KLANG: Large potholes, clutches of chickens pecking on the ground and noisy machines hard at work — these are the things that greet you as you walk down the dusty dirt road in Kampung Jawa.
Added to this rustic scene is the unmistakable aroma of coffee thick in the air, a sign you’ve reached Klang’s 62-year-old coffee factory.
On the far right are 60kg sacks of coffee piled high and on the left are rows of storage units where a tiny, worn out signboard reads ‘Chuan Hoe & Company Coffee Powder Factory’.
From this setting, out walks third-generation owner, Tan Loon Chuan. His palms and loose hanging shirt are caked with coffee grounds and his ruffled hair no doubt contain some traces of it too.
He smiles shyly, introducing himself as the owner of the factory. “This began with my grandfather. He came from Indonesia. He originally imported coffee beans and sold it to coffee factories. But business was not good so he had to come up with another idea.”
Tan’s grandfather eventually decided to run his own coffee-making factory but with a twist — unlike traditional coffee roasters of the day who used gas, he would use charcoal.
Now 63 years old, Tan reveals he’s been working here since the tender age of 18.
Despite being the business owner, Tan is the first to show up at the factory every day at 7am to stoke the fire and begin the first step of coffee making — roasting the coffee beans.
“Other coffee makers make coffee using gas which is easier to control. However, in the case of charcoal, you have to keep the fire going. But our hard work pays off because our coffee smells more fragrant.”
His coffee beans come from suppliers both local and foreign, with some from as far as Indonesia, India and Brazil.
Once the coffee beans are roasted, Tan takes it to a giant vat and cooks it with sugar and butter till it forms a thick, black, bubbling liquid.
Once the sticky concoction dries up, the hardened pieces of the coffee-sugar-butter mixture are broken into pieces before dumped into a giant mill where it is ground into coffee powder.
Here, Tan swings into action.
With a wrench in hand, he keeps a close eye on the machine as it grinds the cooled coffee mixture. Occasionally he gives the old mill a quick turn with the wrench.
He doesn’t even seem to notice the beads of sweat quickly forming on his forehead.
According to Tan, he has only two other workers to help him with the manual labour of making the coffee. His other staff focus on the packaging work.
In minutes, the sack next to him is filled to the brim with freshly ground coffee. His face creases into a grin as he gestures to take a quick whiff of the sack’s contents.
The strong aroma is intoxicating and you find yourself instantly craving a strong, black cup of joe.
According to Tan, they make on average 120 kilos of coffee powder a day to meet local demand and to fulfil online orders.
“Some clients come directly to us just to purchase the coffee beans as they have coffee machines in their restaurants,” the soft-spoken Tan explains.
He says that he remains thankful that his coffee-roasting business took only a mild hit when the Covid-19 pandemic broke out last year.
However, he no longer enjoys the usual visits from Hong Kong tourists who used to travel all the way to his village to purchase his coffee powder.
Besides the charcoal-roasted black coffee that Chuan Hoe Coffee is famous for, there’s also the rock sugar variation for those who prefer their coffee sweetened.
The factory also churns out white coffee, drip coffee and Hainan Cham coffee for those who like a mix of tea in their brew.
Does the man behind the 62-year-old coffee factory ever drink his competitor’s products?
He lets out a laugh, before shaking his head and affirming that only his own brew can appease his taste buds.
How about retirement? Tan gives a resounding ‘no’, while adding that he’s unsure if his two children are keen to get their hands dirty, literally, once he’s ready to call it a day.
“I will work as long as my body is able to,” he says, smiling shyly.
If you’re craving a cup of charcoal-roasted black coffee right now, check out Chuan Hoe Coffee products on Shopee and Lazada.
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