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Monday March 30, 2015
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Latte Art Lovers race against time to photograph the delicately formed latte art before it dissipates. — Pictures by CK LimLatte Art Lovers race against time to photograph the delicately formed latte art before it dissipates. — Pictures by CK Lim

KUALA LUMPUR, March 30 — Third Wave Coffee has hit the entire Klang Valley with specialty coffee bars turning up everywhere one looks. And for every café that appears, a new breed of coffee drinker and coffee shop customer is emerging. Let’s call these the café hoppers. You know the type; the ones that you see at just about every café you visit. Why, you might be one too!

Here’s a list of the seven types of café hoppers out there. Which one are you?

1. The Latte Art Lover

Perhaps the earliest and most widespread species of café hopper, the Latte Art Lover seeks out the best cafés for their latte art. No plain white froth for this bunch; their cappuccinos arrive with the milk perfectly foamed and formed into hearts, rosettas, tulips, and even swans.

Little surprise that most Latte Art Lovers are also avid Instagrammers who must master the knack of catching the delicately formed latte art before it dissipates. The race is on and may the fastest Instagrammer win!

There are even different schools of latte art — some prefer etching where complicated drawings such as faces and anime characters can be accomplished; purists, however, insist on free pouring as this style requires more skill and a steady hand. And don’t even get me started on the 3D latte art…

Hunky-dory Hipsters chilling without any cares at Café Lomi in Paris.Hunky-dory Hipsters chilling without any cares at Café Lomi in Paris.2. The Hunky-dory Hipster

Ah, to be a Hipster and so free of troubles! All one needs are thrift-shop clothing, alternative music, a terrain of tattoos on one’s flesh (and an assortment of piercings), and the trademarked stare of nonchalance. Goatees are optional.

Sometimes it can be a challenge differentiating the barista from the café hopper though. After all, they sort of dress the same and have the same bored look on their faces, don’t they? (Hint: the barista is the one that delivers your flat white to you with an audible sigh — such a chore.)

Hunky-dory Hipsters tend to be drawn to industrial chic, garage-style cafés. Expect to find them in coffee bars with unfinished walls, dangerously dangling ceiling cables, lights made from recycled bottles, and less-than-comfortable furniture made from wooden pallets rescued from such junkyards.

A subset of the Hunky-dory Hipsters are the ageing Hippies with their New Age bead necklaces and flowing pants made from organically grown hemp. Menus at their cafés of choice often feature raw food (probably because it’s more environmentally friendly not to cook?) and the décor revolves around 60s Flower Power kitsch. The aroma of coffee could be spiced with the scent of ylang ylang and incense.

Single Origin Snobs would happily geek out on the different types of coffee beans available at Mahlefitz in Munich.Single Origin Snobs would happily geek out on the different types of coffee beans available at Mahlefitz in Munich.3. The Single Origin Snobs

Of course, these “varietal” of café hoppers wouldn’t consider themselves snobs; they’re just coffee connoisseurs. A mere common coffee blend wouldn’t do for them; the Single Origin Snob wants to know where the beans are from specifically (hence the “single origin”).

What region, which farm, the climate and the processing method, were the coffee trees sung to and massaged while they were saplings?

Not satisfied with differentiating an Ethiopian from a Sumatran, Single Origin Snobs would reel off names of farms and regions such as Ardi Sidama, Tiga Raja Simalungun and Fazenda Passeio if you gave them half a chance. If you see them running out of a coffee shop, they probably just realised “kopi” on the menu meant Nescafé tarik.

Single Origin Snobs would even geek out on machines and the brewing equipment/methods. The more obscure and rare and expensive the grinder or espresso machine, the more likely are they to faint from rapture. (In lieu of smelling salts, I can guess you could always revive them with a whiff of kopi luwak.)

Gem-seeking Globe-trotters find joy in travelling around the world and discovering little-known cafés.Gem-seeking Globe-trotters find joy in travelling around the world and discovering little-known cafés.4. The Gem-seeking Globe-trotter

This next group of café hoppers are the adventurers of the bunch, the modern-day treasure hunters. Instead of gemstones, they travel around the world looking for “gems” in the form of stellar coffee bars. These cafés don’t have to be run by champion baristas (though some of them are), they just need to be unique and brimming with a most individual spirit.

Whether it is an espresso bar in Central London with a snaking line several blocks long or a hand-brewed siphon coffee shop hidden in a hard-to-find Tokyo suburb, Gem-seeking Globe-trotters are willing to do the distance to taste that special cuppa.

Part of the thrill is tracking down a café in a foreign city, where the language may seem alien and the culture baffling. Yet coffee is the great leveller of differences and unites folks from all walks (or hops) of life. Voted most likely to drink more coffee to “cure” jetlag.

WiFi Workaholics tapping away busily at Espresso Fabriek in Amsterdam.WiFi Workaholics tapping away busily at Espresso Fabriek in Amsterdam.5. The WiFi Workaholic

The first thing a WiFi Workaholic does when entering a café is to ask — you guessed it — “Is there WiFi here?” The quality of the coffee may come a distant second to the speed of the internet connectivity. These café hoppers are here to work, not play.

Some WiFi Workaholics can be a bane for café owners as they will stay and work on their notebook all day… after ordering a single drink. And if the WiFi doesn’t come free? Well, you won’t even get a chance to say “Welcome!” before they are out the door again, looking for their next victim, uhm, café.

A Caffeinated Cyclist will happily ride to Wheeler’s Yard in Singapore for a pick-me-up.A Caffeinated Cyclist will happily ride to Wheeler’s Yard in Singapore for a pick-me-up.6. The Caffeinated Cyclist

Then there are café hoppers who don’t so much hop as pedal. That’s right; a Caffeinated Cyclist will ride for a coffee fix, whether it’s a latte to go or an espresso to be slam-dunked on the spot. There are even cycling cafés to cater to this pedal-powered passion — from Rapha Cycle Club in London and Wheeler’s Yard in Singapore to The Grumpy Cyclist right here in Kuala Lumpur.

In fact, at some of these cycling cafés, you could have your bicycle looked at and serviced while you shower and sup on well-deserved post-ride fuel. Caffeinated Cyclists reign supreme as the most physically active café hoppers.

What’s next, I wonder? A rock-climbing café or even a badminton brew bar?

Baristas Befrienders will find friendly faces and willing ears such as Kiwi-Malaysian barista Michael Tan at Scratch Pop-up in Auckland.Baristas Befrienders will find friendly faces and willing ears such as Kiwi-Malaysian barista Michael Tan at Scratch Pop-up in Auckland.7. The Barista Befriender

The last category of café hoppers is less enamoured by the origins of the coffee or the décor of the café and more interested in the people behind their brews. Barista Befrienders seek out knowledgeable and amiable baristas to have conversations with. It’s sort of like the bar in the TV sitcom Cheers but with coffee grinders instead of beer taps.

These aren’t barista groupies but rather customers and coffee lovers who truly enjoy — miracles of miracles — a real conversation. Topics range from the obvious (brewing methods, roasting profiles) to the less obvious (the weather, superhero movies).

Sometimes conversations turn into counselling sessions — and it works both ways. Baristas are human too, and need to borrow a willing ear from time to time. Stories shared can be inspiring; it’s part of the complete café hopping experience.

There’s a little bit of each café hopper described above in every one of us, I believe. (It’s certainly true of me; though with Malaysia’s humid climate, I’m unlikely to pedal to my next café.) At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what type of café hopper you are; the main thing when you drop by a café is to enjoy your coffee.

Jom minum kopi! (“Let’s go have coffee!”)

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