08 October 2019

Six Speciality Coffee Shops To Try in George Town, Penang

Speciality coffee wasn't my main reason for visiting George Town on the Malaysian island of Penang, but I was delighted to visit six great coffee shops and roasteries during my short visit. I was even there during the three-week-long Penang Coffee Festival, although the early stages of the festival had more of a focus on desserts and was based in a mall a few miles out of the city centre, so I wasn't able to stop by. Read on to find out more about my speciality coffee experiences in George Town; my favourite spots are marked in purple in the map below.

2F+ Coffee Roastery
A serendipitous discovery while I was photographing the famous George Town street art work known as 'Brother and Sister on a Swing', coffee roaster 2F+ has a small café located in a small arcade just off Pengkalan Weld. 2F+ hadn't come up during my research but they have a couple more coffee shops on Penang and another in Bangkok, Thailand. Although single-origin pourovers are on the menu, I was short on time as I was about to head back to the airport, so I ordered an espresso, a smooth and well-balanced blend of coffees from Burundi and Colombia. They sell their own beans at the cafe, as well as small single-serve packets of pre-ground coffee for speciality coffee on the go. I bought one of these, a Panama Gesha, but managed to screw it up on Turtle Island by accidentally adding terrible instant coffee instead of hot water. The coffee smelled lovely before that, however!

2F+ Coffee is located at 35 Pengkalan Weld. FacebookInstagram.

Awesome Canteen
Several people, including Peter from Bao and Butter, recommended Awesome Canteen, for its food and interiors as well as its coffee. Indeed, it was awesome by nature as well as by name. Located in a rustic, high-ceilinged space in a building off Lebuh Victoria, Awesome Canteen reminded me of the ruin bars of Budapest.

As well as the cold foam noodle dish I had for lunch, I really enjoyed my hand-brewed filter coffee. Like several other coffee shops in George Town, the coffee was from KL roaster The Roast Things with two single origins on offer. I went for the Ethiopian Teshome Gemechu, which had beautiful floral and tropical fruit notes — the papaya in particular really sang. The coffee was very well brewed and just what I wanted on such a hot and humid day.

Awesome Canteen is located at 164A-B Lebuh Victoria. Facebook. Instagram.

Coffee Affairs
A coffee shop and micro-roastery located right in the heart of George Town's heritage zone, Coffee Affairs was also a very short walk from my hotel and was the first stop on my George Town coffee tour. The coffee is roasted in house in the small roaster at the back of the cafe, and they specialise in single-origin hand-brewed coffees.

With over a dozen varieties on the menu, it was hard to choose among them, but I ended up ordering a beautifully fruity Ethiopian Sidamo Danbi Uddo brewed through the siphon. They have other brew methods too but I like to order siphon-brewed coffee when it makes the menu and I have the time.

The spacious cafe is cool and colourful, with a large variety of beans, as well as ceramics, available to buy.

Coffee Affairs is located at  21 Lebuh Bishop. Facebook. TwitterInstagram.

Constant Gardener Coffee
I wondered if this coffee shop was going to be inspired by the works of John Le Carré, but instead it is just particularly verdant, with a seating area filled with plants (both real plants, including coffee plants, and artificial alternatives on the 'grass' wall) and plant-inspired designs. Located on Lebuh Light, close to the town hall and Fort Cornwallis in the northeastern end of George Town, Constant Gardener proved to be a very peaceful place to enjoy a cup of coffee on a Sunday morning.

The coffee was from The Roast Things here too and I finally took the opportunity to try the Kenya Gathugu AA coffee I'd seen elsewhere, although there were four other Roast Things coffees available at the brew bar. I was delighted to see 'Ribena pastilles' among the tasting notes — Ribena was my drink of choice as a child and rather naughtily, I love to treat myself to the odd packet of Ribena pastilles when I'm in Southeast Asia. The coffee itself was well brewed, with a pleasing acidity.

Constant Gardener is located at Chinese Chamber Of Commerce Building, 9 Lebuh Light. Website. Instagram.

Macallum Connoisseurs Coffee Company
Located in a former timber factory about 20 minutes' walk from the George Town heritage zone along the busy Lim Chong Eu Expressway, Macallum Connoisseurs is well worth seeking out. The space in which the cafe and roastery are located is huge and highly impressive, with high ceilings and industrial stylings, and even a Harley-Davidson in one corner. And the coffee is no less impressive.

The counter and brew bar is located near the main entrance, with a large amount of seating at tables, high and low, throughout the space. As well as an all-day food menu and the usual espresso-based drinks, there were six single-origin coffees available as hand-brewed filter coffee (Aeropress, V60 and Clever Dripper). I selected a washed Honduras Don Fabio San Francisco coffee from the list, brewed through the V60, whose caramel notes contrasted nicely with the prunes and red dates, to produce a sweet and well-balanced brew. I also had a piccolo and although it was on the longer side, it was well-prepared.

I didn't buy any beans, but I did buy another single-use 'filtered coffee sachet' just like at 2F+. I managed not to mess this one up, and in the absence of a kettle or my usual coffee-making kit on Turtle Island, the Ethiopian coffee made for a decent morning brew.

Macallum Connoisseurs is located at 1 Gat Lebuh Macallum. Website. TwitterInstagram.

Ome by Spacebar Coffee
This coffee shop used to share space with Awesome Canteen, but now occupies a slender shop on a quiet side street off Lebuh Pantai. The counter and brew bar are located at the front and there is some more seating towards the back. The décor is very rustic, with exposed-brick walls and light wood. And the coffee menu featured four single-origin coffees, two from The Roast Things, a natural Costa Rican coffee from Bailies in Northern Island (which sounded great, but I was focusing on Malaysian-roasted coffee on my trip), and an Ethiopian coffee from Artisan Roast, another KL roaster.

I selected the latter, whose strawberry and lemon notes came out so beautifully in the pourover brew that I had to buy the beans. Luckily — given that I was travelling with a very small suitcase that was already full — they had 100g bags, so I could take some home with me. I've really been enjoying this coffee through my Aeropress at the office this week.

Ome by Spacebar Coffee is located at 1 Lorong Toh Aka. FacebookInstagram.

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