JOHOR BARU: A local cafe owner who plants and brews his own coffee is now internationally known after his blend of Liberica coffee beans won an award at an international competition in Italy.
Jason Liew said it was a dream come true for him when his coffee blend emerged third in the World Barista Championship in Italy in October.
“At least 40 countries participated in the competition,” said Liew, who owns several cafes known as My Liberica here, in an interview.
The top two spots went to participants from Columbia and the United States.
Liew, 39, who has a degree in Agronomy from Taiwan University, said his family had been farming since his grandfather’s time.
“My father decided to venture into coffee planting about 20 years ago.
“Most of the farmers in Malaysia plant Liberica which is not as popular as other coffee beans such as Arabica or Robusta which are much more in demand,” he said.
Liew, who previously did not consume coffee despite his family having a 20ha farm in Kulai, said his interest in coffee started when he went to study in Taiwan.
“There, I was intrigued by the various blending methods used to brew coffee, including using the cupping methods to taste coffee.
“As I had to brew the beans and taste them, I started getting used to the coffee taste and soon, got hooked to it,” he said, adding that when he came back to Malaysia, he told his father he wanted to start a cafe to promote their local coffee.
Liew said with his savings and help from his family, he started his first cafe in Taman Molek in 2011.
“Previously, we grew our coffee and then sent it to others to roast it while I purchase and sell the processed beans at my cafe.
“As I wanted to keep the quality, I decided to invest in our own processing machine to ensure that we are in control from production, processing and roasting the beans for consumers,” he said.
Liew also claimed that his processing mill was the first of its kind in the country as previously, all coffee processing mills were old and traditional.
He said being involved in the coffee business was not easy as each coffee bean would have its own flavours based on the climate and soil.
Asked how he managed to win the international award, he said that he befriended an Australian who was the winner of the World Barista Championship in 2015.
“We decided to collaborate. I provided him the Liberica beans for the competition as usually, people do not use this kind of beans.
“We got our first break when we won the Australian Barista Championship in March this year,” he said, adding that in October, they emerged third in Milan.
Liew hoped that with the award, more focus would be given to Liberica coffee beans which were usually described as “nothing special” as they did not have a good smell.
He added that for him, it was how the beans were roasted to bring out its flavours and aroma.
On the Covid-19 pandemic that has affected his business, Liew said it had been tough due to the border closure but he was thankful that he still got his regular clients patronising his outlets.
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