Malacca Cafe: Calanthe Art Cafe @ Melaka Old Town (2017)
Updated: Oct 8, 2022
I visited Calanthe Art Cafe at least once on each trip to Malacca, Malaysia. When it comes to choosing my favourite cafe in the historical city, Calanthe Art Cafe is the first to pop into my head. I have recommended the cafe to many friends, and I will do so for iPackTravel readers.
Calanthe Art Cafe is the place to go for great breakfasts with large selection of traditional coffees to start the day. They also serve a number of specially selected local delights. The cafe is also a great place for specialty coffees, teas, and ice "blenz" when taking a break from the hot sun and busy Jonker Walk Night Market (Friday to Sunday only).
Calanthe Art Cafe is located off a side road from Jonker Street, or Jalan Hang Jebat, the main tourist street in the old town of Melaka. Very easy to locate (see map at end of this post). Standing outside this cafe, you will see a sign that says "Malaysia 13 States' Coffees", which is their specialty but is often mistaken as the name of the cafe. The cafe's name is actually on the pillar behind the sign.
The cafe has a front pouch where you can dine or enjoy coffee and watch people passing by. But don't just stay outside, check out what is inside the cafe first — a greater heaven lies in there.
Since Calanthe is called an "art cafe", the first thing to do is to check out their arts and find a corner where you can immerse in the artistic ambience. Step right past the bar counter and into the courtyard of a traditional Chinese architecture known as "courtyard house" or si he yuan (四合院). You will be overwhelmed by the decorations and wall paintings.
Art is about how you see them in your own perspective. Different people will view and interpret them differently. What matter most is how you perceive them and what they may mean to you.
Gather under the "Tree of Life" and get reinvigorated by the power of coffee. I mean, you have to drink the coffee, not absorbing it from the tree. Although the ambience is far from having coffee under a real tree, the decor does give that "feel". Hey, art is all about imagination!
These utensils are actually mounted on a wall. There are several wooden plaques that provide definitions on local coffee lingoes such as "kopi", "kopi-o", "kopi-c", etc. Find them all and understand what each of them means. They may come in handy when you are travelling in Malaysia and Singapore and need some local coffees that suit your preference.
Rustic backdrop that sets an olden-day coffee-time mood — you are in an old town anyway. If you are alone, the ladies can keep you company. Just don't talk to them, the guests at adjacent tables will spring out of the cafe.
We are not going to steal all your fun and creativity by showing everything, just 4 photos as teasers. The rest are for you to explore. Bear in mind, "modern" is not a part of this cafe.
Calanthe's uniqueness is the list of local coffees, from Malaysia's 13 states, on top of other cafe beverages. You can try the different favours and characteristics of all the coffees. Since you are in Malacca, do try the local coffee "Melaka", which is added with sugar, salt and margarine.
"Mini Cappuccino" that uses local coffee instead of espresso. And a cup of Pulau Pinang (Penang) coffee roasted with Robusta beans. I like taking photos on their artsy tables too.
Browsing through the Calanthe coffee menu, you will come to "The Art of Coffee" section. Order any beverage from the list and be blown away by their wonderful presentations. For non-coffee drinkers, they have milk with honey, tea and iced drinks as well. Again, be wowed.
Calanthe Art Cafe serves local fares such as nyonya laksa, nasi lemak, roti canai, asam pedas, etc, and also western cuisine. The presentation of the dishes are nice too, topped with spring onions and a large red slice of chili and they look appetising. Looks good on photos too.
Calanthe's signature dish is their Calanthe laksa, one of the best in Malacca.
After trying the nyonya laksa, go back for their claypot e-mee laksa. This is one of my favourites at Calanthe.
Their nasi lemak is available only for breakfast on weekends only. Go for it before they are sold out by lunch time. That's how hot it is.
Roti canai (also known as roti prata in Johor Bahru and Singapore) is also on the breakfast menu.
Address: No. 11, Jalan Hang Kasturi, 75200 Melaka, Malaysia.
Closed on Thursdays (except public holidays)