I remembered some years back when I was in college, I wrote a paper on the new marketing of coffee in Malaysia. It was back when imported premium coffee was the hype and on the verge of pushing our neighbourhood kopitiam to extinction. That was back in 1998. Now, almost ten years down the road, it seems like the local kopitiam has not only evolved but is back (more kao than ever) to give Starbucks and gang a run for their money.
The biggest of these breed of nu-kopitiam chains has gotta be Old Town White Coffee with more than 50-outlets nationwide to its name (beat that Starbucks! And no, having 4-outlets in Bangsar Baru area alone doesn’t count, you big bully!)and each outlet seems to be bigger than the one before. From Uncle Lim’s to Kluang Station, it seems the recipe to success here lies in its cheap-ness of its menu. Nostalgia is another success key ingredient.
Every Malaysian at heart is familiar with what a kopitiam is. Nothing is better than tapping into a consumer’s childhood memory. We all had our fair share of kaya toast and super kao kopi-O since we were kids! And who would ever complaint about a cup of RM 1.50 kopi-O now, even if it tasted like shit? Not unless if you’re getting a bad cuppa latte for RM 9.50++. And of cos comfort is the garnishing to continue the success of these local cafes. Imagine what air conditionning units would have done for the business of the old kopitiam in your hometown!
A recent visit to a new Old Town White Coffee over at Jalan Ampang was proof that, just like in the good ol’ days, people are still coming in throngs for a quick bite or just a drink with friends. The place was literally filled with people on it’s opening day!
I avoided the coffee and ordered a Xi Mut Lai Chai (Silk Stocking Filtered Tea with Milk) and a Kaya Toast (Coconut-egg Jam on Toast). While I’m not going to complaint about the quality of the tea (it’s worth what you’re paying for), it was the toast that had me baffled. It was hardly a toast. It was more of a dry and coarse biscuit. It might as well be called burnt instead of a toast. Would have prefered my toast to be a lil’ thicker, so even if the bread slices were toasted the texture of the bread was still there.
The Ipoh Sar Hor Fun is also one of the recommended items on the menu is worth trying out. Though it’s not as great as the original, it’s pretty much as good as it gets.
Taking an old and familiar concept and just upping the prices by just a mere RM 0.20 for a cup of Kopi is pure genius, I don’t see why these Ipoh-mali chains aren’t gonna be exploding at a place near you soon! Call the kopi-hotline and complain if there isn’t an Old Town White Coffee outlet near you by next year!
Now, following in the footsteps of these nu-Kopitiams, another neighbourhood alumni is also making its appearance in malls too. The Warung or better known as a mamak store! Check out the Teh Tarik Place at the Curve’s Asian Courtyard. Cheap. Nostalgic. Comfortable. Need I say more?