The current boom in Malacca’s café business emerged in 2014, but the trickle of tourists has steadily swelled ever since UNESCO declared the state capital a World Heritage Site in 2008, according to the founders of Calanthe Art Café.
Calanthe is a hugely respected pioneering café, having recently marked its 10th anniversary. Opened by a band of close-knit friends who went to school together, Calanthe remains one of Malacca’s warmest and most welcoming hangouts, specialising in different types of coffee roasted in each of Malaysia’s 13 states.
“Our main objective is to promote an appreciation for our own Malaysian coffee,” Calanthe's Joseph Chia says, noting that some Malaysian states have unique blends of coffee mixed with margarine, salt or even wheat flour. Calanthe is also the ideal stop to refuel with a lunch of deliciously hearty local recipes like turmeric-tinged nasi lemak (coconut milk rice with a yellow hue) and laksa, a bowl of thin noodles in a mildly spicy coconut milk gravy with tofu puffs, fishcakes and beansprouts.
The story of a much newer venue, Kaya-Kaya Café, is a tribute to Malacca’s allure. Kuala Lumpur resident K.C. Choong had long been a frequent visitor to Malacca when he stayed last year at a Jonker Walk guesthouse whose owners had a vacant space nearby. K.C. found out and decided to collaborate with them to create Kaya-Kaya, a cavernous café where customers can relax on rattan chairs and recycled wood-and-metal furniture while marvelling at a two-storey-high mural of multilingual definitions for the word kaya.
Kaya means ‘wealth’ in Malay, and the café’s name is meant to convey a feeling of richness in its patrons’ lives, relationships and food. For a dose of decadence, Kaya-Kaya offers salmon-&-egg open sandwiches & a one-of-a-kind ‘Malacca Elvis’ – a pancake stack that combines Elvis Presley’s favourite ingredients of bananas and peanut butter with Malacca’s kaya, a sugary jam thickened with coconut milk and egg yolks.
“We want customers to come here for a getaway, to eat and drink and feel like they’ve escaped from the world outside for a few hours,” K.C. says.
This spotlight on Calanthe & Kaya-Kaya is an excerpt of a feature on six of Malacca's soulful new cafes; read the full feature in the August 2015 issue of Going Places, Malaysia Airlines' in-flight magazine.
Calanthe Art Cafe, Jalan Hang Kasturi, Melaka. Tel: 06-292-2960
Kaya-Kaya Cafe, 32, Jalan Tukang Besi, Melaka
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