Johor Story 5: A Day in Johor Bahru for All Things Coffee & a New Coffee Idea
It was a Thursday again when I crossed the border to Johor. I had planned to spend the whole day in nearby Johor Bahru, not going anywhere further. Almost all the activities that I had in mind for this day were coffee-related.
But I started the day a little late. It was already 8:30am when I boarded SBS Transit 160 to Woodlands Checkpoint. It was a weekday, so there were more vehicles on the road and more passengers on the bus going to work rather than crossing the border. It took almost 45 minutes to reach the checkpoint as compared to 30 minutes on Sundays.
More border-crossers and heavy vehicles were at the checkpoints after 9am and it took longer to clear both immigrations. It was 9:45am by the time I exited from JB CIQ. I made my way to Tan Hiok Nee Heritage Walk (陈旭年文化街), about 1Km from JB Sentral.
I met up with my sister at Ah Ma Teochew Kuih (阿嬷潮州糕) at around 10am — was supposed to meet her at Woodlands Checkpoint at 9am. She had seated herself on the second floor and ordered Ah Ma's signature coffee (阿嬷特调咖啡) while waiting for me.
I had tried the signature coffee before, which was traditional coffee blended with cocoa powder (similar to Taiping's special coffee hor ka sai, 虎咬狮). I browsed through the coffee menu and ordered another unfamiliar item — Dalgona Coffee (400次咖啡) — along with some food.
I did not know that dalgona coffee was sweetened iced coffee. Unlike hot cappuccino or latte where frothed milk was added onto espresso, dalgona coffee had frothed coffee (after whisked or beaten 400 times) added onto milk and ice cubes. It was always a good experience for me to try new coffees although I prefer hot coffee in the morning.
I also bought a jar of Ah Ma's kaya (coconut jam, RM7.50) when footing the bill. I had always wanted to try their kaya and it was a good time to go for it since I had just finished my jar of jam.
It was a hot day, so we decided to book a Grab transport to Pelangi but traffic was a little slow around Jalan Tan Hiok Nee. So we took a short walk to MayBank just besides JB City Square Shopping Centre before using the Grab app — I had mobile data this time (Singtel's ReadyRoam service had extended from 7 days to 30 days for 1GB at $5). The journey to Pelangi Leisure Mall was RM6.
On my last trip to Kluang, just two weeks prior, I visited Kluang Coffee Powder Factory and noticed that they were selling insect repellants — sachets containing coffee beans with additives. Inspired by that new find, I did some research on coffee properties and decided to make some insect repellents cum deodorant cum coffee-aroma air freshener for my home. I would need to get some (preferably green or unroasted) Robusta coffee beans and small pouches. I chose Robusta beans for its strong aroma and highest caffeine content, the substance that kept insects away.
We spent some time in Mr DIY on the second floor of Pelangi Leisure Mall. I searched for small drawstring burlap pouches or something suitable that could hold coffee beans and allow its aroma to seep out but was unable to find any — I ordered via Shopee later.
Part two in Pelangi Leisure Mall was to get some grocery from Giant supermarket on the ground floor. Apart from getting some dried goods, I also browsed through the coffee section, with a wide array of coffee products, for anything new and interesting. More importantly, they were cheaper than in Singapore, especially those made in Malaysia.
Since I still had a pack of unopened Liberica coffee, which I bought in Kluang, at home, I did not take any coffee from the shelves.
In the fresh food section, Mister Coffee had a dedicated section for its range of roasted coffee beans. There were those from various countries, such as Ethiopia, Columbia, Tanzania, Guatemala, etc, and different favours of espresso. Roasted Arabica, Robusta and Liberica beans were also available. I did not expect to find any unroasted beans here. Anyway, I would be visiting Mister Coffee's showroom in Taman Sri Tebrau after lunch to try my luck.
After the shopping was done at around 1:30pm, it was time for lunch. We walked to Wang Xiang Noodle (万香生肉面) for pork noodles. It was a short 10 minutes' walk to Jalan Keris in Taman Sri Tebrau. The restaurant was not crowded at this time of the day and we were seated without having to wait.
We ordered both the soup-based kway teow and dry kolok mee with dark sauce sets with sliced meat, livers and intestines (RM10.50 per set meal) and also 3 pieces of Hakka yong taufu (客家酿豆腐, RM2 per piece) — strongly recommended by me.
My sister was first time at Wang Xiang and was impressed by the pork noodle with fresh innards and delicious yong taufu.
After lunch, we walked down the same row of shops to Mister Coffee's showroom. I enquired about green Robusta coffee beans but they did not have it for sales. I was told that Robusta beans were usually imported and would not be easy to get green coffee beans unless buying wholesales. For small quantities, one option would be to order online.
Anyway, I bought a pack of roasted Robusta coffee beans (500 gram) for RM28 — a check on Shopee app later showed that 1Kg (minimum order) of green Robusta beans from a couple of sellers costs about S$13 (excluding shipping fees). 1Kg was too much for making insect repellants, although green coffee beans could be roasted as often as needed to "boost" the aroma after exposing the beans to air for some time.
Note: Mister Coffee's showroom is closed on Sundays and public holidays. The Giant supermarket in Pelangi Leisure Mall provides an alternative to get their coffee beans on any days.
For the next activity of the day, we took a short hike (970 metres) to Taman Century, skipping KSL City Mall and Hotel Holiday Villa, to August Drip Coffee (八月咖啡工作室) along Jalan Kancil, right beside Restoran Hao Bi (for herbal roasted duck).
This was my 4th times to August Drip Coffee but first time for my sister. I had came to purchase a pack of Yunnan Red Wine in the Sun coffee but it was out of stock. I had tried the coffee, with a red wine note, before and enjoyed it a lot.
After some recommendations for other specialty coffees, we ordered a pour-over with Columbia Huila beans and a cup of cappuccino using the house blend — I forgot the compositions, will ask again next time. My sister wanted a brownie and a slice of blackcurrant cheesecake that was just out of the chiller and needed a little more sitting time.
We sipped the Columbia Huila coffee and compared the taste notes. My sister was able to identify one of the fruity notes as passion fruit but I tasted more peachy. The cappuccino was very smooth as the house blend coffee was not as bitter as most espresso. Both of us preferred to sip cappuccino with no sugar and without stirring the frothed milk.
The cheesecake came a little while later. The soft and creamy cheese was laid with a layer of blackcurrant-favoured cream and topped with some gold foil. Both of us liked it very much.
By the way, I had joined as a member of August Drip Coffee during my last visit to the cafe and had topped-up RM200 (added with RM50 bonus). The expenses for this visit (RM68.80) was deducted from my account. I had decided not to get any fresh roasted coffee this day since I would be travelling to Malacca for several days in the following week.
Two hours later, we left August Drip Coffee. We took myBAS Service F100 from KSL City Mall back to JB Sentral and walked over to City Square Shopping Centre, where my sister did some more shopping. After a quick dinner at a fast food outlet (not fantastic), we set off for home. But at a bad timing...
It was about 6:45pm after we cleared Malaysia Immigration but was caught in slow traffic on the Causeway — many heavy vehicles and cars were still crawling towards Woodlands Checkpoint. Twenty minutes later (well, not so bad), we reached the checkpoint, cleared immigration and on our ways home.
Later at home, I put some Robusta coffee beans to use in a wide-mouth glass jar —while waiting for the burlap pouches that I ordered online to be delivered. I really loved the aroma of the coffee beans — with distinctive bitterness — and hoped it could fill the whole house all the time.