Friday, 18 January 2013

Not Your Typical Coffee at Typica - 17 Jan 2013

Typica Cafe is not your typical cup of coffee. We're never short of a concept cafe or restaurant, but what attracted me to write is the story of the Typica people. If you have a unique product, run by people with passion and skills, it's more likely to not only succeed, but will stand out as something original and different from the rest. Typica is brewing distilled coffee - all handcrafted inhouse without machine, from sourcing and hand-sorting the beans, to roasting, grinding and brewing.

Not relying on paper qualifications, the people behind Typica are not afraid to learn mostly on the job. They reinvent their business models from their failures and experiences before finding one that worked. They don't have deep pockets, that's the main reason they chose an unlikely neighbourhood - Shaw Parade in Pudu KL, to start their handcrafted coffee. Many cafes come and go even in strategic locations, but Typica becomes the talk of the town, one-of-its-kind cafe after 4 years. Not much publicity but words of mouth. Selling what many will consider overpriced coffee, not any coffee but handcrafted distilled coffee. That's why I went to check it out with my husband.

Through glass walls, the homey cafe has mismatched wooden tables and chairs (including school desk, recycled signboard for a bench..) and a welcoming aroma of freshly brewed coffee bidding you to go in. 

Sitting at the bar area, we're free to interact with the folks running the cafe. We fell in love with the whole experience while we learned more about coffee. Typica sources its coffee from many different countries, the owner makes frequent trips overseas to source for different types of coffee beans that are not commonly available in Malaysia. In fact, we found out that the cafe was closed for 3 days before our visit because the folks were visiting some coffee plantations in Johor. They collaborate with certain farmers in Johor to source the beans directly, eliminate the middle men thus ensuring sustainable and higher returns to the farmers. 

Most people who drink coffee may not know where the coffee beans come from or why these beans were selected to make a particular cup of coffee. Most of us are familiar with the Robusta or Arabica beans, but we didn't know that Liberica beans used to be the leading ones in Malaysia many decades ago. Due to competition for land use, most coffee plantations could not survive but there were some smallholders in Johor still producing the Liberica beans. Crop yield for Liberica is not as high as other crops, and they thrive on flat land, thus there's much more competition for land use from other high yielding crops. It takes a lot to encourage the farmers to continue their hard labour to work in the coffee plantations. 

Truly, Typica is more than just a cafe, it is indeed making a difference in this industry, by eliminating the middle men and passing on the returns to these deserving farmers and collaborating with them so they will continue to keep Liberica beans available.

I love coffee but I never drink my coffee black, preferring to combine my coffee with milk and a little sugar. We're quite impressed with the selection of beans in the menu, but we did not see the usual coffee drinks like latte, cappuccino or macchiato. Instead, it's remarkable that Typica creates different types of black coffee or flavoured coffee drinks in the menu! Truly one-of-its-kind! We've also heard a lot of good comments about their specialty cakes but were too full after lunch to try them.

Kai Yin, the coffee siphonist told me that I would not need to add any sugar or milk because they use single-origin coffee beans. She suggested for beginners like me to start with the "Ice-Drip" coffee with gula melaka (palm sugar). I was quite hesitant as I thought it's an odd combination and afraid that gula melaka might be too overpowering. But I followed the expert's advice in the end. 

"Ice-drip" coffee is a drop-by-drop (1 drop for every 3 secs!!) cold brew process using the drip tower (pix on left above) in ice water resulting in a much concentrated coffee elixir. It is then fermented for a further 2 DAYS! Even the heart-shaped ice cube is made of coffee so that the flavour is not diluted.

Yes, it was SUPERB, an entirely different character after the fermentation, more like an alcoholic cocktail but it's non-alcoholic. I could hardly discern the gula melaka taste and it's very well-blended into the coffee. I agreed that it's a much better start for beginners who're not used to taking black coffee, as there's a tinge of sweetness and an imaginary milky taste to this drink. It's RM18 per glass.

Another limited edition of straight black "ice-drip" coffee - it has to be bottled immediately after brewing to retain its original flavour and aroma. Price: RM28 per bottle. Before serving, will put the bottle in a bigger container with ice cubes.

Another bestselling product:- the Siphon coffee. 

It looked a bit like a lab experiment. Siphonist Kai Yin walked us through the process of brewing coffee via vapour pressure - starting with choosing the beans (between Chamek and Kulai) to hand-grinding the beans. We're encouraged to taste the mildly roasted bean and smell them again after grinding. It was fun to see the heated water in the pot at the bottom rushed up through the siphon, connecting it to the top and mixed with the ground coffee. She smelled the coffee mixture from time to time while it was brewing to ensure that it's being brewed properly and when to turn off the fire so the brewing stopped. Like an art, it's done slowly and the entire process was relaxing and creating in you a longing for the first taste of the handcrafted coffee. After the coffee fell back to the bottom pot, she lifted it up and poured into a cup and a small glass. She suggested to us to smell the aroma of the coffee before taking a sip. As the temperature changes, there would be new flavours with every sip. For RM22 a cup, we're certainly going to savour every drop of it. Premium coffee Luwak is also available at RM180 per cup.

"Hand-drip" coffee - by carefully controlling the flow of hot water poured onto ground coffee that are steeped in a cloth or paper filter, we could achieve a strong and clear aroma of the coffee. It's quite a popular item especially for those who could not take black coffee. There're many interesting and exotic flavours like red dates or pandan leaves or lemongrass etc infused into the milk and added onto the coffee. Even milk frothing was done manually!! Price range: RM13-17 per cup.

Typica: "We hope to share how we make coffee and how every cup of coffee is handcrafted."

Typica is a specialty, not your typical daily cuppa but it's an experience of the entire process of making the coffee by folks who are passionate about coffee. They understood that in order to succeed, they cannot depend on the support of relatives or friends alone, but the neighbourhood who sees beyond the price, the location and the long brewing process to enjoy a cup of purely handcrafted coffee!! This little experience opened our eyes to see our children's education differently....


  1. Dear Honey4boz,

    thank you for your nice article,
    you see us:)

    Sum from Typica

    1. Thanks Sum and hope to visit Typica again!!


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