JOHOR BARU, Aug 10 — It’s not easy being a barista in today’s competitive coffee industry. It’s even harder when you aren’t born with a silver spoon and can’t count on your family fortunes to fund your dream café.
This hasn’t stopped Penang-born barista Ang Yeesiang, previously of Art52 Coffee and Coffee Stain, who has just opened a new café in Johor Baru with his partner Stella Teo. “It can be hard to make ends meet some days, especially for young entrepreneurs like us,” says Ang.
But through hard work, passion and plenty of grit, the pair has attracted the attention of a loyal customer who is now their silent investor and collaborator. The infusion of capital has enabled Ang and Teo to move into a more spacious location in the evergreen Taman Pelangi in Johor Baru.
Their new café is named Sweet Blossom Coffee Roasters and the dedicated baristas promise to continue delivering well-crafted espressos and cappuccinos, as well as drip coffee with seasonal beans.
The ambience is different from their former pop-up café venture too; Sweet Blossom Coffee Roasters is located in a quiet corner of Taman Pelangi with mature trees, well-kept shrubbery and flowering plants. There is a sense of family in this shared space: besides their café, there are also other small businesses including a boutique, a Korean-style hair salon, and a restaurant offering Malaysian-Western fusion fare.
“Rather than finding a standalone lot for our café, we think it helps creating a tiny ‘neighbourhood’ of like-minded business owners. The sense of kinship that comes from the fact we are all small entrepreneurs helps motivate us to do better, together,” says Teo.
The first objects you notice when entering the café are the sensuous silhouettes of amber-hued lamps by Plumen, a Johorean lighting artisan. Ang and Teo believe in supporting local artisans in much the same way they have been embraced by the community of coffee enthusiasts in Johor Baru.
Fresh flowers in water add a touch of Nature brought indoors. Another striking feature is the inclusion of two large, custom-built communal tables (by a Johorean carpenter, of course): One is lower, meant for seated customers; the other is higher for those who prefer to stand.
Ang explains, “I had regulars back when I was at my former cafés who preferred to stand and sip their espressos. The way they do at espresso pit stops in Italy, you see. Some just like standing because it made it easier to chat with me or engage with other like-minded coffee lovers.”
The duo make coffee at two stations: an espresso bar with a gleaming red Simonelli machine and a brew bar with an assortment of equipment that would delight any coffee geek. Besides the indispensable V60 Dripper, they also use a sleek, handle-less Gino Glass Dripper that is double-walled for insulation while ensuring an even coffee extraction.
Even the weighing of coffee is taken seriously. Ang and Teo use a modern and minimalistic Acaia Pearl scale that is compatible with a smartphone app. This provides a faster response time (20 miliseconds) and more accurate readings. Teo enthuses, “This scale is sensitive to even weight changes due to evaporation!”
For now Sweet Blossom Coffee Roasters uses beans from Nylon Coffee across the Causeway. Currently the café is offering two single origin beans: Costa Rica & La Cristalina, a Colombian coffee with plum-like sweetness and a superbly clean finish, and San Jose from Nicaragua that showcases mandarin orange acidity and peach tea notes.
“We plan to roast our own coffee later, on a smaller scale,” says Ang. “We’ll be bringing in a roasting machine to the café so our customers can actually observe the process of coffee roasting up-close. It’s a way of satisfying their curiosity but it also helps them understand another part of the process in making the cup of coffee that we serve them.”
Roasting their own coffee forms the completion of their journey together as coffee drinkers, baristas and partners. Teo explains, “It’s the final link in the chain. Once we are able to roast beans ourselves, we can customise the flavour profiles of the coffee to our customers’ liking. We observe some coffee drinkers in Johor Baru and even those who come over from Singapore are adventurous enough to try something new in their brews.”
Sweet Blossom Coffee Roasters officially opens today, so make plans to head there for excellent coffee by Ang and Teo. If you need another reason to visit, Sweet Blossom will donate profits during their August 10-12 launch period to World Vision Malaysia. That’s doing something good with every cuppa you order!
28 Jalan Maju, Taman Pelangi, Johor Baru, Johor
Open daily 8am-6pm