The Second Wave is when espresso-based coffee arrived on our shores in the form of chains like Starbucks and The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, which uses the Arabica varietal of coffee beans.
Now, the coffee scene is at the Third Wave where single-origin beans are medium roasted and hand brewed using equipment like syphon, Aeropress, Clever Dripper, V60 and so on.
Young people are flocking to Third Wave cafes while the older generation still sticks to their First Wave traditional local coffee. Will traditional local coffee be phased out eventually?
One traditional coffee roaster is not waiting to find out. Michael Ooi Wee Boon, 54 is the third generation owner of a traditional coffee roasting and tea distributing business. His son, Toly Ooi Liet Shan would be the fourth generation to continue this legacy.
“I come from a Hainanese family background. In the late 50s, my late grandfather came to find work in Malaysia. He couldn’t get any work so he went to Indonesia.
“After awhile, he finally settled back in Malaysia, in Alor Setar. At that time, my late father was working as a teacher there. My grandfather decided to move to KL and start Chen Mooi Coffee Powder Factory & Trading Company with my father in Jinjang,” said Ooi.
Chen Mooi Coffee Powder Factory & Trading Company was established in 1961, focusing on traditional local coffee. There are essentially four to five steps to roast local coffee which Ooi gladly shared.
First, the green beans are roasted in a roaster. “Roasting coffee traditionally is agak-agak. When you roast the beans, you listen for the sound. During the first crack, you will hear popping sounds like firecrackers. When the second crack happens, it is a louder, more insistent firecracker sound, then you know it is already roasted,” said Ooi.
The coffee beans are then put in a large mixing wok where workers mix it with margarine and sugar. After that, it is dried using a machine. At this point, the coffee beans are in clumps due to the margarine and sugar.
There is a machine that separates the clumps. The final step is optional, which is to grind the beans or not.
In 2011, the name Chen Mooi Coffee Powder Factory & Trading Co. was changed to Mi Qing Coffee Manufacturing and Trading after Ooi had a dream about his late father.
In the dream, Ooi’s father gave him the name Mi Qing, so he decided to use that name for the business. Ooi decided to venture into Third Wave coffee sometime around last year, so he registered a company called Presumo Coffee in August 2014. Presumo Coffee operates out of the same space as Mi Qing.
“Although I only registered Presumo Coffee as a company in August 2014, I had already started the business in March 2014. As the vice president of the Tea Trade Association of Malaysia, I was part of the Malaysia International Tea and Coffee Expo 2014 as the organising chairman.
“The expo was held in Viva Home in Cheras and we had representatives of various embassies participating. Countries that produce coffee and tea such as Kenya, Vietnam and Sri Lanka were part of the expo.”
“I used that expo as a platform for Presumo Coffee because the concept of the expo was really unique,” said Ooi.
Presumo started off by supplying coffee beans, then Ooi introduced coffee machines and equipment after that. “The coffee beans would be incomplete without the machines,” said Ooi.
In December 2014, Presumo Coffee came up with their own coffee machines that can brew both coffee and tea for commercial use. The machines are designed in Taiwan and made in China.
Ooi is also an agent for Electrolux, selling their coffee machines that are meant for personal and office use. In addition to that, Presumo Coffee carries all types of coffee making tools, sourced from different suppliers locally and abroad.
According to Ooi, coffee is a basic need. He doesn’t believe that it should be high end. “To me, enjoying a good cup of coffee is a basic human right,” said Ooi.
Under the Mi Qing brand, Ooi sells traditional Robusta coffee beans and Ceylonese tea imported from Indonesia and Sri Lanka. For Presumo, Ooi imports single-origin green beans from places like Brazil, Ethiopia, Columbia, Guatemala, and
Hawaii to be roasted. Ooi uses the traditional coffee roaster but he skips the part where the margarine and sugar is used. He has plans to get a new roaster soon.
“I intend to move to a bigger space by the end of the year. Then I will convert this place into a cafe and turn the coffee factory into a museum,” said Ooi. The traditional coffee roaster is more than 50 years old and it is still running. Sometimes, students come and visit the factory to see the traditional coffee roasting process.
“We don’t mass produce our coffee like other roasters because coffee has a short shelf life. Anything that is over a month old loses its taste,” said Ooi.
Ooi learned how to roast coffee traditionally from his late father but when it comes to Third Wave coffee roasting as well as brewing methods, everything is self-taught. He learned tips and tricks from the Internet.
“I would say my business is very different from other roasters because I don’t go out looking for customers,” he said. People get to know about Mi Qing and Presumo Coffee through recommendations.
When you buy from Presumo Coffee, Ooi will teach you how to brew… whether it is with a coffee machine or hand drip equipment. “We give you the full complete package at the bare minimum cost,” said Ooi.
Presumo Coffee also offers a wide variety of single-origin beans. Besides supplying to cafes that usually buy in bulk, you can also purchase retail coffee beans in 200grams packets.
“For interested buyers, we also offer cupping sessions here,” said Ooi. If you are a cafe owner, Ooi can also roast beans according to the roasting profile that you want. According to Ooi, the reason why he started Third Wave coffee is because he wanted to upgrade the company and he felt that Third Wave coffee is complementary to the traditional local coffee business.
Although Ooi roasts coffee for a living, he only drinks three cups of coffee a day. “My favourite type of single-origin coffee is the Hawaiian Kona but it is a very costly type of bean,” said Ooi.
Roasting traditional local coffee is a tough job because of the smoke and the heat. “The older generation may be able to do it but the younger generation might find it too difficult,” he said.
Presumo F&B & Distribution Sdn Bhd
3562-4, Jalan Jinjang Permai 2, Jinjang Utara, 52000 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tel: 03-6242 5955
Originally posted in the malay mail online by Lydia Koh