KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 16 — Every day, it seems like a new café is popping up somewhere in KL. Whether it’s the latest outlet of some coffeehouse chain or an independent café roasting their own brand of artisanal coffee, there is no shortage of places to get one’s caffeine fix.
As I track down new cafés to try out every weekend, I realise that this abundance of options can be both a boon and a burden. Café hopping can be rather costly if one has to travel from one end of the Klang Valley to the other simply to try another café’s offerings, what with the petrol price increase.
Enter CafeHop KL with a map of KL’s best cafés in both printed and online versions, which promises to help users save time by identifying cafés wherever they are.
Led by former IT lawyer Joachim Leong, the start-up team also comprises graphic designer Jamie Lim, website designer Sher Minn Chong (currently based in the US), and photographer Shean Tan.
Leong first got interested in café hopping during a transitional period in his life. He says, “The great thing about cafés is that they provide a space where one has no roles to play and you can be ‘private’ in a public space. Cafés were where I could retreat and think, meet people and collaborate, or just read quietly.”
Eventually Leong started posting pictures of the cafés on social media. The response from friends and followers were overwhelmingly positive. He says, “The comments would invariably be like ‘Wow! This looks good! Where is this?’ I got tired of replying comments one by one so I started creating a map of all these places on Google Maps.”
Social media also sparked off the original idea that this could be something more substantial when Lim noticed one of Leong’s Instagrams of a café map doodle. She says, “I thought it was a good idea and asked him if he ever considered making a real map.”
Leong was further inspired by a few London coffee guides that Tan brought back. He admits, “I’m not the first to do this; others have made their own personal digital maps before. But then I came across other people mapping Kuala Lumpur for different reasons, such as Rumah Ibadat for places of worship and the KL Cycling Map project.”
Besides making life easier for coffee enthusiasts, CafeHop KL is meant to be a platform for independent cafés to gain more visibility. Tan shares, “By using this map, we hope that eventually café-goers will find a café convenient to them or one which they love for one reason or the other. I guess it’s like a ‘match-making service’ for cafés and coffee lovers.”
Beyond the online map of cafés, CafeHop KL will also produce physical maps which will be available for free at selected cafés (full list available on their website).
Lim explains, “We wanted a real paper map as well because we love the tactile feel of the physical thing. It’s also more fun to café hop and to cross off cafés from the map as you visit them!”
The map is meant for the workaholics amongst us too, and not just for coffee breaks. Leong notes that “in my old job, I was travelling around Malaysia meeting different clients and I would visit nearby cafés while waiting for meetings to start or to work there after the meeting.”
Tan adds, “We hope to reach out to people who are returning from overseas with exposure to good coffee and cafés, as well as those who are looking for a space that is a home away from home. Cafés are more than just the coffee; it is also about the café culture where you watch the people who come and interact in the café.”
As KL is not grid-like in layout, the CafeHop KL team created hubs (called "Hops") on the map according to specific areas with higher concentrations of cafés, e.g. KL Hop or LDP Hop.
Leong declares wistfully, “I look forward to the day when I overhear in a café someone asking their friends ‘Have you done all the cafés in the KL Hop?’ – then I’d know we have done something right."
The online café-hopping map is available at here while the printed maps will be available for free at selected cafés from September 21, 2013 onwards.