Arts, Culture & Lifestyle

Coffee guru Joey Mah on new ventures and great cafés in KL

Shaken or stirred? Neither. With specialty coffee gaining more and more traction by the day, we catch up with coffee specialist Joey Mah on the evergrowing scene and the local drinking spots he frequents for a good brew.
Reading time 7 minutes

It’s been a while since we last spoke to Joey Mah. The Three Little Birds and Artisan Roastery co-founder is still at the top of his game in Malaysia as a coffee roaster and entrepreneur to be reckoned with.

These days, the connoisseur of all things java travels to Indonesia, and even as far as to Colombia and Brazil to better comprehend the supply chain and ultimately source the best coffee beans money can buy. Indefatigable, Mah shows no signs of slowing down with a new café in the works and plans to venture into the bakery business as well as the bar scene.

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What’s new at Three Little Birds?

We have expanded our direct trade origins. We now have relationships with coffee farms such as Nuguo (Panama), Volcan Azul (Costa Rica) and two others. These are highly traceable and some of the best we can source.


Speaking of traceability, what is your take on ethical sourcing of coffee beans?

It’s important to know what we are eating and drinking. When we source coffee, we want to make sure it is sustainable. Our direct trade program works not only to increase the quality of coffee but also to look after our producers so they can continue to grow great coffee. These relationships allow us to work closely with them to ensure the best results, be it in processing, packaging or even towards reducing waste.


Three Little Birds (@threelittlebirdscoffee) at D7 (Lot G-18), Sentul Street, Sentul East Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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You have also created Transparent Coffee. How is it different from Three Little Birds?

Transparent Coffee focuses on very seasonal and direct trade coffee only. The coffee that’s served here costs us a bit more than usual but it allows us to get really good ones and at the same time, build a strong relationship with our producers.


What makes a good coffee?

A good cup of coffee is the coffee we enjoy drinking most. One’s preference will influence how we like it; it can be of different levels of roasting or different origins. As long as it is well extracted and presented, it’s a good cup of coffee. But I’m just happy to walk into a café, not necessarily mine, and have a great cup of joe. It reminds me of how far we have grown as an industry.


Transparent Coffee (@transparent_bangsar) at Bangsar Road, 6- G, Abdullah Road, Bangsar Park Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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How did you find out about the café?

This café was recently opened by Rain, one of the most seasoned baristas in Malaysia who has been participating in competitions for many years.


What’s unique about the coffee here?

They serve seasonal coffees from different roasters in Malaysia. They also sell a range of roll cakes and some homemade meals. But do try the Dirty Matcha.


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How would you describe the atmosphere here?

It’s hidden at the corner of Fahrenheit 88 mall. Even people who work in the building might not know about it. The simple use of furniture with bright colours is a great set-up for children and adults who want to get away for a few hours. The service is limited but it is enough to make you feel comfortable.


What would you say about the baristas here?

They are passionate. Be nice and get treated the same way. They may even accept your challenges.


Kita Coffee (@kitacoffee_my) at D7, First Floor, Fahrenheit 88, Jalan Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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What’s so special about the coffee here?

They are specialised in syphon brewing method. Not only does it look cool but it also makes great coffee. They offer a range of blends as well as wholesome homemade meals.


What would you order from the menu?

I would usually go for the syphon brewed coffee and pair it with tiramisu. Or you can try the grilled saba.

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How about the ambience at the café?

It’s laid-back. Random tables and chairs, used books and bookshelves can be seen at the corner of the café. The staff is friendly and always cheerful. It makes you feel as if you have left town and are on holiday.

What would you say about the baristas here?

They’re the most cheerful bunch of baristas. They may not compete in competitions but they are some of the best brewers in the city who mainly focus on taste and brewing skills. And if you’re nice to them, I think they are willing to accommodate any of your requests even the weird ones like espresso.


Await Café (@awaitcafekl) at 9-1-5, Jalan 3/109F, Taman Danau Desa, 58100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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How did you find out about the café?

Co-founders Jin and Ving are great friends in and out of the industry. There aren’t many of us that focus on seasonality and pay attention to meticulous things about coffee, and this is what makes this cafe great.

What’s unique about the coffee here?

They serve a wide range of filter coffee and specialty tea. Their filters are served at two selections of temperature, so you can decide which temperature you’d enjoy the coffee most. Their coffee changes occasionally from single origins to blends and they don’t disappoint.

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How does the décor of the café provide you with the right atmosphere?

Cream offers a comfortable environment to drink and enjoy a quick meal. The seats are comfortable and match the tables; and the beige white and light- coloured wood exudes a soothing vibe. It’s just a cool place to chill in.

Since you have coached some award-winning baristas, how do you think the baristas here measure up?

They are well equipped with knowledge and technical skills. They constantly pull consistent shots and are calibrated from time to time to ensure they can showcase the best of the coffee quality. You can ask for anything but past crop coffee! (Laughs).


Cream by The Roast Things (@theroastthings) at A-G-01, Prima Avenue, The Tube Jalan PJU 1/39, Dataran Prima 47301, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia.



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