Wednesday April 18, 2012

Strong taste of nostalgia

STROLLING along Hutton Lane in Penang, one will come across Kong Thai Lai, an old traditional kopitiam with a shady and cosy interior.

Established over 100 years ago by the grandfather of current proprietor Gary Tan, 53, the coffee shop is renowned for its local coffee.

The coffee is thick and packs a strong flavour, which is no wonder that the late Tan Sri Loh Boon Siew used to patronise the place almost daily.

“He (Loh) would be here almost every day, sometimes twice a day, to sip his favourite brew with his comrades,” said Tan.

He said Loh’s friend would read the news to him, and his group of eight to 10 frequently discussed business issues.

Loh, the first sole distributor of Honda motorcycles in Malaysia, always settled the tab at the end of the day, said Tan.

He said the late Loh, who had a liking for antiques, even offered to buy the marble table he always sat at, offering RM10,000 for it.

“But my eldest brother Jeng Kiang, who was running the business at that time, refused to sell the table for sentimental reasons, as it was left to us by our grandfather,” recalled Tan.

The classic oval antique table is still at the coffee shop today.

“Tan Sri would usually order his favourite kopi kaw kiam tnee (strong coffee with condensed milk but not too sweet) and our famous roti kahwin (toast with butter and kaya),” said Tan.

There was also a cup which was specially reserved for Loh, then known as the ‘Boon Siew cup’.

“We gave the cup to his family after his death in 1995,” recalled Tan, adding that they made Loh’s favourite coffee and ‘offered’ it to him during prayers in the five days of his funeral wake.

Besides the late Mr Honda, the ‘Sugar King of Asia’ Tan Sri Robert Kuok also paid a visit to the coffee shop last year.

“He loved the taste of the coffee so much that he bought an additional 8kg of coffee powder to take home,” said Tan.

He is the fifth to helm the century-old coffee shop, after his late grandfather, his late father, and his two brothers.

“After my second brother Seng Pean passed away nearly two years ago, I decided to take over the business since no one was running it,” he said.

Tan said they used high quality coffee beans purchased and roasted at a local factory, added with their family’s secret recipe passed down by his grandfather.

“It’s an original recipe, nothing has changed. What the customers taste now is exactly the same as the brew my grandfather made many years ago,” he said.

As to the secret to making a good cup of coffee, Tan said the most important factor was boiling hot water that would bring out the maximum fla- vour.

“And for the toast, it is made crispy as most of the customers prefer it that way, topped with out homemade kaya,” he added.

Tan is now assisted by his wife Sabrina Teoh, 47, and relatives when they are free, and regular customer Julie Ang, 45.

“I volunteered to lend a helping hand, as they had strings of customers daily,” said Ang, who has been a regular patron for almost 12 years.

Regulars normally order the coffee shop’s signature set.

It consists of kopi-o, half-boiled eggs and roti kahwin priced at 90 sen, RM1.40 and RM1.80 respectively.

Kong Thai Lai Coffee Shop, located at 6, Hutton Lane, operates from 7.30am to 5pm on weekdays and 7.30am to 4pm on Saturdays, including public holidays. It is closed on Sundays.

Source: theStar news HERE

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