Taiping See: Historical Antong Coffee Mill (安东咖啡厂) in Taiping, Malaysia
It was not until when I was in Taiping, Perak, Malaysia, did I know about Antong Coffee Mill (安东咖啡粉厂), the oldest mill in Malaysia since 1933. As a coffee-lover, I did not even hesitate to make a visit to this 84 years old historical mill. And they preserved their traditional way of making wood-roasted coffee powder till this day.
Being historical, the visit to Antong was more travel-worthy than visiting a modern coffee factory.
Antong Cafe Showroom
First thing I did after reaching the premise of Antong Coffee Mill was to check out the old-day displays outside the showroom.
Apart from a tricycle and traditional coffee wares, there were various types of coffee beans from different countries on the counter. Not sure if the beans can be tasted or they were for display only. Antong uses local coffee beans from Klang suppliers but do occasionally import from Indonesia as well.
On a wall of the showroom was a couple of murals. Visitors to Antong can sit and drink coffee with the murals and take photos.
And I was lucky to catch a well-known Malaysian artist (can't recall the name after the trip) adding a rain tree to one of the walls that day.
I was not so keen with the display items and video in the showroom and made my way into the coffee mill, where the workers were happily "coffee-brewing". How I know? See what's written on the back of their shirts.
Without needing a guide, I managed to identify every stage of the coffee-making process and document them below.
Traditional Coffee-Making Process
If you are interested to check out traditional coffee-making process, do visit on a weekday morning to see the workers manning the respective stations and carrying out their roles. And understand the whole work process live — not through videos.
The historical mill is not very big, as shown in the photo (above), and yet it encloses all the "facilities" for turning coffee beans into soluble coffee powders.
First, the coffee beans were roasted in a spinning oven using wood fire. Wood-fired roasting method takes longer time to roast the beans but aims to preserve more flavours in the beans as compared to other fast-roasting methods.
After the coffee beans were roasted, they were transferred to two large spinning wheels to remove the husks by abrasion. Once the coffee beans were shelled and ground, they were ready to be mixed.
Coffee mixing was done in two large vats over wood fires. The woods were salvaged from torn-down houses.
The coffee beans were cooked in a black syrup of melted sugar, salt and margarine (seems to be common ingredients in Malaysia coffees). Timing and controlling the temperature was crucial at this stage to maintain consistency of the mixing — and done by experienced staff only.
Once the mixing was done, the thick and pulpy coffee mixture was scooped out of the vat and spread on a large metal plate for cooling down. The black pulp crystallised (turn solid) as it cooled.
The hardened coffee mixture was then smashed manually into small fragments.
These fragments were then sent to the grinder to mill into coarse-grained powders and packed in tin cans — which are normally sold to local coffee shops to make kopi-o (black coffee).
Antong also has a modern coffee factory just behind the old mill to produce fine-grained coffee powders to meet Malaysia-internal demands.
After touring the coffee mill, head over to the cafe near to the showroom. Various brews of Antong's coffee are available in self-service dispensers for sampling. They have black coffee, white coffee (coffee made from white coffee beans), mocha and also durian-flavoured ones.
They have little bread rolls, called roti kok, for eating with the coffee. It is a nostalgic way to have coffee for older local folks. And is probably the only place that still has roti kok for coffee.
Thick black coffee is my usual preference. And I added two packets from Antong to my backpack with another two packets bought in Malacca.
Antong Coffee Mill is opened to visitors without the need to make appointments (but it would be better to call ahead if you are organising a large group as the mill is pretty small). Although the premise is opened daily, the mill — where the coffee beans are made into coffee powder — is closed on weekends.
So, weekdays are better visiting time. The premise is opened daily from 8:30am to 5:30pm.
The historical coffee mill is very near to Taiping Railway Station, about 1 km (15 minutes walk) from the clock tower in front of Taiping Wet Market.
If you are walking to Antong, do follow the green route shown in the map below to avoid making a detour round the estate when following the road.
Address: No. 8A, Jalan Assam Kumpang, 34000 Taiping, Perak, Malaysia