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Jiak Kopi: Breathing new life into Hainan coffee

The Hainan coffee and tea at Jiak Kopi are deliciously thick and creamy. (Muhaimin Marwan @ FMT Lifestyle)

KUALA LUMPUR: To most, a strong cup of coffee in the morning is the perfect elixir to kickstart the day.

Although many go to Instagrammable hipster cafés and coffee chains today, there’s nothing quite like a strong cup of traditional Hainan coffee made the old-fashioned way using a cloth filter.

Cherrie Loh and her cousin, Tommy Low know this only too well, and in November last year, the duo realised their childhood dream by opening their café, Jiak Kopi.

“We talked about our dreams, yet we never did anything about them as we didn’t want to step outside our comfort zone. The pandemic made us realise that life’s too short and unpredictable, so we took the plunge,” said Loh, who once worked in a bank.

Low on the other hand, has had two decades of experience as a coffee roaster at TKK Hainan Coffee, an establishment of over 50 years.

Jiak Kopi, which means “drink coffee” in Hainanese and Teochew, serves deliciously strong Hainan coffee in a simple yet tasteful setting.

“As an arts and craft lover, GMBB mall is a perfect location. The community here has also been very supportive of our business,” Loh said, adding that they purchased some of their furniture from artisans there.

Cousins Cherrie Loh and Tommy Low are the co-owners of Jiak Kopi. (Muhaimin Marwan @ FMT Lifestyle)

With its thick and creamy texture, it’s unsurprising that the most popular drink here is JK Signature, a combination of coffee and tea, also known as “cham.”

Besides that, the Hainan kopi and tea are just as “gao” or strong, and serve as the perfect pick-me-up. And to those craving something refreshing, the sour plum lime drink is highly recommended.

According to Loh, all the coffee is freshly brewed. “We insist on doing that even though it’ll take a little longer. It’s definitely worth the wait,” she said.

It goes without saying that the pair spent a lot of time perfecting the recipe for each drink. In fact, they even make their own ice cubes. “Ours are thicker; they don’t melt as fast and hence do not alter the taste of the drink,” she said.

The butter toast is thick, crispy and melts in your mouth. (Muhaimin Marwan @ FMT Lifestyle)

The perfect companion to Hainan coffee is the thick and crispy butter toast here. “We buy the Hainan bread from an old bakery in Pudu, and we use Golden Churn Butter for a rich flavour.

The roti bakar here is also a crowd favourite, with its generous serving of butter and homemade kaya.

“Some do ask us to reduce the kaya and butter. The thing is, people often ‘eat’ with their eyes first, and they feel guilty seeing the ample amounts, but it’s the right amount, trust us, as we have experimented with all sorts of proportions” explained Loh.

The nasi lemak comes with a spicy and flavourful homemade sambal. (Muhaimin Marwan @ FMT Lifestyle)

Equally popular is their mildly sweet and moist banana cake. But if you have a sweet tooth, try their chocolate and pandan chiffon cakes or their selection of homemade kuih – pulut inti, sweet potato sago and kuih lapis.

Craving something savoury? The nasi lemak here, served with a flavourful and spicy homemade sambal ticks all the right boxes.

Mee Siam meanwhile is served every Wednesday, and should you go on a Friday, there’s pulut kuning, served with a delicious chicken curry.

Most of the dishes are inspired by Loh’s mum, who also helps out at the café. Needless to say, the cousins take pride in using fresh and quality ingredients in their food and drinks.

Jiak Kopi serves a variety of delicious homemade cakes and local kuih. (Muhaimin Marwan @ FMT Lifestyle)

Loh said they try to be as environmentally friendly as they can by using paper packaging and straws, as well as bio-corn cutleries. Customers who bring their own cups and containers also enjoy a small discount.

“We still use plastic cups for the cold drinks and plastic packaging for the kuih, but we’re hoping to find sustainable alternatives soon.”

Made using pisang berangan, the banana cake is moist and mildly sweet. (Muhaimin Marwan @ FMT Lifestyle)

Not only are the drinks and food at Jiak Kopi made with a lot of heart and soul, they are also inexpensive.

“Some say we should raise the prices, but we want more people to try them. They’ll come back if it’s good, and we’re confident about that,” she said.

At the end of the day, seeing satisfied smiles on customers’ faces makes it all worthwhile.

“People say I should just hire others to help run the café, but I want to be involved in every aspect of the business,” Loh said, adding that she loves chatting with her customers.

So, if you’re in the Bukit Bintang area, head over to Jiak Kopi. The good coffee and food, alongside Loh’s hospitality will surely make your day.

The pulut kuning dish comes with a thick, flavoursome chicken curry. (Muhaimin Marwan @ FMT Lifestyle)

Follow Jiak Kopi on Instagram.

Jiak Kopi
GM-1-1 First Floor, GMBB Mall
Jalan Robertson, Bukit Bintang
50150 Kuala Lumpur

Business hours: 11am-6pm (daily except Mondays)