Penang is slowly but surely occupying a space in my heart. This melting pot of cultures and religions has so much to offer on so many levels. I’ve been especially fond of the architecture made of townhouses with beautiful tiles and five foot ways, as well as the vast variety of delicious food. What makes the city even more charming is the fact that food is still prepared under the (this time around) boiling sun, in small alleyways and on the sidewalks.
While I was roaming the city for local beans I stumbled upon a traditional café in an alley off of Campbell road. Normally, the focus of this blog is on specialty coffee only, but I had to at least mention this icon of Penang’s coffee culture. Toh Soon Cafe has been up and running for over 40 years and serves thick and aromatic Kopi. Nowadays, it is popular with tourists and locals alike while still maintaining its traditional way of brewing coffee and making toast on charcoal. Boiling water is poured over ground coffee in a piece of cloth that looks a lot like a sock, resulting in a strong brew that some say tastes slightly salty. It is served either black, with condensed milk or on ice.
Now where is this particular taste coming from? Mainstream coffee beans from Malaysia are said to contain only about 50-70% coffee. The remaining percentage can consist of sugar, margarine, butter and/or salt, which are added during the roasting process. If you are wondering why this became common practice, it has a lot to do with the variety of coffee grown in Malaysia. The majority of beans are Liberica coffee, which has a distinct harsh and bitter taste. Well, you wanted local coffee, you got it! For the city guide I'll focus on high quality coffee only, but for an authentic coffee experience this shop is recommended!