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Costa Coffee in the Pyramid

Costa Coffee in the Pyramid? Hey, that would be neat but I don’t think the Egyptians would approve. What the heck am I talking about?

Of course, it is not the Pyramids of Egypt but it is the Pyramid Shopping Mall in Malaysia. If you want to read about this now, before anything else, then just click here.

If you have chosen to follow the story then let us start with the host of Costa Coffee – Malaysia

Malaysia

Malaysia is kinda like my second home because I visit quite a lot. I have friends and family in Malaysia and I always look forward to visiting.

I have found most Malaysian people to be friendly, courteous, and helpful. There are also some wonderful buildings and countryside (jungle in some regions) to experience in Malaysia.

If you haven’t yet been to Malaysia I encourage you to visit sometime. 

There is lots to see in this exotic and contemporary country. Meanwhile, I’ll just explain a little about Malaysia so you can get your bearings!

Malaysia is positioned in the south-west of the Malay Peninsula and shares a land border with Thailand.

About 40% of Malaysia is contained within the peninsula and is otherwise known as ‘West Malaysia’.

There are two Malaysian states (and one Federal Territory) in Borneo and this is often referred to as ‘East Malaysia’. Overall there are 13 states and 3 Federal Territories in Malaysia. 

Each state is also divided into districts, each district has its municipalities (cities) and each municipality can have its own neighbourhoods, towns, and villages.

The USA land mass is about 30x as large as Malaysia. For some other interesting comparisons between the US and Malaysia see My Life Elsewhere. (Please note that the size comparison map above was modified from the image on My Life Elsewhere.)

Early Malaysia consisted of many Kingdoms and Sultanates. The Sultans are still the constitutional monarchs in 7 of the 13 states of Malaysia. 

The British colonised Malaysia from about 1881 to 1957 and managed to combine the disparate Sultan states into a Federated and UnFederated Malay States. In 1957 Malaysia achieved its independence from the British and this is celebrated on 31 August year on Hari Merdeka (Independence Day).

Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur (commonly known as KL) is the capital city of Malaysia and is located in the Klang Valley of Selangor state. It is also the largest city in Malaysia and a Federal Territory in its own right.

The name ‘Kuala’ means mud and ‘Lumpur’ means joining (or technically a conjunction) and was named for two rivers Gombak and Klang that join in the valley where Kuala Lumpur was founded.

Today Kuala Lumpur is far from its muddy water foundation and is a hustling, bustling, diverse and cosmopolitan city. Kuala Lumpur is known for its shopping, dining, traffic jams and stunning architecture.

In particular, the Petronas Twin Tower Building in KL is an impressive and beautiful building that dominates the skyline. 

I was in awe when I first saw the Petronas Twin Towers with all of its sparkling and exotic beauty.

It isn’t the tallest building in the world but it probably still is the tallest ’Twin’ building in the world.

You may recognise the name Selangor because it is well-known for its pewter ornaments, kitchen ware, homeware, and collectibles. Pewter is mainly composed of tin mixed with other metals such as antimony and copper.

Tin was one of primary drivers for development of Malaysia in the 18th and 19th Century and it was often the Chinese immigrants that mined the tin.

Kuala Lumpur, and its surrounds, has lots to offer the visitor including delicious food, huge shopping malls, great bars and nightlife.

There are also the sights such as the Petronas Twin Towers, Batu Caves (near KL), and KL Tower.

Kuala Lumpur may be largest city in the state of Selangor but it is not the only city. There are about 10 satellite municipalities (cities) that radiate from KL in various districts as shown in the map below.

Malaysian Coffee

Coffee has been a part of Malaysian culture for hundreds of years. One of the traditional coffees is Ipoh white coffee

Ipoh white coffee is made by dark roasting a blend of three types of coffee beans (robusta, liberica and arabica) with palm oil margarine.

There are variations of the coffee roasting method including Kopi-O (see below) and the more exotic method described by Liew Siew Ling and others in their academic article

  • “Ingredients used were sugar, wheat, margarine, ghee, salt and sesame seeds in the ratio of 133:50:7.5:7.5:1:1.
  • Sugar, margarine and ghee were heated in a wok before the roasted coffee beans were added.
  • Pre-roasted wheat was added, followed by sesame seeds and salt
  • The mixture was stirred until the sugar caramelized. 
  • The coffee mixture was then poured out and left to cool before it was ground up in a Waring Blender for 2 minutes.”

The unusual dark roasting method involving sugar and other ingredients was probably developed to reduce the bitter taste imparted on the coffee by the rubusta and liberica coffee beans.

The coffee (kopi) is brewed by pouring boiling water through a cloth filter containing the ground coffee beans. It is then finally sweetened and served with condensed milk.

As you may expect, the drink is sweet and I find that it dominates the flavor of the coffee. 

The white coffee drink was introduced to Malaysia in the 19th Century by Chinese tin miners. 

The coffee is known as ‘Old Town’ coffee after its place of origin which was the ‘Old Town’ of Ipoh, in the western state of Perak.

The ‘Old Town’ label is now used as part of a trading name for a chain of ‘Old Town White Coffee’ franchised coffee outlets.

These coffee outlets are popular and exist in “230 café outlets throughout Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong, China, Myanmar, and Cambodia.”

The ‘Old Town White Coffee’ shops and other coffee shops called Kopitiams sell mostly Ipoh white coffee, Kopi-O, Kopi-C and traditional food such as Nasi Lamak and one of my favorite ‘any time of day’ snacks – Kaya and butter toast.

Kopi-O is made similar to Ipoh white coffee by roasting a blend of three coffee beans with sugar, butter (some may use palm oil margarine), and wheat. It is an acquired taste as one Malaysian said it tasted much like charcoal water”.

Source: https://sevenpie.com Click the image to go to the site.

Kopi-C is a version of Ipoh White Coffee but contains evaporated milk rather than condensed milk. 

In fact, there are many versions of Kopi as shown in the following infographic by Joanne Lee from Sabaheats.

By-the-way, just in case you didn’t catch on, a Sabahan is someone who comes from Sabah. 

How to Order Kopi (Coffee) Like a Sabahan

From Visually.

The traditional coffee is also packaged as an instant coffee where a 3 in 1 packet mix of instant coffee powder, sugar, and creama. 

This instant coffee is be sold as large bags or as individual sachets and is popular with Malaysians because of its convenience.

Just zip open a pack put one teaspoon or more into a cup (or simply pour it out of a single pack) , pour in your hot water, and you are good to go!

It also seems popular with the rest of the world too because ‘Old Town White Coffee’ exports bags of the mix to about 17 countries – even the good ol’ US!

Malaysians are now showing a growing interest in specialty coffee and there is a so-called ‘third-wave’ of coffee appreciation appearing in Malaysia.

The ‘waves’ of coffee as explained by Josh “…are the trends that define our relationship with coffee and how that relationship has evolved throughout American history.”

The first wave as described by Jonathon Gold “…was probably the 19th-century surge that put Folgers on every table…”

The second wave again described by Jonathon Gold “…was the proliferation, starting in the 1960s at Peet’s and moving smartly through the Starbucks grande decaf latte, of espresso drinks and regionally labeled coffee.”

The third wave as described by Daniel Liew in Malaysia: “…is widely accepted as an artisanal pursuit of perfection through coffee, wanting to produce the perfect cup.”

The idea of the ‘Coffee Waves’ origniated in America but is now used worldwide to describe this growing phenomemon of coffee appreciation from coffee bean to coffee brew.

And this is one of the reasons for the existance of the GoodCoffeePlace! 

It is also where Costa Coffee comes into the story.

Costa Coffee

Costa Coffee is a coffee roaster and a multinational chain of coffee places. It was founded in London UK in 1971 by two Italian brothers Sergio and Bruno Costa.

The family owned company was acquired by Whitbread Company in 1995 for about £19 million ($23,256,000). Coca-Cola then bought Costa Coffee from Whitbread in 2018 for a reported £3.6 billion ($4.8 billion) and is the current owner.

Costa Coffee has over 1700 coffee places in the United Kingdom (UK) and over 400 coffee places in other countries.

Costa coffee is now riding the ‘third wave’ of coffee appreciation in Malaysia and has set up a reported 6 coffee places at Sunway Pyramid, Bangsar Shopping Centre, Nu Sentral, Q Sentral, Menara Allianz Sentral and Menara MCMC in Cyberjaya.

It is not the only multinational coffee company to catch on to the rapid appreciation of specialty coffee and companies such as Starbucks are in many parts of KL and Malaysia.

Costa Coffee wants to ensure it has a presence in a growing market.

One of the best ways to announce that you are ‘present’ is to have a grand opening in one of the largest shopping malls in Selangor. And that is the Sunway Pyramid.

Costa Coffee in the Pyramid

Of course, It isn’t the real pyramid it is the Pyramid Shopping Mall in the the city of Petaling Jaya which is about 18 km south-west of KL. The mall sits next to the Sunway Lagoon water theme park.

The Pyramid Shopping Mall is a massive shopping centre with about “4.3 million square feet of retail space”. It has two main atriums and four shopping precincts.

Hugh Malaysian shopping mall

The name, and the design of the shopping mall is obviously inspired by the Egyptian Pyramids and the Sphinx.

The exterior of the mall is dominated by a massive eye-catching lion that also forms the roof of a  driveway to the mall entrance. A pyramid also forms part of the roof of the main mall.

The main entrance to the mall is no less impressive and is bordered by large gold-coloured ornate columns and two small sphinx.

show entrance of Pyramid mall

Inside the mall it is gleaming with marble-like floors (maybe they were marble, I’m not sure). It certainly has the air of luxury and expense.

Costa Coffee certainly went all out for the opening of the mall with displays on the ground floor and a very impressive retail space on the lower ground floor.

The company also employed Mini cars (Mini the brand) to travel around Petaling Jaya (and KL) advertising the grand opening and offering free coffee (the promotion was open from 18 August to 20 August, 2019).

We were a little late for the opening promotion (and missed out on the free coffee) but we wanted to go and see this new flagship store.

Costa Coffee in the Pyramid is impressive in its size and visual appeal. Truely a grand shining, glowing, and colorful sight. In fact, it won a ‘Overall Best in Class Design’ award.

OK….The award was from a ‘Costa Coffee Annual Global Store Design Forum’ but the place was competing with other Costa Coffee places around the world.

Costa Coffee was also impressive for the number of staff they had in the place and they looked smart in their uniforms. The cafe had the usual espresso menu and a ‘Brew Bar’.

The staff told me that the Brew Bar in the Pyramid is one of the first Costa Coffee Brew Bars in South-East Asia. The Brew Bar offered Costa Coffee’s handcrafted coffees and some of the ‘third-wave’ brewing methods.

In particular, they offered siphon (or syphon) brewing, French Press, and what  looked like the very cool 6 in 1 trinity one brewer which was used for press brewing, immersion, and pour-over.

This is a fantastic combination coffee maker and you should try it!

The Costa Coffee Brew Bar offered a selection of three coffees: Colombian Single Origin, Indian Single Estate, and a ‘Winter Berries’ blend of Brazilian, Colombian, and Peruvian single origin coffees.

My partner went for her usual small flat white. Raph, the barista, was intense in his concentration when he prepared the espresso. He clearly wanted to prepare the best espresso ever.

I went for the snazzy-looking siphon brewer, with a gold colored halogen induction heater for my first specialty coffee at the Brew Bar. Yeah, I know I get dazzled by shiny things.

Haziq was the specialty coffee barista. He was friendly, talkative, helpful and also very focused on his craft. 

Haziq suggested the Indian Single Estate coffee but I went with the Colombian Single Origin. You can see for yourself how well he did in the video.

The coffee was smooth and a little acidic. It’s aroma was subtle but I thought it lacked body and flavor.

Remember, I’m not a coffee connoisseur so my impressions are personal and will certainly not resemble anything like a coffee expert’s opinion.

My assessment of the flavour of the coffee is certainly not a reflection on Haziq’s expertise. As far as I’m concerned Haziq did everything you would expect from a professional barista.

If you are interested in siphon brewing, then please read our article on this brewing method. We go through the method in detail and we also let you know what we think are the best five siphon brewers you can buy.

I went back to Costa Coffee in the Pyramid a few days later. I wanted to try a pour over with the Indian Single Estate coffee that Haziq had previously suggested

This time Bazz was the speciality barista and I believe one of the managers. Bazz was friendly, talkative, helpful, and full of information about the brand new flagship Costa Coffee place in the Pyramid.

I was going to video Bazz’s preparation but I selected the wrong setting and took a series of photos instead of a video (sorry Bazz).

However, you can see in the photos that Bazz is very enthusiastic. Bazz mentioned that her favourite brewing method was immersion as she believed it led to a better flavour.

I liked the Indian Single Estate it had body and was a bit spicy. I would have liked to have gone back another day to try the blend and immersion brewing but I had other commitments . 

Maybe next time I visit Sunway Pyramid?

By-the-way, I had permission from the staff to take photos, videos, and call them by their first names. All staff that we encountered were very friendly and helpful.

We had a good experience at Costa Coffee in the Pyramid and that is why it is now featured as one of our ‘Good Coffee Places’. Hope you get to visit one day!

Coffee is Good!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Malaysia does grow its own coffee but it is mainly the Coffea robusta and Coffea liberica varieties of coffee. 

According to M Anem a Malaysian Senior Agronomist “The liberica is grown in Johor and Selangor. The robusta is grown on Northern Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah, and Sarawak.”

Also According to Goh Pei Pei of the Straits Times: “Johor produces the most coffee (6,939 tonnes), followed by Sabah (1,075 tonnes). Sarawak produced 20.7 tonnes in 2017.”

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), in a June 2019 report, provided the following statistics for coffee production in Malaysia:

Malaysia imported
1800 thousand 60 kilogram bags from 2018 to 2019

Malaysia exported
2600 60 kilogram bags of robusta from 2018 to 2019

Some people think it does but I’ve never tasted charcoal water so I can’t vouch for the comparison. However, like any other coffee it does depend on how the coffee is roasted and how the cup of coffee is prepared. 

I can bear the taste but without all the sugar. I think it is the sugar that puts me off. 

However, it is not a coffee that I’d drink regularly.

Yes, it is mostly a safe place. I’ve been going to Malaysia for about 15 years and I’ve never experienced any problems (thank goodness).

However, like anywhere else you still have to be cautious try not to put yourself in risky situations.  

 

Well, we know that Costa Coffee in the Sunway Pyramid is one good coffee place but there are many other potentially good coffee places in Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia. 

You can experience the third wave coffee brewing at Starbucks at the Sunway Pyramid.

Of course everyone has their favorites and you can find suggestions from timeout.com and and Sprudge.

We are going to do more  exploring of the coffee culture, coffee places, and coffee roasters in KL and Malaysia

Reference

Ling, L. S., Daud, N. I. N., & Hassan, O. (2001). Determination of coffee content in coffee mixtures. Malaysian Journal of Analytical Sciences, 7(2), 327-332.

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