Saturday, 13 February 2010

Caffeine Getaway

The Ipoh duck restaurant was great. Coffee Ritual was less so, mainly because to much time passed between my last visit and the day I finally wrote about it, so the ardour for the place had cooled down somewhat. Poor Alex was pulling more than her weight when editing this piece...

I've gone back there once or twice, but there are fewer reasons nowadays for quiet coffee rituals.

An intimate Coffee Ritual
by KW and Alexandra Wong

first published in The Malaysian Insider, 13 February 2010

Alex practically shoved the address down my throat. "Here." She had discovered it while waiting for her notebook to be reformatted at Digital Mall. Not wanting the usual fast foods, she had looked around and spotted the corner shop at the end of the road.

She did a pretty good sales pitch, oohing and aahing over voluptuous latte, scrumptious sweet crepe, refined gourmet coffees at "proletariat prices." But she didn't have to mention the pricing.

She had me at "gourmet coffee."

My name is KW Wong, and I am a certified coffee-holic. Which was why I made a beeline for Coffee Ritual as soon as Saturday rolled around.

It didn't take long to spot the café, though finding a space for my car took considerably longer. There is a reason Section 14 is also known as Parking Hell.

On the outside, it looked pretty modest. At the shop-front, a standee tried its best to tease potential patrons with pictures of some of the delights to be found within.

As I entered through the nondescript front door, I noted a fleet of coffee paraphernalia lined the racks by the front door. A porcelain-bodied coffee machine was mounted on one side of the magazine cabinet, while coffee-themed paintings hang on the walls. After flipping through the menu, I decided to go with Alex's recommendation — café latte, and the sweet crepe, which purportedly featured premium Haagen-Dazs and Berkeley's ice-cream.

My latte arrived in a tall glass with a crown of creamy foam above a thick layer the colour of chocolate malt. I took a sip. The milk had been expertly steamed, its natural sweetness cushioning the palate from the coffee's more aggressive, bitter aspects. If I were a cat, I would purr with approval.

I took a bite of the sweet crepe. The still-warm parcel enfolded a stream of sweet custard, topped with a dollop of whipped cream and generous lashings of chocolate sauce. Crispy at the edges, the texture turned chewier as my teeth edged towards the swollen centre.

I quickly reported to base. "Verdict: coffee tastes like your tongue is in a bed of silken sheets, in a room that smells of the finest Arabica brew."

Her reply: "I gather you approve?" My coffee craving was temporarily sated, replaced by a new curiosity. I walked over to speak to a gangly bespectacled gentleman who was fiddling with a grinder — the boss I presumed — to find out more.

"Why Coffee Ritual?"I began with the obvious.

"Because the preparation of coffee to a ritual must be religiously followed for the perfect cup," he smiled. Turns out he sourced and roasted the beans himself, and tries different brewing methods on occasion. "Artisan" is not a word to be tossed around lightly, but I couldn't think of a more apt description for the owner.

Parking hell or no parking hell, I've become a regular, and developed a healthy partiality for the single origin gourmet coffees. For the uninitiated, these beverages are prepared with freshly ground beans using vacuum-powered siphon brewing, resulting in a liquid that has little to no residue.

What would interest coffee connoisseurs though, is this: the assertive Sumatra Mandheling's earthy, smoky notes are reminiscent of its source's rich, volcanic soil. The smooth, subtly aromatic and refined Colombian Special is hugely popular; after drinking one straight, even casual drinkers can feel the change in a cup of Colombian Special after adding one, and then two sugars. The bosses themselves drink single origin coffees neat and recommend that clients do the same. (Psst, rest easy, nobody will throw you out for coffee crimes.)

Sorry… I've gone on and on about the coffee, to the neglect of the packed menu that offers a decent selection of teas, as well as an extensive range of pastas, sandwiches, pies and salads as well as Asian favourites. Combine selected items to form a three-course value meal with starter, main dish and dessert. Hint: the nasi lemak is particularly popular. As for me, I am just glad that we found this unexpected oasis.

For a little peace and quiet from the madding crowd, few things beat the tranquil sanctity of a private coffee ritual.

Coffee Ritual
35, Jalan 14/20, Section 14
46100 Petaling Jaya

Now the site of Anjappar Indian Chettinad Restaurant

Premises have moved to Jin Yi Coffee Ritual at 68-M, Jalan SS21/39, Damansara Uptown, 47400 Petaling Jaya. Now sells only coffee-making equipment.


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