The Burgeoning Bean

Growing up, this humble writer’s ideal cup of coffee was a good, thick kopi o’. Think a tar-black concoction, beans roasted to a pitch-black coal with sugar and butter, ground up and steeped from a sock-strainer. They are national favourites, after all – kopi o’ and kopi peng. Many of us will find it difficult to pinpoint the exact time in which the shift in coffee culture began. Some will argue that it came with the franchised Western coffee giants that, it had seemed, blossomed out of thin air overnight.


Perhaps it did. What most people aren’t aware of, however, is just how much of a difference it makes to drink a superior cup of coffee made from superior beans, by the hands of a trained and learned barista. Kelvin Ngow of Coffex is most certainly aware of this fact – what’s more, he intends to make sure the nation knows it too.


While it was a notion at first inconceivable to Kelvin to operate a coffee business in the nation, it soon became inevitable that he introduce his own expertise on the subject matter. It had been due to his initial experience with a falsely-named cappuccino (coffee with whipped cream on top, he recalls), that he’d decidedly found himself unimpressed and consequently jaded with the concept of Western coffee in Malaysia.


Eventually, however, the worldwide economic crisis nudged Kelvin non-too-gently back onto this path. In several moments of serious consideration, he’d recalled the concept of ‘discussing business over a drink’. That drink? Commonly, coffee. It remains a fact universally acknowledged that coffee is at the heart of every important conversation. People hold business discussions over coffee. Interviews are conducted over steaming mugs of lattes and cappuccinos. It is drunk in the morning as a stimulant, a precursor to a prolific workday. In short, there is a reason that coffee remains to this day the second largest commodity in the world. It’s a culture. It’s a part of life.


Ever business-oriented, Kelvin sought to go at the industry from that angle. His is a passion of a double-edged blade, however – from a business standpoint, it was a genius plan. Yet he is driven also by a love of the beverage, seeking to improve the coffee industry of the nation as a whole, and from every aspect imaginable. In the earlier days of Western-style coffee in the nation, where there were a mere handful of five players in the industry, it was nonetheless a noble start.


From then on, his mission was clear – to supply the nation’s food and beverage industry with quality coffee, and to provide fantastic service to consumers. To this day, that goal remains unchanged, even though the times, and consequently the demands of the industry, have changed. The market has come a great deal forward, and as such, Coffex’s missions too must evolve to keep up. Coffee-making, once a job for fresh-out-of-schoolers and part-time college students, is now a full-scale career ladder to climb. Baristas are on the rise in numbers – something inadvertently contributed to by Coffex’s run in the coffee industry thusfar. To this end, Kelvin himself has dedicated time and resources to the expansion of career opportunities for passionate baristas, essentially propelling coffee education forward in the nation.


Naturally, such is only expected for a progressive coffee company – one that seeks to grow with the industry. Beyond what is natural for providing good service, however, Kelvin integrates his love of coffee into his work by seeking out the best beans he can, even when it means travelling to various coffee-producing regions in the world. In fact, he enjoys it – just as he enjoys finding his little gems where beans of a great quality, for a reasonable price are concerned. Of course, finding the best involves knowing the best – something Kelvin champions as of utmost importance in the industry. He elucidates, fervently: accepting hearsay about quality is unacceptable. With him, it’s all, ‘know it before you knock it’.


Beyond finding great beans for his consumers and studying the art form of coffee processing and the way it differs from region to region, Kelvin dabbles in finding the perfect roast. His first experience blending a roast for a competition has certainly turned out well – his coffee came out first in terms of Best Espresso, and then again as the coffee used by a barista who came out the Overall Champion of yet another competition. He describes the blend as a ‘combination of all the good stuff’, rich, yet smooth – a direct representation of just the type of quality Coffex stands for.


To this day, Coffex remains of great standards. While we can say with absolute certainty that the company itself is one of the forefathers of the Malaysian coffee industry today, it has become evident also that Coffex is here to stay. They are invested in quality, promoting traceability for their products from bean to user. Uncompromising in excellence, it is no wonder, indeed, that Coffex has come as far and inspired as much.


For certainly, the Malaysian coffee industry is that much better off for having known a friend as good and as passionate about the bean, as Coffex itself.

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