We travelled right across Kuala Lumpur in search of good coffee and tea. Most of it we managed on the rather good local transport system, using a combination of buses, monorail and the light railway, though we did opt for taxis to get home from both our favourite coffee shop and tea room.
We found The Brew Culture by chance, mind you. We caught the 83 bus from KL Sentral up to the Plaza Damas part of town and felt quite smug to have found our way so far from the centre of town. But we’d gone there in search of a coffee shop that has actually closed down (the owner, a former Malaysian barista champ, has transferred to Johor Bahru, where he opened a new venue shortly after we got that far south – check out Atlas Coffee Embassy if you’re interested in tracking him down).
Plaza Damas is a massive shopping mall on both sides of the main road and there are countless cafes, but Brew Culture stared down at us as we got off the bus so we decided to give it a go. And very glad we were that we did…
What we liked about the guys who run this place is their enthusiasm and passion for what they do (it seems they gained their love of coffee when living in America and/or Australia, and wanted to bring something similar home).
Their basic espresso blend for our visit included Indonesian, Bolivian and Salvadorean, but if you went for the hand brewed coffees, you could choose from a number of other options, including a delicious sounding Yirgacheffe from Ethiopia.
It’s the kind of coffee shop where you can choose to sit on stools at the window watching the world drive by on the main street, get your laptop out and spend a few hours working, loll around in comfy sofas, or sit near the bar and chat to the baristas (owners).
It was when we were swapping stories with the owners that we got talking to another customer by the name of Ony and ended up with a rendez vous for later in the week further south in Malaysia (that’s the great thing about coffee connections, they always seem to lead to other new experiences, but more on that in the blog to come…).
For coffee in Kuala Lumpur, we’d recommend getting on that bus to Brew Culture. The guys there did recommend somewhere more central, but we had a less positive experience there, which will lead to another blog entry later, around some of the issues that can crop up in coffee shops, so we’ll save that story for then rather than naming the other place in a negative entry).
When the guys at Brew Culture heard that we also review teas, they insisted we try their range of flower teas. The chrysanthemum tea was almost as good as their coffee, so if tea is your tipple, get yourself to Brew Culture anyway!
But for great quality tea in Kuala Lumpur, we’d actually recommend a trip to the opposite end of town. The Tea Republic has an extraordinary range of teas from some of the big international tea suppliers (Ronnefeldt, Jing Tea, Koala Tea, and some Japanese and Canadian companies we hadn’t come across before).
They have nine signature teas (Ceylon breakfast, Earl Grey with cornflowers, a puer-based tea, an oolong, a white tea, a gunpowder, and then the ones we wouldn’t normally choose: mint, chamomile, roiboos and fruit) and if you go for the High Tea, then for about £4 (UK) you get a pot of tea, a cake and a tray of sandwiches – so it’s great value, too.
We loved this place for its simplicity but also its quality. It sits in the corner of a fairly plush looking shopping mall in a more affluent part of KL (Bangsar shopping centre NOT Bangsar village!), but there was no sign of any airs and graces that sometimes go with such circumstances; the staff were friendly and open to chat with us about the teas and the background to the tea room.
The owner, we found out, is an architect, but tea is her passion and The Tea Republic her big project that takes her beyond the world of architecture. But it’s funny how often coffee and tea shop owners’ past or other careers find an outlet in their new ventures: if you look at the design for the name of this tea room as you enter the place, you can see the architect’s style in the layout and feel.
Good luck to these guys, and keep serving up great afternoon tea to the people of Kuala Lumpur. This place is open every day from 9am to 9pm, so you have lots of opportunity to get over there for an excellent cuppa.
Oh, and don’t miss the Victoria Sandwich – a real treat that tasted almost as good as cake at home in Yorkshire…