The pandemic has been rather unkind to small businesses due to the operating limitations and life-altering fines.
What was once part of our everyday culture to hang-out at mamaks and coffee shops for a quick cuppa has now turned into a nostalgic memory that only waxes as we continue to tear off pages of our calendars in anticipation of the day we finally get to leave our houses.
In order to preserve our coffee culture despite our inability to dine-in, JUICE talked to a few small coffee businesses about their hardships during the pandemic and in-turn recommend them to you in-case you live nearby.
In times like these, it’s integral that we support each other so that nothing or nobody gets left behind once the dust settles.
Without further ado, here are our conversations with several coffee businesses that are soldiering on in spite of the odds.
1. Projek Teko
A slow bar located in Kulai Jaya, Projek Teko is still in its infancy stage but it has already racked up quite the cult following for their delicious locally-inspired coffees.
Only 2 weeks after their conception, Projek Teko decided to open up a small kiosk to sell their coffees which they were previously selling by the bottle. It was when a close friend suggested the idea that the owner finally pulled the trigger.
Now, they’re selling their coffee right at their own front-door using the slow bar concept.
Operating a business during MCO has not been easy for anyone, even the successful Projek Teko. Despite their enticing and unique coffee, their customers have trouble locating the store since print businesses are closed and the cafe can’t print their flyers and banners.
In order to continue the momentum as best as they can, the slow bar makes full use of social media and Whatsapp through speedy replies and friendly back-and-forths in the DMs on Instagram. To Projek Teko, their saving grace is definitely their social media presence.
During our talk, the owner expressed how he was interested in diversifying the types of coffee sold in Malaysia. “Each coffee has its own unique taste. It’s not all just bitter,” he told me in our chat.
He even jokingly admitted to wanting to start his own coffee blog. I encouraged him to do it, but he replied with, “Nah, I’m not great at writing. Tapi best lah if I get to share more about coffee.”
As if it wasn’t obvious yet, the owner of Projek Teko is truly a sweetheart who is passionate about bringing us the best coffee even if it’s from a small kiosk in-front of his own house.
According to the owner, fan favourites from Projek Teko are their salted caramel latte and pandan cheesecake latte. However, if you want a taste of the owner’s personal favourite, get their pour over coffee which he feels brings out the character of their coffee beans the most.
- Location: Jalan Jambu 18, Taman Muhibbah, Saleng, Kulai Jaya, Kulai
- Operating hours: Monday-Saturday (12pm-7:30pm)
- Social media: @projek.teko on Instagram
JUICE loves ourselves some Kopikupi, especially since we’ve featured 52-year-old Mohd Fauzi Azmi Misnon before when he went viral for his mobile coffee truck. But that was back in September 2020, and we’ve been wondering how our favourite coffee enthusiast is doing amidst the recent MCO.
Retiring from his plantation industry job, Mohd Fauzi (who endearingly called himself Pak Cik in our chat) decided to dip his toes in the coffee business after his experience working in Indonesia for 5 years.
There, he observed the thriving street coffee culture which he noticed was simple, yet of top-notch quality. He thought to himself, “Why not do it in Malaysia?” and that is how Kopikupi was conceived. According to him, his Car of Caffeine is the second carboot cafe after Ariff First Coffee in Seremban.
In September, which is the same date as our initial publication of Kopikupi, Johor royalty actually visited Kopikupi which was the pinnacle of the cafe’s success at the time. Now, he revealed that business isn’t so great anymore.
Fauzi noticed a drastic 60% drop in business come 2021 but he’s determined to keep the cafe’s engine running. His daughter, Wani Nadhirah Azmi, has since joined him on this endeavour. They’re not certified baristas but they did attend barista courses at a barista academy and honestly, that’s good enough for us.
Hopeful for the future, Kopikupi wishes to expand into a more structured mobile cafe and maybe even have a proper cafe business with their own roastery.
Their no frills espresso-based coffee and best seller which is the double macchiato with hazelnut syrup and caramel sauce drizzle is a definite contender for Starbucks, especially at it’s affordable price. But, Pak Cik’s personal favourite is the two shots classic Americano on ice, so maybe you’d want to give that a try as well!
- Location: Jalan Tiram 1, Ulu Tiram, Johor
- Operating hours: ’til 6:30pm
- Social media: @kanang_wak_misnon on Instagram
3. Kopi Rey
Self-made and self-operated Kopi Rey was funnily conceived on the day of love, 14 February 2021. But ever since the pandemic started, the owner has noticed that the love has been dying down as the days went on.
Since he has to do everything from A-Z all on his own, the owner finds that he doesn’t have enough hours in the day to get things done, especially since he’s juggling his coffee business with his day job.
To cope, owner of Kopi Rey has had to wake up at odd hours in the night or at the break of dawn in order to get to work and manage all of his stock and equipment for the day. He has recently hired an assistant in order to ease his burden during this time.
Similar to the aforementioned business owners, Kopi Rey hopes to introduce his brand of coffee to all states across Malaysia. He believes in the quality of his coffee and he wants to further improve the coffee industry in the country. One day, he hopes to compete with international coffee brands.
What are the fan favourites you may ask? According to the owner in our chat, he recommends their latte Dalgona candy (which is their signature), the toffee nut latte and the caramel macchiato.
- Location: No. 2, No. 6, Jalan Aliff Harmoni 3, Taman Damansara Aliff, 81200 Johor Bahru (in-front of Klinik Primer Cherang)
- Operating hours: Thursday (5:30pm-9:30pm) Friday-Sunday (2:30pm-7pm)
- Social media: @kopi.rey on Instagram
The way Sistahomebrew started might just be our favourite story on this list.
At first, the owner was in charge of a package called “Camperbuddy” where she would bring people camping. While she wasn’t much of a big fan of coffee herself, she developed an affinity towards it while she was spending time with her mother who adored drinking coffee.
In between setting up tents and practicing proper tent assembling, they would share cups of coffee together and from there, she started the “Coffee Camper” package where campers (or travel sistas – I know, so cute) could enjoy the drink while camping.
However, when the pandemic went into full-swing in 2021, at least six trips that were booked and planned were cancelled due to the interdistrict travel restrictions. Because of that, all bookings had to be refunded and it created a dent in Camperbuddy.
Making coffee out of coffee beans, the owner decided to make full use of their camping equipment such as foldable tables, chairs and coffee machines to set up Sistahomebrew. She opened the stall in March and gratefully, they’ve been able to sustain their business thanks to a generous collaboration with Kak T, the owner of Restoran Harum Cengkih.
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During our chat, the owner lamented her struggles setting up Sistahomebrew which consisted of difficulty in finding a location – she even contemplated setting up shop at a car wash – to the incredibly taxing hours. Since it was MCO and not many people were out, operating her store late at night alone surfaced safety risks for her and her team.
In order to overcome these challenges and regain her profits, Sistahomebrew began selling coffee online and delivering them to customers via Lalamove or self pick-up. She also mentioned how social media has helped the business tremendously.
When I asked the owner about her hopes for the future, she revealed that it has been a dream of hers since 2003 to own a coffee truck and now she’s finally making that dream come true. The pandemic had pushed her into making that jump and she’s as happy as ever about her new business. While it’s only at the back of her Myvi, Sistahomebrew means a lot to her.
As for the future, once interdistrict travels are allowed again, she hopes to reinvigorate Camperbuddy and Coffee Camper and drive her beans across the whole of Malaysia so everyone can get a taste of #SistaBikinKopiDariHati.
If you ever get a chance to talk to the lovely owner of Sistahomebrew and try out her coffee, she recommends their caramel macchiato, concentrated coffee (a DIY coffee) and their signature Ferrero salted caramel which is her own recipe that assemblages fresh bitter coffee brewed into a glass filled with Ferrero Rocher and salted caramel.
According to her, “The bitterness of the coffee, the saltiness of the salted caramel and the sweetness of the milk mixed together is almost akin to life. In times of bitterness and saltiness, there is always sweetness to tie them together at the end. And this can also be applied to the Covid-19 pandemic, where we will hopefully taste sweetness once it’s over. Cewahhh!”
Amen to that!
- Location: Restoran Harum Cengkih, No. 15, Jalan AU5C/15, Lembah Keramai, Kuala Lumpur
- Operation hours: Monday-Wednesday online orders only (10am-5pm) Friday-Sunday walk-ins (3:30pm-6:30pm)
- Social media: @sistahomebrew on Instagram
In true #KitaJagaKita fashion, Sistahomebrew also provided this comprehensive infographic of other cafes that you can support during this time.
While cafe-hopping might be taking a hiatus now, it doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy some good ol’ locally-made coffee, especially when they’re made by such sweet people.
So if you spot any coffee mobiles around your area, get yourself a nice drink and give them a shoutout on social media because spreading the word does wonders for these small businesses.
Until then, stay safe and stay caffeinated!