In Search of the Long Black

It took about four days of getting oriented in Kuala Lumpur before I realized there was something rather special about Malaysia that was going to be a focal point for my visit here.

Anyone who knows me at home in Canada knows I have a love of coffee. The darker, the stronger, the richer – the better.

I haven’t been a lifetime connoisseur. Hanging out at a local restaurant guzzling endless carafes of crappy, weak coffee is a small prairie town rite of passage which seems to align with all-night cruising and bush parties (all three of which I opted out from during my teenage years).

Rather, my love of coffee developed in my late 20s in the midst of a major project one summer as we overhauled the radio station. All-nighters behind the glow of a computer were fuelled by expensive, strong cups of joe from a fancy place down the street. It was the one thing that kept me from falling asleep under my desk. By the time I had started to work early mornings as a radio show host, my love brewed in to a pot-a-day habit (at the very least).

I'm happiest with an open laptop, high speed Wifi, and a full cup of coffee.
I’m happiest with an open laptop, high speed wifi, and a full cup of coffee.

Coffee is a passion of mine. Great coffee gives me joy. Discovering that Malaysia was home to incredible coffee has made me a man on a mission – to shake my comfort zone of seeking out the great green siren wherever I go (I’m a Starbucks fanboy), and to see what local, independent coffeehouses have to offer.

The Long Black : Doing it Differently

When in North America, my beverage of choice is an Americano – a drink created with two freshly pulled shots of creamy, flavour-rich espresso which are then topped with just enough hot water to nearly fill an eight ounce cup (four shots if you’re going for the 20 oz “Venti” way of life). The result is a dark black coffee which has more flavour than a traditional brewed cup of joe.

In Australia, New Zealand and – as I’ve come to learn – in Malaysia, a popular alternative to the Americano is a similar drink called a Long Black. Generally speaking, a Long Black is an upside-down Americano. Rather than pulling the shots first and then adding water, hot water is poured from the espresso machine in to the cup and let to sit for a moment before two shots are then added on top. The result is a more velvety cup of coffee, one where the crema (the caramel-coloured foam produced from making an espresso shot) is not ruined by water being poured on top of it.

I’ve long wanted to try a barista-crafted Long Black (I had made it at home numerous times), and on my second day in KL, I had found a place that made an amazing one.

Antipodean Coffee is a small chain of seven cafes across Malaysia and Indonesia. In talking to one of the managers, I learned that what’s notable about them is that they source┬átheir own beans and have their own roasting specifications at a roaster in Indonesia. The result is a handcrafted cup of coffee from start to finish.

The silky, caramel-coloured crema on top is one of the many ways a long black differs from an Americano.
The silky, caramel-coloured crema on top is one of the many ways a long black differs from an Americano.

My 8oz long black at Antipodean near the Petronas Towers cost RM11 (C$3.60). On my first sip, the thing I noticed most was the creaminess of the coffee. The texture was really amazing. Then, the flavour hit me – a rich, almost chocolatey taste finished with just enough of a bite that kicked me in the pants. It was fantastic – exactly what I was looking for.

Coffee Quest in Malaysia

As I continue to make my way through peninsular Malaysia and onward to Sabah next week, I’m going to continue to explore Malaysian coffee culture. In fact, Malaysia has traditional coffee all of its own that I want to experience – and I can’t wait to taste the differences!

If you’ve travelled through Malaysia and Southeast Asia and have any coffeehouse recommendations, please pass them my way in the comments, or by sending me an e-mail at john@gonejohn.com.

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