KUALA LUMPUR, July 6 — Have you noticed cafés offering Third Wave coffee springing up just about everywhere these days, each almost a cookie-cutter copy version of an Antipodean coffeeshop ideal?
So few seem to take note of their surroundings (besides a reasonable rental and decent parking) and end up almost soulless in the process.
Enter Await Café, a small neighbourhood café run by two friends Jane Lee and Chang Lee Peng. Located in Taman Danau Desa, a quiet enclave of Kuala Lumpur, the café sits above a wine shop.
You can find it by the aroma of freshly brewed coffee. Inside, the décor is simple: plain, white walls, both smooth and bricked; a coffee bar where the action takes place; a balcony area with small pots of creepers and cacti.
It’s an oasis here, perfect for escaping the city’s mad bustle. Relax with a good book and a lovely cuppa. For those seeking a light bite, Await offers sandwiches served with small side salads and mashed potato, freshly-baked banana bread and other rotating desserts. Honest, straightforward café grub.
However, the main draw of the café is still their coffee. Unlike other cafés that offer espresso-based coffee beverages, Await specialises in hand-brewed coffee, usually single origin coffee beans.
Lee explains, “I prefer single origin beans because you get so much more flavour and character from the coffee this way. We use a medium or medium light roast for our beans.”
Await has two house blends: the popular Classic Blend that is a well-balanced mix of Mandheling, Guatemala and Tanzania beans; and a Revolution Blend, incorporating rotating seasonal beans, that is slightly more acidic and interesting.
Besides the standard single origin beans — a list that currently includes Brazil, Honduras, Guatemala, Sumatra Mandheling and Tanzania — there will also be occasional surprises such as an award-winning Panama Geisha.
Chang recommends hand-drip coffee brewed using a V60 or Kalita 102 Dripper for those who like a lighter-tasting coffee. “Coffee prepared this way arrives ready for drinking as it’s not too hot. For those who like less acidity, I suggest a V60-brewed Brazil or Mandheling. Those who like something more acidic can try a Kalita-brewed Guatemala.”
Lee’s specialty is siphon-brewed coffee. “Expect complex notes and a stronger body. As this is a sensitive method of brewing, tiny changes in how you stir, the water temperature and other variables can make a big difference in the final cup. Siphon brews are perfect for those who have time to enjoy a coffee.”
However, she would hesitate recommending her personal favourites to customers. She says, “Everyone should have their own favourite, and while I may suggest a bean based on their preferred flavours, I wouldn’t endorse a specific one. Everyone should have the chance learn what they like. The discovery is part of the experience of drinking coffee.”
Chang agrees, adding, “Just like tea and wine, the more I learn about coffee, the more I realise I have to learn. It’s very challenging but I enjoy the new knowledge this journey brings me every day.”
Even with the growing number of cafés, opening one remains a risky venture that requires a leap of faith. Chang, who studied co-operative economics and worked as a credit analyst in an offshore bank, understands the fear all too well.
“I have always dreamed of having my own café. I’m sure I’m not the only one, and like many others, I didn’t do anything about it. One day, I asked myself ‘Why can’t I make my passion my career? Instead of just dreaming, why not take the leap and change my life?’ As you can see, I leaped,” she says.
Her partner Lee used to be a former managing editor at a Chinese-language magazine before setting up the café. A journalism major, she studied in Taipei where she first discovered siphon coffee.
“It was truly a most memorable experience. I was enthralled by the way the barista brewed the coffee and the taste of the resulting cup. It became a passion and I started brewing coffee using various methods and learning from books. Eventually, I realised that this was my dream, just like Lee Peng, to create my own space to share my passion for coffee,” says Lee.
Since opening two years ago, Await has had a steady stream of customers pouring in. There is a surprisingly diverse range of customers comprising office workers, home makers, students and hardcore coffee aficionados, some who have trekked as far as Klang and other states in search of a good brew.
Most customers are residents of the neighbourhood though, making this a truly taman café. Chang enthuses, “We meet so many different personalities here at the café. Some have taught me to stay humble; others have taught me to stand firm. My favourite part of the day is when customers share their stories with us. To be able to connect with them, many who have become our friends over time, is a privilege not easily found elsewhere. I truly appreciate this opportunity.”
Regulars must surely agree. After all, who wouldn’t appreciate a space where they can drop by for slow brews and big smiles?
9-1-5, Jalan 3/109F, Taman Danau Desa, Kuala Lumpur
Open weekdays 11am-8pm, except Thu closed; Sat & Sun 9am-8pm