To some, the world of coffee may seem a little intimidating, which I find is an odd way of describing the experience of drinking a simple beverage made from a harmless bean. The fear I believe, stems from the notion that the barista will judge you if you inquire about the difference between a latte and a cappuccino, what a V60 is, or any other curiosity laced question related to coffee. For those new to quality caffeine consumption, the world of coffee may seem surreptitious, chichi, and perhaps even pretentious to a certain degree as everyone has to appear to understand the ins and outs of coffee when really, they don’t.
A highlight of my trip to Malaysia was finding an establishment that did away with the stereotypical snooty nature of third wave coffee and welcomed everyone to learn and educate themselves. Collective, I believe, is a game changer. Not so much a coffee shop as it is a hub for the coffee community of Kuala Lumpur, Collective is a roastery before anything else. Setting up shop one and a half years ago, Collective brewed only for their clients at first, then opening their doors to the public not long after.
Their layout was simple and functional. Located in a warehouse, it was plain to see that roasting was the name of the game. On their counter was a selection of three seasonal house blends: a Sweet blend with a combination of beans that denote fruity tastes, a Bold blend with a mix of chocolaty and caramel-tasting beans, and a single origin which at the time came from Ngozi, Burundi.
While enjoying our latte, Americano, and cold-brew, one of Collective’s roasters started revving up their 5kg Probat machine. It appeared we had come at roasting hour. Personally, I was perfectly content to appreciate the roasting process from my seat by the roasting room but to my delight, Zulkefle invited me inside, right by the machine, to watch the process of turning humble green beans into quality roast coffee.
Now you may think this odd as the roasting process is typically thought of as the Krabby Patty recipe of the coffee world, but Zulkefle enthusiastically explained that at Collective, the process of making coffee wasn’t something to hide away in a safe; it was only coffee after all, not nuclear codes.
While manning the machine, Zulkefle remarked that everything served at the shop was roasted in-house, though the bulk of their goods were shipped off to numerous coffee shops in Kuala Lumpur. Collective favored a medium-roast for most of their coffee, but a special hot-air roast for their filter coffee to preserve more of its flavor. For something as simple as filter coffee, every single flavor and nuance is amplified, so it makes sense to give it a little extra TLC.
If I thought visiting Collective’s roasting room was fun, then I was in for a real treat. After roasting a batch of coffee, Zulkefle asked if I wanted to visit their storehouse to which I happily answered yes. As it turned out, the small blue container in the corner of the room was where they kept all their beans. Inside, the room was divided into two sections: green beans and roasted. Barrels of roasted coffee sat at the left, while sacks of green beans sat to the right. Other than roasting coffee, the shop was Latorre & Dutch’s storehouse, so anyone in Malaysia looking to buy from the company would find themselves at Collective.
After roasting, each batch would be meticulously tested ensuring that everything they sent out was up to their standard. I remarked that that meant they had to taste barrels upon barrels of coffee every day, to which Zulkefle humorously remarked that their cupping sessions was where he got his daily caffeine fix.
After exploring their storehouse, I got the chance to sit down with Collective’s founder, Barrie and talk about the coffees we had tried, the shops we had visited and the experience of coffee in general. Barrie and everyone at Collective were passionate about their art and about educating people about the wonders of coffee. What truly stood out to me about Collective was their openness; their only secret was their use of great beans and the presence of terrific roasters. When you respect the craft, everything else falls into place.
To me, Collective was like a breath of fresh air. Come with your questions and a thirst to learn, and you won’t go home disappointed. Other than serving great coffee, the people at Collective are as warm as a freshly brewed cup of Java. There’s really no need to feel intimidated, coffee was made to be enjoyed with good company and Collective is a great place to do just that.
Many thanks to Barrie and Zulkefle for making us feel so welcomed. Your enthusiasm for the craft is truly inspiring. Hope to see you again soon sometime in the near future.