A cup of coffee should come with a story, insists Daniel Liew, founder of Barista Guild Asia (BGA), a coffee school and barista academy in Petaling Jaya.
He believes every cup of coffee one makes must be “special” in its very own way.
Every cup of that coffee on your table comes from a story - the background of farmers, the roasters and the barista; all are contributing factors for a great cup of coffee
“There is black coffee (kopi-o), milk coffee, and our very own Ipoh white coffee to cater the preference of Malaysians. Then, there is the “specialty coffee”.
“Other than making coffee, to me, barista should be able to preach good coffee. Every cup of that coffee on your table comes from a story - the background of farmers, the roasters and the barista; all are contributing factors for a great cup of coffee.”
“Baristas have the responsibility to find the ways engaging their consumers and bring out the story to customers.”
And to boost the trend of the said “specialty coffee”, says Liew, who also founded Malaysia Barista Championship six years ago.
“Coffee championship becomes a start for people to look at the coffee business and realise there is something better than normal commercial coffee.”
“Cafes with ‘hipster’ culture influenced by Eastern countries with the set-up of a roof brew bar or slow bar is helping to drive the industry,” says Liew.
However, specialty coffee is an acquired taste, for it tends to have a sour or acidic taste, explains Liew. A good cup of specialty coffee, he adds, should have the taste of fruitiness, acidity and sweetness – all in one sip.
“Specialty coffee is a high quality consumption because of various nuances, such as other flavours - whether it is floral, fruity or nutty in the bean. This qualifies the beans to become ‘special’."
Liew’s priority for coffee is quality on three aspects: transparency, traceability and terroir
Liew’s priority for coffee is quality on three aspects: transparency, traceability and terroir. The “3 Ts” principle, when adhered to, creates a cuppa free from defect, says Liew.
He adds that the Malaysian public has largely yet to be able to really ascertain the quality in a cup of coffee; Liew himself felt compelled to travel to other countries to learn more about coffee, when the local coffee industry was still at its infancy stage.
“Back then no one taught me how to differentiate between good and bad coffee, so I decided to go abroad and learn."
“Coffee-training is not so well-known here and I want to do something to help this industry grow by structuring a comprehensive course to help baristas become more competent and confident in presenting their cups of coffee to the consumers,” says Liew.
When asked about his favourite coffee, Liew contended with the Torajan type, which hails from the Toraja island in Sulawesi, Indonesia. "Consistent, strong but sweet in its undertone," says Liew.
“Today, Malaysian coffee is ranked 7th globally. I am proud of my the Malaysia coffee scene. I'd say we have yet to be big consumers of coffee but it is definitely growing."
“Just like the coffee farmers in Toraja, they make huge investments in making a good quality coffee. They might not be well known outside of the coffee industry but they are very proud of their own coffee," says Liew.
“It takes a great deal of effort and commitment for coffee professionals to dedicate their life and time just to make sure customers are satisfied with the coffee they serve. It takes years to reach a certain level."
“This motivates me to see Malaysia grow in the ranks - year after year we have been improving in our rank in the world competition. I am proud of what some baristas have done to put Malaysia on the world stage,” says Liew.