A lesson in atmosphere – a visit to Typica

A coffee cup with the Typica logoCheap factory outlets generally have concrete floors, metal racks overflowing with products and bored staff seated upon plastic seats who either never could be bothered or the tedium and futility of their work life beat the bother out of them. These places are considered to lack ‘atmosphere’. Cheap hawker stalls also have concrete floors, plastic seats that might or might not collapse under the weight of a decent sized devotee to the nosh, metal racks covered in produce and staff who have families to get back to. Yet the hawker stall abounds with ‘atmosphere’.

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Typica Coffee Enterprise is not a cheap factory outlet and it’s a far cry from the hawker stall. The floor is lined with cheap carpet and the photos printed on to plastic should be tacky, but it’s far from it. The places oozes charm and devotion to coffee. It feels like a coffee house should: intimate, earthy, with the scent of coffee in the air. The place is small. It’s very small. There are the seats at the bar and then a few by the long window. On the opposite side of the windows the bar runs the length of the shop. It runs away from you as you come in, leading you in. The pews at the bar are an old wooden sign with large carved Chinese characters for medicine and healing (the characters repeat on the other side). I find reclaimed wood alluring. Anything carved has people’s lives and passion engraved into it. Wood and stone used as building material are human and geological stories entwined. The bar is reclaimed too: nice thick wood, well worn and inscribed by history.

Serving water with lemon slicesFurniture and layout can only do so much. The staff at Typica epitomised service. Mei Ying served us water with lemon slices and then took our order. Both staff smiled copiously and every action was undertaken with the care and attention of a Japanese tea ceremony. It turns out that Mei Ying recognised Amirah from Artisan, but I’m sure that we would have gotten the same reception had we been unknown to them.

We sat at the bar and Mei Ying explained everything to us as she prepared our coffee. The coffees we chose were a Liberica variety of coffee grown by the owners in the south of Malaysia, a Nicaragua Pacabella (I have no idea whether this is the estate or some obscure varietal) and a fermented ice coffee drink.

The brew method at Typica is Syphon, a full-immersion filter brewing process that creates a very smooth cup. It’s great for those acidic coffees with fruit aromas and is one of my favourite brew methods if done well. The beans were put on to a plate for us to look at and I must admit at this point to some concern. The Liberica beans were quite unevenly roasted, which makes it very difficult to get any consistency out of them. Moreover, the roasting was predominantly on the outside. The inside of the bean was quite a lighter shade. This we call ‘scorched’. To be fair the beans had been pan roasted and for pan-roasting this was pretty even.

The Nic beans had been roasted by a roaster in Penang and were more even, but still had signs of scorching on the outside where the beans had spent too long against the roasting drum or where dropped in at too high a temperature (see the two obviously burnt beans pictured right). This usually gives an ashy flavour to what might otherwise be a nice cup.

Into the grinder went the beans and on went the syphon flames. I prefer to pre-heat my water to a set temperature and then add the coffee for a set time. This helps with consistency of flavour. However, at Typica the Siphonist smells the brew to sense when it might be ready. I’d be interested to know if the results from this method are consistent. It’s the way that I was originally trained to roasts and I still use scent to monitor the first test roast for each new bean or harvest, but for consistency’s sake we’re better off replicating heat application over time for the production roasts. Niall was very impressed. Especially after his coffee arrived.

Niall had ordered the Nicaragua Pacabella and was loving it. He described lovely citrus and a little fruit, slightly ashy, but generally a very decent cup of coffee. Amirah enjoyed it a lot too.  Maybe there is something in this method of brewing, in the syphonist’s delicately calibrated nose. She is certainly very passionate and knowledgeable about her craft.
My Liberica was very dull and had little to recommend it. The fermented iced coffee was quite fermented. It went to Niall and he loved it.

Our visit wasn’t limited to just drinking coffees Kai Yin very nicely showed us some of the cherries and cut one up for us to taste. The low-grown Liberica beans were quite large and the taste was less sweet and a little more bitter than the Arabica Bourbon and SL28 varietals that I had tried in the past.

Atmosphere is one of the most important aspects of any retail shop that wants to provide an experience. The Shaw Parade mall is a cold, sterile place. It had as much warmth as Siberian funeral parlour. Typica is a ruby in the dust, a complete delight to visit. I will be back to try more coffees, chat with the delightful staff and to have another slice of sweet potato cheesecake. Typica shows what can be done with a lot of passion and a fair bit of hard work.

Typica Coffee Enterprise

GL-08, GF, Shaw Parade

Jln Changkat Thambi Dollah

55100 Kuala Lumpur

Typica’s facebook page.

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