Artisan Roastery: Joey Mah

Yellow Brick Road is proud to source its coffee from Malaysian roaster Artisan Roastery, which does a great variety of top quality single-origin specialty coffee as well as blends. We recently caught up with Joey Mah, who is Co-Founder and Roaster at Artisan Roastery for a chat about why his passion for his work as well as the intricacies of producing good specialty coffee.

“Specialty coffee” is the type of coffee we enjoy at good cafes around town, whether in espresso-based beverages like long black, caffe latte and cappuchinos, as well as in filter coffee and the other variety of ways coffee can be prepared. The term refers to a high grade of coffee as determined by the overall supply chain, from the coffee farm all the way to the barista or brewer who makes the cup.

Q: How do you select your coffee?

Joey: “We choose coffee that’s not only based on a single origin but a single varietal, single processing method an even a single lot. We want the coffee to be very specific in terms of flavours, and if we like the coffee, we don’t want to mix it with something else—it’s like when you buy durian, you have one great durian from this tree, you wouldn’t want to mix it with fruit from another tree because it wouldn’t taste the same.

“Also, when you buy direct from the producer, you have higher traceability. You make a lot of relationships with the farmer, producer, and you get first-hand knowledge of the coffee you have.”

Q: Once you’ve selected your coffee, you next need to roast it. Tell us more about this process

Joey: “Some of us like to drink coffee that is a bit lighter—coffee that’s a bit more acidic, or coffee that has more character. Some like flavours that are more fruit-driven, citrus or bitter like chocolate or caramel. At Artisan we focus more on the taste—the flavour that comes when you’re roasting the coffees and the flavours that we want to present in a cup of coffee. For example, if we want an ‘orange’ character in the coffee, then we will go for a light-medium roast kind of style. What is important here is the intensity of the flavours and how heavy it feels on your mouth.”

Q: There can be a large difference in price between a cup of regular coffee and a cup of specialty coffee. Why is this so?

Joey: “Yes, the difference can be between paying RM3 to RM10 for a cup of coffee—it’s about understanding the type of consumption of coffee. If you just want the basic taste of coffee then you wouldn’t be willing to pay the difference, but if you really want to understand unique flavours in coffee, then it’s worth it. It’s like when you drink a cup of tea—you can drink iced tea in a Chinese restaurant, which costs 30 cents. Or you might want to drink a cup of Puer or other specialty tea that can cost up to RM10 or RM15.”

Q: Why is it important for us to have specialty coffee?

Joey: “It depends on how we value and appreciate finer things in life. It’s not something you SHOULD have—it’s more like: “I like this, so maybe I should pay more attention to it.”

“We’ve been working really hard to make sure that all kinds of specialty coffee are available in Malaysia. Our role here is not to promote specialty coffee but to make it available and accessible. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

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