Just Caffe, George Town, Penang

It’s hot in Penang, really hot, so why not take a stroll to the Esplanade and enjoy a bit of sea breeze,  If it’s a clear day you might even get a good view across to the mainland and around to Straits Quay and Tanjung Tokong.

Esplanade George Town Penang, Fishing at the Esplanade, GeorgetownCatch of the day on the Esplanade waterfront

 Anywhere in Georgetown is really only a short walk, so you can get to the Esplanade (Padang) easily on foot. From Komtar it would take a maximum of 25 mins.

It’s an interesting area. On one side of the Esplanade you have Fort Cornwallis and although it’s not the oldest fort in Malaysia it is still pretty impressive. When Francis Light took control of Penang from the Sultan of Kedah in 1786 the fort was built to protect Penang from invading Pirates, from Kedah, and the French.
It was actually never used for this purpose and was mainly an administrative office for the Island.

A lighthouse in the shape of a ships mast was built at the fort in 1882, but similarly it served no navigational purpose. In 1804 the fort was updated in brick and stone from it’s original nibong (palm) construction and in 1920 it’s 9 metre wide moat was filled in due to a severe outbreak of malaria.

Lighthouse Fort Cornwallis Penang,ships Mast Lighthouse Fort Cornwallis Penang

Today the fort is a tourist attraction and has recently been privatized. Just inside the fort is a statue said to be the figure of Francis Light. In actual fact it is really William, his son. Since no painting of Francis was ever found, the closest likeness was that of William, who, like his Dad, was also a pretty amazing guy considering that amongst other things he founded and designed the City of Adelaide, now a sister city to Penang.

Cannon Fort Cornwallis Penang, Seri Rambai Cannon PenangThe Seri Rambai Cannon at Fort Cornwallis

To be honest, there’s not a lot to see in the fort. A cannon, Seri Rambai cast in 1603, takes pride of place on a corner of one wall. This has quite a reputation for helping barren women to become pregnant, if they sit on it and wish for a child! There’s a bit more of a story about the way it eventually ended up in Georgetown but otherwise it’s just a Cannon. In one part of the grounds is an ammunition magazine and in another area is an old chapel where the widow of Francis Light is said to have married her second husband, John Timmers.

Martina Rozells married John TimmersThe Fort Chapel where Martina Rozells married John Timmers

Recently a restaurant has been built inside the fort which as yet we haven’t tried for the simple reason that it now costs RM 20 for tourists, (up in price this year from RM1) to enter the fort, even if you just want to eat at the restaurant. Okay, they apparently give you RM10 back on displaying your receipt if you spend over RM20 on your meal, but since we have already visited the fort dozens of times in the past I really don’t feel like paying RM 10 each for the priviledge of eating, especially when I can’t even check out the menu at the entrance to the fort. More of a matter of principle than the cost.

Fort Cornwallis wall of stone & brick Cannons positioned on the wall of the Fort, but never fired.

On the other side of the Padang you will find the recently re- painted and very colonial Town & City Halls. The Town Hall, closest to the main road was completed in 1883 and was largely used for entertainment. It had a full size ballroom, an assembly room and a library.

Town Hall George Town Penang, Esplanade Town Hall PenangThe Town Hall Penang

The City Hall, closest to the sea, gained its name in 1957 when Penang was granted City Status. It is well known as the first building in the state to have electric light bulbs.
This beautiful Victorian building built in 1903 continues to be the administrative department for the whole of Penang Island.

City Hall Esplanade George Town, City Hall Penang Administrative OfficesThe City Hall, Penang

Around the corner from the Town Hall & facing Light St is The Dewan Sri Penang. Here is the main concert hall/ theatre for Georgetown where most of the top shows are staged, especially during the month long Georgetown Festival.
On the same side as the DSP but one street further on you will find Jalan Green Hall. Nearly at the bottom of this street on the right you will see Just Caffe. Don’t try finding it on a Saturday or Sunday. They’ll be closed.  They are open every other day between 8.30- 5.30pm.

Just Caffe Panini and Pesto PastaJust Caffe owners Kelvin & Kirsten

If you would like a touch of local culture then instead of walking along Light St to get to Green Hall follow the path along the water front past the City Hall. Stay close to the beach wall and keep going. You will pass a fairly large Malay food court on your left. After this you will cross a small bridge and continue over a very broken path. Watch your footing here as recent stormy weather and strong waves has broken up the path and it is a bit wobbly and uneven in parts. Most days here the locals enjoy catching a few fish. Be mindful of their fishing lines along the path.

Local food court on ethe Esplanade George TownThere are steps into Jalan Green Hall just about where the man with the white socks is sitting

Keep going until you see a small street food area covered with umbrellas. In the centre of the wall there is a set of steps. Duck your head as you go over the wall. There’s usually a canopy at about neck height. Walk through the stalls into the street. This is Green Hall. A few paces, and you will see Just Caffe on your left. There are tables, chairs and plants outside. You can’t miss it.

Just Caffe Outside eating areaThe Garden area at the front of Just Caffe

When you have found Just Caffe and if you appreciate good food, do sit for a while and enjoy. This is a super cool & relaxed cafe. The menu isn’t huge by any means but what they do have, they do very well and will have you coming back for more.

If you like panini then this is the best in town. Various flavours are on offer. The Patient Partners favourite is the Green Hall Guru. Loaded with chicken, cheese, greens, and a curry aioli, it’s simply exploding with flavour.
Mine is the Veggie Lovers panini with cheese, capsicum, basil pesto and aioli. The bread is so fresh and toasted to crunchy perfection.

Just Caffe Guru Panina, Exploding with flavour,The Green Hall Guru Panini with Spicy Cajun Fries on the side and a Tomato Dipping Sauce

Panini with vegetables, pesto and cheeseThe Veggie Lovers Panini

I find it difficult each time we go there to choose between the panini and the pesto pasta. Both taste equally delicious. Basil pesto has to be one of my all time favourites. I could eat it daily if my quirky stomach could handle the garlic. At home I now make a walnut & basil pesto and use asafoetida, a pungent Indian spice that smells and tastes like onion & garlic and brilliantly tricks the taste buds into thinking its the real deal!

Pesto Pasta with Chicken Olives & ParmesanA favourite of the Caffe,  the delicious Pesto Pasta

The basil pesto pasta at Just Caffe comes with slithers of chicken and a very generous sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and black olives.
There is often a beef stew to keep those red meat eaters happy and another Pasta with meatballs of either beef or chicken.
Cajun fries are a great side addition to the paninis or just something a little lighter for a snack.

Cinnamon Scrolls at Just Caffe,Cinnamon Rolls at Just Caffe PenangThe Best Cinnamon Scrolls in Penang

Make sure you leave plenty of space for dessert, all of which are superb. The cinnamon scrolls are literally to die for, not to mention the melt in the mouth Dutch biscuit. We love these so much that at times we have put in special orders to take home and share with friends ( that’s of course if the PP doesn’t eat them all first!!)  Kirsten’s cakes are all homemade so you can never be sure what will be the bake of the day, but I guarantee you won’t be disappointed whatever the choice.

Just Caffe Chocolate CakeJust Caffe Chocolate Cake with extra rich chocolate ganache

I can’t stress enough how good the food is here but what makes it super special is the staff. The friendly, efficient and relaxed attitude of owners Kirsten and Kelvin make it a welcoming space to enjoy either a quick coffee & cake, a long lunch with friends or the chance to catch up on some study. ( the Segi College is just across the street). If their aim is to please their customers and make them feel welcome then that’s exactly what they do.

Happy Customers at Just Caffe Green Hall PenangJust Caffe, a perfect place to catch up with friends.

Coffee at Just Caffe is consistently good and a glass of their homemade lemonade or Italian soda is a welcome and refreshing drink after the hot but interesting walk to find one of the best lunch spots in Penang.

Cake & Coffee at Just Caffe PenangCoffee & Chocolate Cake. What better way to start or end a day!!

Open from 8.30-5.30 Mon – Fri.
Address. 52, Jalan Green Hall. George Town, Penang

Ferringhi Coffee Garden, Penang

Living in Australia we are well used to travelling huge distances. Whether it be to visit family, go to a market, see a show, go to the beach or anything for that matter, spending an hour or two or three or more in our car to get there is not a problem.
So sitting for 45 mins on a bus from the centre of George Town to the touristy area of Batu Ferringhi just to have lunch is pretty normal stuff for us.
Some would wonder why we’d do this especially when there is no shortage of food on the streets of George Town.

It’s simple. The Ferringhi Coffee Garden is only in Batu Ferringhi .
It’s also just as well that we had no idea how good it was when we were actually living in Batu Ferringhi or we would have broken our budget well before it was time to return to Oz.!! Now we go there as often as is possible. Making up for lost time.

Garden Area at ferringhi Coffee Garden Batu Ferringhi, Orchids at Ferringhi Coffee Garden Batu ferringhiThe partially covered Garden Area At Ferringhi Coffee Garden

Ferringhi Garden is a high end restaurant. One side of it is fine dining. The menu definitely dictates the price. I haven’t eaten there, but I’ve read the reviews and they are all very complimentary.

On the right side of the restaurant looking from the road is their all day dining venue, The Ferringhi Coffee Garden. Considering my love of the bean, anywhere now that happens to have ‘coffee’ in it’s name sparks my interest and that is how we discovered this gem of a cafe.

Step inside and you will be dazzled by its beauty. Apart from the greenery that lines the walls there are the most stunning orchids everywhere you look. The flowers are so perfect that they could almost be plastic. They have to be touched for you to believe that they are truly real.

Almost plastic orchids,Ferringhi Garden Batu Ferringhi, Penang National Park, Pantai Kerachut PenangSo many stunning Orchids

On each table is a vase of flowers. The last time we were there they were exquisitely coloured pitcher plants. I believe that these co-exist and thrive in an area where there are orchids. No wonder they looked so healthy.

Carnivorous plants, pitcher plants, Ferringhi Coffee Garden Batu FerringhiThe Cafe is full of amazing Pitcher Plants

We always choose to sit outside in the garden area so we can feel the lush vegetation around us. Living in George Town, where we co-exist with nothing but buildings it is a treat to escape the concrete jungle occasionally and breathe in some good clean green Oxygen.

Garden at Ferringhi Coffee Garden Batu Ferringhi Penang Following a trek in the National Park it seemed as though we had came out of one jungle and into another!!

The garden is partially covered so there is shade from the sun, there are fans and some minimal protection from the rain. If you prefer aircon and no sun then you might prefer the pleasant inside area.

We are immediately welcomed by the cafe waiting staff.  They are friendly, polite and professional. Some of them also work in the fine dining restaurant at night, so the customer service is excellent.

Their menu is full of options. It’s too hard to choose. I can only hope that we can return enough times to try everything.

Ferringhi Coffee Garden Menu, All day dining menu Ferringhi Coffee Garden arAll day dining menu with plenty of choices

I love taking our friends to this cafe. Not only do we enjoy a great social lunch but it’s a chance to check out what everyone has chosen to eat. That way I have a better idea of what to eat next time!! I also get to take more pics for my blog post!!

A few weeks ago we did a jungle hike in the National Park at Teluk Bahang. A relatively easy walk ( with quite a few large steps which might make it difficult for anyone with severe knee problems) , but well worth the trip. Taking this hike, rather than the one to Monkey Beach we were able to see the meromictic lake and the turtle hatchery. We spent some time enjoying the pristine beauty around us and  the smell of the sea air before catching a local boat back to the Park Headquarters.

Local Boat from Pantai Kerachut, boatman at penang National ParkHire a boat at the start of your hike from the Park Headquarters

Pristine Beach at Pantai Kerachut,Penang National Park,Smallest national Park in AsiaPristine beaches at Penangs’ small but beautiful National Park

Meromictic Lake Penang national Park, Smallest National ParkThe Meromictic Lake where different layers of water never mix.

Turtle Hatchery Pantai Kerachut Penang National Park MalaysiaBaby Turtles just born at the Pantai Kerachut Turtle Hatchery

By this time we were pretty hungry and what better way to look after our grumbling stomachs than a lunch at Ferringhi Coffee Garden.
We caught the bus from the park into Batu Ferringhi, just a short trip, providing the bus driver doesn’t leave you sitting in the bus while he says his prayers at the local Mosque!! But that’s okay. It’s a chance to have a bit of a snooze after the hike.

Pantai Kerachut Jungle Hike, Penang National Park,Easy hiking on the jungle track to Pantai Kerachut

This particular day we all ate different things. Great for my pics!!
Not only did our meals all arrive at the same time ( although the PP and I are used to this at Coffee Garden it is not a common occurrence in Malaysia and our friends were suitably impressed!!)
There’s nothing worse than your partner getting his meal first and finishing it before yours even arrives and then sitting there like a spare part while you hurry to finish so he can eat dessert or have a coffee!!)

Below are pics and descriptions of our meals. We were all full of praise for the chef. The meals were incredibly tasty and beautifully presented.

Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon at Ferringhi Coffee GardenEggs Benedict with  smoked salmon on a light English muffin The Hollandaise sauce was tasty & smooth and the eggs poached to perfection.

Chicken pie Upside Down at Ferringhi Coffee Garden Batu Ferringhi PenangUpside Down Chicken Pie. Chicken, vegetables and a poached egg nestled above a flaky layer of puff pastry. A favourite of my Patient Partner

Salmon Pizza Ferringhi Coffee Garden, Batu Ferringhi best pizza, thin base on salmon pizza Ferringhi Coffee Garden PenangSmoked Salmon & Prawn Pizza with a superbly thin base and crispy crust

Salmon pesto and poached egg on potato mash, Ferringhi Coffee Garden Batu Ferringhi PenangMy favourite dish. Salmon, pesto and poached egg on a potato mash surrounded with crisp bread croutons, greens, tomato salsa & a drizzle of beetroot puree.

The table settings have class. Double insulated coffee glasses from Bodum, cutlery that is heavy, feels good and sits comfortably in the hand. Milk is served in a cute white porcelain cow and dainty scones are served along with jam and really real fresh cream on a wooden platter.
These are little things that add to the ambience of a restaurant or cafe and complete an exceptional dining experience.
But none of these matter without exceptionally good food.
I believe that Ferringhi Garden Restaurant and Ferringhi Coffee Garden have both of these.

Coffee at Ferringhi Coffee Garden, cow milk jug, bodum glass Ferringhi Coffee Garden, Batu Ferringhi RestaurantsGreat ambiance, wonderful meals, beautiful flowers, great company. What more could we ask for!!

P.S. Don’t forget to check out the hi-tech bathroom!!

Guan Seang Cafe, Armenian St, Penang

On the corners of Armenian & Lebuh Pantai, ( Beach St) are two of my favorite places to eat in Georgetown. On the left is Cozy in the Rocket, a Western style cafe, famous for its Pasta, desserts and good coffee. On the right is Guan Seang Cafe, famous for its beautifully cooked local dishes such as Assam Laksa, Spring rolls and Nyona Kuih.

Assam Laksa Guan Seang Cafe, Helen & Chew Guan Seang Cafe Armenian St Penang, Old Bicycles Guan Seang Cafe afAssam Laksa, Spicy & Sour, at Guan Seang Cafe

If you have ever had the good fortune to eat at this cafe then you will already have met Helen & Choo the hard working and super friendly couple who run Guan Seang.

Helen & Chew, Guang Seang Cafe Armenian St, Owners of Guan Seang Cafe

This impressive building dates back to 1907 and was at one time owned by Choo’s father who ran a bicycle shop here, which he started with a loan of $50.  After he passed away the shop remained empty for some time until Choo and Helen restored it and opened the cafe in 2013.

Guan Seang Trading Cafe, Cafes on Armenian St Penang, Asam Laksa, Ice Kacang, Cendol,

In memory of his fathers business, 2 old bicycles are hanging from the ceiling in one of the dining areas. Old photos of Georgetown and not so old LP’s of singers during the 1960’s and 70’s hang reminiscently on some of the cafe walls.

Old Bicycles Guan Seang Cafe, Bicycle on the wall mural Georgetown, Heritage Building 1907, Armenian St CafesOld Bicycles from the shop owned & run by Choo’s Father

Old Records at Guan Seang Cafe Penang, Old LP's 1960-1970, Cafes GeorgetownOld LP’s from 1960’s & 70’s remind us that we once had gramaphones

On the 5 foot way outside, iron artwork, such as those gracing many of the streets in Georgetown’s heritage area, depict scenes of the city’s life in its early years. For those who prefer to eat outside several tables provide shelter from the hot sun. These also give customers a first class view of the famous Georgetown mural of the children on the bicycle. I guess this is quite a fitting piece of artwork considering its right opposite to a shop that used to sell them!!

Iron Artwork Guan Seang Cafe, Five Foot Way, Armenian St Penang, Bicycle on the wall, Georgetown ayView of Armenian St from inside Guan Seang Cafe

Five Foot Way Guang Seang Cafe Armenian St Georgetown, Bicycle on the wall Georgetown, Guan Seang Trading Cafe

Inside is where it really happens, with the culinary expertise of Helen. Creating fresh and tasty meals in the same way her mother once did, using whatever produce happens to be available on the day, she has become expert at creating her unique flavours, often using herbs & greens from her own garden.

Guan Seang Cafe, Cafes on Armenian St Penang, Healthy Local Food, Mural of Bicycle on WallLunch at Guan Seang Cafe on Armenian St

Each day Helen will have several dishes on offer which can be mixed and matched and served with a portion of steamed rice and a soup. There are usually one or two dishes with meat, fish or tofu and one or two veggie options.

Guan Seang Lunch, NO MSG, Healthy local Food, Armenian St Cafes, Georgetown PenangHelen’s tasty dish of mixed veg, chicken & rice, served with a soup on the side

Chicken, Potato & Veg Lunch on Merdeka Day 2016 Our Merdeka Day Lunch at Guan Seang Cafe

If you want to spice up your life then her Assam Laksa is not to be missed.
Fried rice and Helen’s homemade spring rolls are all time favourites. I think these are the best spring rolls I’ve eaten. Usually a snack meal I stay away from due to their greasiness, this was not the case at Guan Seang. They were incredibly light with a beautiful flaky pastry and no hint of oiliness.


Homemade Spring Rolls at Guan seang Cafe, No MSG, No additives, Spring Rolls on Armenian St Penang, Bicycle on the wall muralHelen’s Homemade Spring Rolls at Guan Seang Cafe

To cool down on a really hot day and for something sweet, do try the popular Malaysian Cendol. This mixture of shaved ice, red beans, gula melaka, coconut milk, cubed black grass jelly and pandan is really delicious, but way past the comfort zone of my poor fructmal stomach.

Nyonya Cendol at Guan Seang Cafe, Local Dessert Penang, Pandan, Cendol Armenian St, Penang, Bicycle mural of childrenIcey Cold & refreshing Nyonya Cendol

To play it safe I opt for the traditional Perenakan dessert treat of Nyona Kuih and leave the Patient Partner to sample the more adventurous local delicacies.

Merdeka Lunch Nyonya Kuih, Traditional Nyonya Dessert, Guan Seang cafe, Bicycle Mural PenangTraditional Nyonya Kuih, time consuming to make, but worth the wait!

To quench a thirst the fridge is stacked with a variety of drinks, including bottles of nutmeg juice, another speciality of Penang. Also available are coffee, tea and milo, either hot or iced and refreshing coconut water.

Puddings & Jellies Guan Seang Trading Cafe, Nyonya Desserts Armenian St Georgetown, Bicycle on the wall PenangJellies, Puddings, Soups, Tofu Desserts and fresh Coconut.

We like to eat regularly at Guan Seang as it’s a great lunch stop. The food, unlike some similar dishes you might find on the street stalls in Georgetown, is not swimming in fat and does not contain MSG. The prices are incredibly affordable and the customer service is superb.
I highly recommend this cafe for a healthier local food experience in the heart of the heritage area.

Barley Soup Guan Seang Cafe, Armenian St Cafes, Healthy Barley SoupHelen’s  Healthy Homemade Barley Soup

Cozy in the Rocket


We wish the talented couple responsible for Cozy all the best in their next venture.

If you love a good pasta, then Cozy in the Rocket is a must visit in Penang. This cafe with its eclectic blend of homemade tables, antique chairs, bric-a -brac and a wall that boasts a kaleidoscope of hand painted bottles, should be on everyone’s list of great places to eat in Georgetown.

Cozy in the Rocket entrance on Lebuh Pantai Georgetown Penang, black & white awning on Cozy in the Rocket Cafe PenangThe entrance to Cozy in the Rocket on Lebuh Pantai (Beach St)

Although slightly hidden behind a couple of striped bamboo blinds, Cozy is not difficult to find. After all, it’s side fence and wall is a well known George Town landmark. Yes, you guessed it!! The famous Bicycle mural. The one that draws crowds of selfie taking tourists from around the world and has taken over from the iconic rickshaw as the symbol of Penang Island.

Heritage Penang, Trishaw Georgetown Penang, Temples, Prewar houses, Cozy in the Rocket, bicycle mural Penang, pasta, desserts Armenian StKing St in George Town with it’s amazing Temples & iconic Trishaw, once the symbol of Penang

This is a second for the young owners and creators of Cozy in the Rocket. In 2010 they opened a tiny cafe on Armenian St, only a few paces from their current location. Amelie, named after the French movie of the same name, was the first of its kind in George Town. Serving amazing pastas made by the talented and self taught Loh Choon Kueng (Hong), coffee, smoothies and fresh local fruit juices made by partner Yen, this tiny cafe with only 5 tables soon became too small for the increasing number of appreciative customers.

Amelie Cafe Armenian St, Cozy in the Rocket Georgetown Penang, Fresh Pasta, Bicycle on the wall in Penang, Murals in Penang, Lithuanian Artist in Penang, Armenian St Bicycle on the wallAmelie Cafe, a once popular, welcoming place to eat on Armenian St

Tiny Amelie Cafe on Armenian St Penang, Amelie Cafe now at Cozy in the Rocket, Bicycle on the wall, Great Pasta in penang, King of Desserts at Cozy in the RocketThe very compact Amelie Cafe, closed now but the new venue of Cozy in the Rocket is a few steps away on the cnr of Armenian & Beach Sts

Amelie made way for Cozy and although the space is bigger nothing has changed as far as the food. The kitchen is spacious and more user friendly for Hong who once cooked in an area about the size of a postage stamp. Yen has a large serving counter now, a commercial size espresso machine, a larger fridge and room to move. She used to share this area with Hong on the postage stamp!!

Delicious Iced Chocolate at Cozy in the Rocket,Yen's double chocolate Iced Chocolate at CozyYen’s Deliciously Moorish Real Iced Chocolate

Pastas are still fantastic. Hong makes them himself from scratch and they are cooked to perfection. Don’t expect a quick meal here, this is not fast food. Every dish is made to order and if you are a large group, then you may not get your meals served all at the same time. Hong is the only chef and each meal is hand crafted. This takes time.  Equally, if it’s very busy and you have a plane to catch, then first  check with Yen how long your meal will be.  If you can be patient, have a drink or read a book ( don’t expect wifi here), then these pastas are definitely worth the wait.

Tagliolini Fromaggio & Bacon Pork & Sausage Meat at Cozy in the Rocket Penang, Pasta in Penang, Best Pasta in Penang, Cafe in Georgetown Penang serving Pasta dishesTagliolini Fromaggio with Bacon, Pork & Sausage Meat

Tagliolini with Mushroom & Truffle Oil, Mushroom Pasta at Cozy in the Rocket, Great mushroom Pasta in PenangTagliolini with Mushroom & Truffle Oil

Pasta at Cozy in the Rocket Penang, Fructose friendly Pasta at Cozy in the Rocket Penang, Pasta minus Garlic & OnionMy special Fructose Friendly Prawn & Tomato Pasta

Now you might be wondering how Cozy in the Rocket got its name. I certainly did and yet everytime I went there I forgot to ask Hong because I guess I just liked the name and it didn’t really matter! However I did find out recently that it was one of his favourite songs from a group called PSAPP. It also happened to be the theme song for a favourite TV program of his called Grey’s Anatomy.

Cozy in the Rocket Penang, Hand Crafted Pasta, Great Desserts in Penang, King of Desserts, Pasta near Bicycle on the wall, Georgetown, PenangThe bright & spacious venue of Cozy in the Rocket in the busy Heritage Area of George Town, Penang

Do NOT leave Cozy without sampling one of Hong’s homemade desserts. I really believe he is the King of dessert and cake making in Penang. His ability to blend texture and flavours to the max is uncanny. If you have the chance to sample his chocolate brownie, pannacotta and brûlées then you will know what I mean. The dessert menu changes regularly, sometimes even daily depending on available ingredients and Hong’s creative flair.
I guarantee you’ll be back for more!!

Chocolate Mousse Cake with Passionfruit Cream & Praline topping, Cozy in the Rocket Desserts, Great Pasta in Penang, Lithuanian artist, bicycle on the wall in Penang,Armenian St Penang, Cozy, g

Shia’s Homemade Granola Penang

On the corner of Beach St and Church St Gaut in the Commercial district of Georgetown, Penang, you will find an old grey coloured building called India House. Built in 1937 in an Art Deco Style by a wealthy Indian Chettier, it is mostly remembered for housing the United States Information Services. Today, it appears a little run down and the Indian architecture is somewhat obstructed by sign boards attached to the front along the Beach St side.

India House Penang, Indian Chettier Penang, India House, cnr of Beach St & Church St Gaut, George Town, Penang

Once you’ve had a good look at the front of this impressive building with it’s elephant sitting in pride of place below it’s name, take a walk along the Church St Gaut side and just a couple of doors along you will find a bright and welcoming little shop that is home to Shia’s Granola.Shia's Granola Shop. Church St Gaut Penang, Homemade Granola, India House George TownShia’s Granola in the India House Building on Church St Gaut

Now in it’s 3rd year of what is fast becoming a regular stop for Penangites who are serious about their health, this cute little shop is surely here to stay.

Considering the healthy nerds that the Patient Partner and I profess to be, I am seriously surprised that we haven’t found Shia’s until this year, after all, we only live a couple of blocks way!  As soon as Facebook (thank you) alerted us to what we have been missing  for the past two years we were there like a shot, eager to try a new taste sensation.

Homemade Granola Penang, Shia's cute shop, The shop on Church St Gaut, Georgetown

We were greeted by Alishia and Ke Wynn, the  young owners of Shias Granola. The passion for their business and a desire to provide a quality health product for their customers is clearly evident. Ke Wynn is also a Private Fitness Trainer so if you feel that you’re in need of a work out or just need to improve your general health then give him a call. Remember, achieving good health is holistic. Exercise and good food go hand in hand!

We perched at the counter on two high stools and with watering mouths we watched the making of our Granola Bowl Smoothies. The Patient Partner opted for the Peachy Mango whilst I couldn’t resist the thought of Choc Banana, a blend of yogurt, banana, peanut butter, cocoa, chia seed & Granola. The P.P’s was a mix of peach, mango, yogurt, chia & Granola.

Shia's Homemade Granola, Mango & Peach Granola, Peachy Mango Granola Bowl

Our oohs! and aahs! as we ate proved they were not only very moorish,  but also a cool & refreshing treat in such hot weather. The Granola was deliciously nutty  and thankfully not overly sweet.

Choc Banana Granola Bowl, Shia's Homemade Granola, Delicious GranolaChoc Banana Granola Bowl

As well as their homemade granolas Shia’s also retail a range of  products made locally by other entrepreneurial young Penangites, such as Jams, nut butters, Ginger Beer and teas. Apart from the teas we have had the pleasure of eating and drinking all of these products as most are made by friends, and we can highly recommend them.

Hand Crafted Flower Teas at Shia's Granola ShopHand Crafted Slimming Flower Teas available at Shia’s Granola

We have been back to satisfy our taste buds at Shia’s several times since our first visit. There are less than a handful of cafes in Georgetown where we feel we can get a descent cake or dessert that isn’t loaded with saturated fats, synthetic cream and artificial colouring.

Strawberry Granola Bowl Penang, Homemade Granola George Town, Strawberries, Granola & ChiaShia’s Strawberry Granola Bowl with Yoghurt, Chia Seeds and Vanilla

At Shia’s we can feel confident that we are eating a snack, smoothie, dessert, that is not only nutritious, but also tastes pretty damn good!

Shia’s are open every day at the moment as they are still trialing weekend hours but remember that the only seating they have is a couple of stools at the counter. Don’t let this stop you though as it’s easy to take these smoothie bowls away and eat them on the run, or just prop outside on the steps.

Shia's Homemade Granola Menu, Healthy smoothies at Shia's GranolaShia’s Smoothie Bowl Menu

You can also phone through your order and they will have it ready for you as you pull up in your car.

Shi's Granola Menu in Penang, Church St Gaut Shia's Homemade GranolaShia’s Healthy Breakfast & Dessert Menu

Which ever way you decide you won’t be sorry.  I think you’ll want to try them all!!

Granola, Peanut Butter, Sauces, Shia's Granola Shop, Church St Gaut Penang








Coffee In Kuala Lumpur (Part 2 – Huckleberry Food & Fare)

Our need to visit K.L twice this year was not only to explore some new areas, and stay in an awesome Malay AirBnB, but to return to a couple of cafes that we had thoroughly enjoyed a month or so before.

VCR was one, the other, Huckleberry Food & Fare at Bukit Damansara.
Yin, a good friend here in Penang and the owner of Yin’s Sourdough Bakery, had recommended Huckleberry, and being a lover of good bread and Danish pastries I couldn’t get there quickly enough!

We took a train to Bangsar, and a taxi from there to Damansara Plaza. Taxis in KL are cheap compared with Penang so we didn’t mind using them.
I liked Huckleberry immediately. The white country style cafe looked fresh and inviting. Flower boxes lined the outside eating area and grey blinds with the cafe logo provided shade for customers.  A cool breeze drifted from the many ceiling fans placed overhead.Entrance to Huckleberry Food & Fare, black & white tiles at Huckleberry Kuala Lumpur

Smart entrance to Huckleberry Cafe

At the front of the cafe sections of black & white floor tiles give the place a somewhat European feel and a blackboard displays the lunch specials of the day. Looking through a  window on the right side of the cafe I could see the large ovens that bake their selection of impressive looking bread. A sentence on a sign above these reminds us of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. It was from this book that the cafe takes its name as the motto of the business is,  “there ain’t nothing in the world so good when it’s cooked right”
My first impression was of a cafe asking me to ” come inside” and considering the first thing we saw as we opened the door was a fridge full of decadent looking cakes, there was little chance that we wouldn’t!!

bread, french pastries, Huckleberry, Finn, Mark Twain, Cafes in Kuala LumpurMouth watering pastries and fresh bread at the Huckleberry counter

The Patient Partner was already eyeing the double chocolate brownie, whilst I was drooling at the baguettes and Danish pastries further along the counter.

We were shown to a seat within seconds so that put paid to the drooling and we began the more serious business of deciding what we would have for breakfast.
On our first visit we were very careful not to eat too much for fear of not having room for the cakes, always the first consideration when we are treating ourselves!!
So, we chose the poached eggs. These were cooked to perfection. Why is it that when I cook them they only look this good once in a while, despite all the swirling?!!

Poached Eggs at Huckleberry K.L, swirling poached eggs, organic eggs at Huckleberry food & FareFresh, Free Range Poached Eggs  with tasty Sourdough Bread

The sourdough bread was so tasty, we could have eaten the whole loaf.
And yes, we still had plenty of space for the Kouign Amman, a gorgeous crunchy, sticky buttery almond pastry that stuck to our fingers, but melted in the mouth.
And speaking of melt in the mouth, the Sable Chocolate cake was to die for. Made with real chocolate and butter this is a chocolate lovers dream.

Kouign Amman Pastry, sticky, melt in the mouth, French Pastry, Huckleberry K.L.Beautiful, sticky, crunchy, gooey, sweet Kouign Amman. A favourite pastry at Huckleberry and no wonder!

Naturally we had coffee to finish off this brunch treat. It was good. Not a coffee that knocks your socks off with the flavour, but neverthess, still up there with some of the better ones. Huckleberry uses a Sumatran Gayo from DeGayo Roasters.

Sable Chocolate Cake, melt in the mouth, buttery, rich choclate cake cum biscuit at Huckeleberry Kuala LumpurThis Divine rich chocolate Sable Cake is a chocolate lovers dream

On our second visit to Huckleberry we knew just how much we could eat, and knowing that we would choose the same cake & pastry as before because they were so damn good we decided on a slightly different savory dish.
Strangely, even though we wanted the poached eggs again, the P.P. was told on ordering that they weren’t poaching eggs. Now, being a man he didn’t question this. Why no poached eggs, I asked him? After all they cooked them last time. I was left wondering on that one!!

He’d ordered us the scrambled instead and I have to say they were the best scrambled eggs I’ve ever eaten, and I don’t think I’m too bad at whisking up a few eggs,  adding a few herbs, spices or tomato etc, but these eggs were light and creamy and very obviously free range and organic. Apologies for no photo but I was too busy making sure the P.P didnt eat my share!!

Shakshuka, eggs, chilli, capsicum, garlic, Sourdough bread for dipping, Huckleberry Cafe Kuala LumpurMiddle Eastern Shakshuka, one of our favourite brunch meals

To follow we had the ShakShuka, a middle Eastern dish of cooked tomatoes, onion, chilli and capsicum. Eggs are broken onto the top and it is then baked in the oven until the eggs are set. The idea is to mix it all up, break off chunks of crusty bread, dip them into the pan, and scoop up mouthfuls of the tasty broth.

I often cook this at home, it’s a quick meal, nutritious with all the Vit c from the capsicum, moorish with fresh sourdough bread, and with the addition of some paprika and saffron to liven it up you can’t go wrong.

I find it hard to go past a great bakery, and the Huckleberry bread was far too good looking to ignore. We bought a loaf of their wholemeal Miche  sourdough to eat at our AirBnB. This beautiful bread is the pride & joy of their range.

Miche Bread at Huckleberry Fine Food & fare Kuala Lumpur, long fermentation, large loaf of Miche breadDense and crusty with a deep, earthy flavour, Huckleberry’s Miche bread is a favourite at the Bakery.

 A Miche is dense & crusty, with an incredibly rich flavour. The flour used is often toasted before baking and the loaves have a long fermentation time. Traditionally they are made into very large loaves, often about 1.5-2kg. This goes back to the time when there might have only been one oven in the village and its people had to bake a loaf that would last for the entire week. At Huckleberry the Miche is made in a 500g size but larger ones are available on request.
I wanted to buy the baguettes as they looked soooo appetizing, but had to be reminded by the P.P that one loaf of bread was probably enough to be carrying around K.L. all day in the heat.  Disappointed, I agreed.

                                            Until Next time!!

Quote from Huckleberry Finn at Huckleberry Food & Fare, Mark Twain, Huckleberry Cafe Kuala Lumpur,This quote from Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn hangs  in the Bakery above the Bread ovens.

Coffee in Kuala Lumpur ( Part 1 – VCR)

We covered a lot of ground in our two short visits to K.L. this year. but sadly it wasn’t enough time to drink as much good coffee and eat as much great food as we would have liked. After all, there’s only so much a stomach can handle in one day!
Infact the reason we went there twice was so we could get to all the cafes we had missed the first time around, and we still failed miserably! K.L. has embraced the coffee culture big time and for two coffee snobs from Melbourne in need of a great brew, what could be better?

Only a 5 hr bus trip from Penang and we are dropped off just a short walk from KLCC. By this time we’re pretty desperate, not just for a coffee but something to eat. The bus, Aeroline, is very comfortable, infact it’s far more comfortable than taking the plane, it just takes 4 hrs longer. But it’s a good chance to enjoy a book, write a blog post, or delete hundreds of unwanted photos from your iPhone !!
There’s plenty of leg space, especially if you book the two front seats upstairs and you can even have headphones and watch a movie or two.

They do provide a meal along with your ticket price and water, tea or coffee, but if you enjoy eating good food, then I suggest you take your own.
On our first trip the meal was a plastic container filled with two spongy looking bao. One with sweet bean and the other with a filling of curry. They looked to me like something I use to wash my dishes with, though according to the Patient Partner they tasted slightly better than they looked.
The second trip it was some sort of noodle dish, so possibly slightly better, but I decided to pass.

Bao meal on Aeroline, Food on Bus Penang to Kuala LumpurSweet Red Bean & Curry Bao on route to K.L. from Penang

Arriving in K.L the bus parks at the Corus Hotel a stones throw from Avenue K, a shopping centre on the same side as the Corus, and just opposite the Twin Towers. Here we found our first coffee stop, Urbean, a small cafe with some  healthy dishes on their menu and some nice coffee. Nothing sensational, but nevertheless quite okay and very convenient as we used this station a lot during our visit. Espresso Lab is right next door to Urbean so you have the choice.

Urbean Avenue K, Coffee at Avenue K Kuala Lumpur, Coffee at KLCC StationGood food & coffee at Urbean, Avenue K at KLCC Station

I had listed a few cafes that we should check out and had planned VCR as our brunch venue for our first day. We found our way to Jalan Galloway at Bukit Bintang and the lovely old house that is home to this popular cafe, and Keith Koay the current Malaysia Barista Champion.

VCR House, Jalan Galloway Heritage House, VCR Kuala LumpurHome to VCR Cafe on Jalan Galloway, Kuala Lumpur

We had high hopes for a great coffee and were not disappointed. We agreed that it was the best we had drunk in all our years in Malaysia. We both had a long black. The grinder was perfectly calibrated and the espresso shots were smooth and full of flavour with no hint of bitterness.
Keith Koay took out 16th place at the World Barista Championships in Dublin, Ireland this year, and it was easy to see why!

VCR Bukit Bintang Kuala Lumpur, Jalan Galloway Cafe VCR, Great Coffee at VCR K.L.For a quieter moment at VCR choose a weekday. Getting a seat at the weekend can be difficult

For brunch the Patient Partner chose the Turkish Eggs, a chickpea dish with egg, chicken chipolata, spinach and yoghurt in a thick tomato sauce, with crusty sourdough bread for dipping & scooping, whilst I settled for something slightly more decadent.

VCR Turkish Eggs, Chickpea dish at VCR K.L.Tasty Turkish Eggs at VCR

If you happen to visit VCR then I would suggest that you do NOT leave without devouring the French Toast. I have eaten many french toast dishes in my life. I’ve made many myself, but this one is a winner. In fact I dreamed about it for a month until we re-visited K.L.

Decadent French Toast At VCR, Brioche French Toast at VCR Cafe Kuala Lumpur, French Toast in K.L.The Best French Toast Ever

A thick slice of Brioche Bread soaked in egg & toasted to perfection, was the base of this delicious meal.  A scoop of Raspberry sorbet  balanced precariously on the top. ( I chose the sorbet rather  than the espresso Icecream for fear of a fructose reaction.) A raspberry compote drizzled over the toast. Next to the brioche,  a layer of biscuity crumbles sitting on a mocha sauce and sprinked with pepitas. Delicious!!

There was plenty to choose from on their menu and I would  loved to have tried the more savoury dishes. However being blessed this last year with fructose malabsorbtion I was fairly limited with choice. So, luckily it meant that I had to choose the French Toast again on our second visit to VCR!!

The service was prompt and the staff were friendly. I have since read a couple of negative reviews on facebook about this cafe, mostly with regard to  having a long wait for a table & service at the weekends. Obviously none of these people have been to the top cafes in Melbourne where it is not unusual to have a wait of 30-45mins. Naturally they are busier at the weekends when people aren’t working so if you are in a hurry or too impatient to wait for a great coffee and meal then I’d suggest a visit during  weekdays.

Some customers also complain that the coffee is too expensive. Coffee beans cost the same worldwide so how can cafes make it any cheaper regardless of which country it is.  Sure, in K.L. you can get a local Kopi for less but the beans used are mostly inferior in quality compared to the best Arabica beans that are being used by cafes such as VCR.

VCR Menu, Brunch VCR, Coffee VCR, French Toast VCRVCR’s Mouthwatering Menu

Turkish Style Eggs VCR, VCR Kuala Lumpur, Raspberry Sorbet, Brioche French Toast,Enjoy, we did!!






Rags to Riches in Kolkata

We left the Indian Coffee House and wandered through some more of the city’s back streets and laneways. Many of the walls were lined with the daily washing. Even the run down, dirty grey buildings looked beautiful with the bright reds, orange, yellow and green of saris and the bleached white of Dhotis & Kurtas drying in the steamy heat of the day.

Kolkata Laneways, Washing in Kolkata Slums, Drying Washing in the Kolkata Laneways, Kurtas,Washing Day in the Laneways of Kolkata

We decided to take a rickshaw instead of the train. I felt uncomfortable then, and still do, that this form of transport still exists. No one should have to pull another person along by hand, but I realise also that these men need to make a living. Most have come from the  countryside in Bihar and  have  families to support.  Unfortunately it’s often the only work they can get.

Rickshaw Pullers from Bihar India, At this moment there are around 3000 Rickshaw Pullers in Kolkata

Our rickshaw puller or Wallah as they are called in India, was  immaculately dressed, small and  wiry with muscles as strong as an ox. As we weaved between traffic the tiny bell attached to his fingers rang out to call his presence.

Ickshaws Kolkata, Rickshaw Puller, Oberoi HotelOur Rickshaw Puller in Kolkata, the last City in the World to use hand-pulled Rickshaws. Note the string of his bell around his finger

At times we seemed to dodge buses & cars by inches, but I was amazed by the way our wallah handled his cart with such ease, considering his size and our combined weight. ( more than usual after eating curry, rice & Indian desserts for a month!!)

Rickshaw Wallah, KolkataWith his tiny bell tinkling our Wallah negotiates the crazy Kolkata Streets.

We left our rickshaw puller at San Yat Sen station and caught a train  to the  Esplanande Metro Station. We were close to the  expensive Oberoi Hotel. and as a friend had recently told us to have a look inside, we did.  As we walked through the internal garden & swimming pool area we would never have known that we were on one of the busiest streets in Kolkata. We saw  the billiards bar and thought we would order a coffee. Maybe we’d get a decent one here!!

Rags to Riches, Oberoi Hotel Kolkata,

It was considerably better than our previous one and was served with some very delicious homemade biscuits.  But we paid heavily for the priveledge, Aus$20  to be exact. We were served by very polite waiters who were happy to deliver our coffee quickly in case they should miss a wicket in the cricket match they were watching on TV.

Rags to Riches in Kolkata, Oberoi Lobby, Coffee & Biscuits at the Oberoi, KolkataLobby at the Kolkata Oberoi. A nice place to stay I guess, but if you prefer the real experience of Kolkata it’s probably not for you!!

What a difference here. Nothing could have been further from the experience we had enjoyed at the Indian Coffee House and our journey to find it. We had gone from rags to riches within the space of 30 mins.

That’s India!!


Searching for Coffee in Kolkata, India

It wasn’t easy to find a good coffee in Kolkata. There were  certainly plenty of cafes selling coffee but they were not so good. Until the last decade most of India’s coffee consumption was in the South and the North was still predominantly a tea drinking society. Then along came the  chains such as Starbucks, Barista and Coffee Day and western style coffee became the ‘in thing’ especially amongst the younger population.

The popular Flurys Cafe at 18, Park St Kolkata opened in 1927

Since I find coffee at these places mostly undrinkable I found a new appreciation for tea during our month in India, especially Chai, which generally was far more palatable than anything else. Hotel coffee just didn’t cut it for me and although we tried several cafes including the famous Flurys in Park St we couldn’t find a decent cuppa. But then, the Patient Partner and I are coffee snobs so I guess we’re just too fussy!!

Chai Tea in Kolkata, Brewing Chai on the Street, Indian ChaiSpicy Chai Tea being brewed on the street in Kolkata

This, of course did not stop my need to find the Indian Coffee House. I had read some time before our trip about this iconic institution and I needed to see it with my own eyes, and whats more I wanted to drink coffee in it, just once!

There are several related Indian Coffee Shops around India but the only one I wanted to visit was the one in Kolkata.  Here was the true meeting house of Kolkata’s literati. Great names from India’s rich past such as Rabindranath Tagore, Subhas Bose, Satyajit Ray and the revolutionary Malay Roy Choudery
I wanted to sit where they had sat. Where they had passionately discussed their poetry, plays, music and films. Where academics had held their adda and heated arguments on politics and the future.

Front View Indian Coffee House Kolkata, College St Coffee House Kolkata, Heritage Coffee House, Albert Hall, KolkataThe Iconic Indian Coffee House, College St, Kolkata

After going through the usual security search of bags & body we squeezed into a train carriage on Kolkata’s underground with what appeared to be at least half of the city’s inhabitants.
Just as well we are fairly slim or we may never have had this pleasure!
We got out at San Yat Sen Central Station and walked the rest of the way to the College St area where we would find the coffee house.

Rickshaws in Kokata. Kolkata StreetsOne of many  Hand Pulled Rickshaws on the Streets of Kolkata

And what a walk it was. I had fallen in love with Kolkata the moment I had stepped out into its crazy streets a few weeks earlier and this second visit did nothing to change that feeling.
Walking around this city is like going back in time. The rattling sound of its dilapidated trams and the jingling bells of it’s hand pulled rickshaws are enough to have you believing that time is standing still in this city with a big heart.

Kolkata Rickshaw,Kolkata Tram, We walked through streets, lanes and alleyways that cradled a million stories.
Streets where cows, dogs, cats, chickens and some of the city’s poorest live as  one. Women cooking on cast iron stoves under tarpaulins held up by 4 spindly sticks, while children, laughing, and just being children, played with flattened footballs and sticks for cricket bats. It was quieter here too, away from the craziness of the City’s busiest streets.

Cooking while living on the street. Street Food in KolkataLunch on the street in Kolkata’s slums

No one bothered us or asked for money. People were too busy trying to eke out a living in some way or other to worry about a couple of tourists walking their streets. We took it all in and whilst there could have been some priceless photos, I couldn’t find the heart to pull out my camera and so obviously capture their poverty.

We eventually came to the College St area. We couldn’t mistake this location. With the University close by, the streets were lined with stalls selling books. In fact the pavements oozed with books piled high, many neatly tied in bundles with coloured twine. Everywhere we looked there were books, old ones, new ones, secondhand, and anything in between. Students were milling around, chatting and checking out the various stalls which possibly all carried similar, if not the same books as each of  the other stalls.

College St, Kolkata, Bookshops in KolkataOne of the many Bookshops on College St, Kolkata

And then we saw the sign. It was on the front of a very old, narrow, and tall, run down building.  Actually there’s not much in Kolkata that isn’t old and run down!!  And this building dates back to  1876 when it was the Albert Hall.  It became the Coffee House in 1942 run by the Workers Co-operative Society. In 1958 the management closed it down but a petition was raised by the College & University to save the heritage building and it was re-opened the same year.

Old sign Indian Coffee House, New Sign Indian Coffee House Kolkata, Searching for Coffee in Kolkata, Tagore, BoseThe Old Sign now dwarfed by the brightly illuminated new one, including the mobile number!

I’m not sure whether it was good or bad timing but at that moment a  bright, new illuminated sign was being hoisted above the very dirty ageing one that looked as if  it had been there since the Albert Hall gave way to its successor. I felt sad. The original one had history & character etched onto its face. Like everything that’s happening in Asia now it seems that NEW is better!!

 We watched it being attached and then went inside. As we climbed up a dodgy  staircase to the first floor we passed a wall panel of even dodgier wiring and switches that looked old enough to have serviced the entire building since it was built.
The Coffee house was just as I’d seen it in photos except that now it looked more tired and somewhat  grubbier. Maybe the photos did it more justice than it deserved.

Old Power Board, Electricity in Kolkata, Indian Coffee house powerboardThe Indian Coffee House Powerboard, how old is this?!!

Several waiters were swanning around the tables in white Punjabi uniforms with  head gear that looked like fanned serviettes.    A brick and wooden bench was being manned by the cashier. Nothing fancy in this place, especially the service. We waited sometime for our serviette waiter to take our order. It didn’t matter, I was too busy photographing the entire room and the incredible balcony that overlooked the hall and housed the second floor.

Serviette style Turban, Waiter at Indian Coffee House, KolkataPlacing our coffee order, note the Waiters’ unusual Turban style head gear

Our coffee arrived. It was nothing to rave about, In fact it was pretty awful. A watery tasteless cup of nothingness. But at 16 cents Aus you can hardly complain. And anyway we were not there for a great coffee, however nice it might have been, but for the history of this amazing building.

Awful Coffee at College St Coffee House, Watery Coffee at Indian Coffee HouseePretty Ghastly Coffee, but who cares, look where we are!!

We sat for a while, soaking up the ambience. The whirring sound of ancient fans added to the atmosphere and  old photos of a bygone era brightened up the faded walls. A huge photo of Rabindranath Tagore on one of them.  There was a smoking area which seemed to be the whole room. No one other than us, the only foreigners there, cared about the haze, they were too busy in conversation with each other. It was a welcome sight. The majority there communicating without the need for a smart phone!

College St Coffee House, Balcony Indian Coffee HouseInside the Indian Coffee House, Kolkata, an awesome balcony around much of the second floor

We watched the waiters lazily taking orders, the customers hardly glancing up as they ordered another watery coffee between another important sentence.
We sat long enough to feel the ghosts of the past and imagine the conversations and debates that possibly changed the face of Kolkata’s politics and provided India with its famous poets and writers of the time.
Sadly we were unable to access the balcony & the second floor but we left knowing that the search for a coffee had given us an unforgettable experience.

Balcony College St Coffee House, Coffee Kolkata

Searching for Coffee in Hainan, China

Searching for a coffee in Haikou City on the Island of Hainan found us in a pedicab in the pouring rain being driven (pedaled) by an elderly lady, at top speed, and as if her life depended on it. Determined to get us to a cafe that had been recommended by a very extrovert owner of a dog grooming salon she faced the challenge with amazing Forest Gump-like perseverance.

Coffee Time Cafe & Restaurant in Haikou China.

Regardless of the raging storm and her two weird passengers who had no idea where they were going, and were clinging for dear life onto the bars of her pedicab,  she pedaled as fast as her tiny  legs could possibly pedal. After several stops at places that were definitely not coffee shops, and many a quick discussion with anyone she figured might shed light onto the whereabouts of such a place, she finally stopped in front of a very dismal looking restaurant which to our amazement boasted a dilapidated sign saying ” Coffee Time”

Haikou Coffee, Hainan Coffee, Pedicab in HaikouOur gorgeous bikey chicks’ face lit up with the best toothless smile of the year as she deposited us at our destination and gratefully accepted, most likely, the biggest tip she had had that year!!
Was it worth it? For the coffee, possibly not, but for the journey and that smile, most definitely!!

Our visit to Hainan was some years ago  and since then  chains such as Starbucks have arrived. However if you are looking for speciality coffee it might still be difficult. Even though Hainan Island has a large area devoted to coffee plantations, and a population who have been consuming it for many years, the  majority of that grown is Robusta, a lesser quality bean with considerably more caffeine content.  However In parts of Yunnan Province, and in particular, Xinzhai Village, good quality Arabica Beans are being produced which are now being shipped to other parts of China, so I’m sure that Hainan will be enjoying these, if not in Haikou, but in the tourist areas of Sanya in the South.

I took the following  extracts from a very long article I found online whilst reasearching more recent cafes in Hainan.

“Xinzhai produces Arabica, a small bean that is considered superior in taste than Robusta, the middle-sized bean that is produced in southern Yunnan and Hainan. The latter is mostly used as filler for instant coffee.

For years Xinzhai Village went out of its way to sell directly to consumers and marketed their product as small beans from Yunnan in China’s coffee market. Unlike its neighbouring villages, which one by one have ‘surrendered’ to supplying large names, such as Starbucks, Nestlé and the sort, Xinzhai wants to maintain its own brand because it aspires to grow the best coffee in China and maybe even the world.”