Getting to know My Liberica

A few years ago, when my coffee connoisseur friends invited me to join them for coffee at My Liberica specialty coffee, a café in Taman Molek, this was where I had my first taste of freshly brewed My Liberica coffee.

The Passion for 1% poster at My Liberica Roastery
On another occasion, it was interesting that my sister-in-law, a non-coffee person, arranged to meet with her colleague who lives in Taman Molek, at My Liberica café.

I was also there with them to indulge in an after-lunch coffee and I observed with much amusement that my sister-in-law was by then, a coffee convert!

As I soaked in the aromatic cloud of coffee flavours inside the café, I could understand why the My Liberica brand of coffee have become synonymous with quality coffee in Johor Baru.

Looking back, I remember hearing about the My Liberica coffee plantation for the first time from YB Wong Shu Qi, who was then a member of the Johor State Legislative Assembly for the Senai constituency from 2013 to 2018.

My Liberica tagline, Passion for 1%,
seen behind the counter at the Roastery 
I was privileged to be escorted by YB Wong, a fellow writer and journalist, on an eye-opening and exciting heritage tour of Senai.

And it was during this walkabout in Senai old town that I heard from her about that coffee plantation near Kluang and she even suggested that we plan to visit it soon.

My tour of Senai was published in Streets Johor in a cover and centerspread piece on the founding fathers of Senai and incidentally, this publication led to members of the Wong family, now based in Singapore, reaching out to me with more information on their family history.

A story about this experience is shared in The Wongs of Senai featured in my Book Two, My Johor Stories 2: Interesting Places and Inspirational People.

So, while I was busy with my book project in 2018, YB Wong was elected as Member of Parliament for the Kluang constituency and kept busy by her political work.

On the subject of specialty coffee, I researched its definition and discovered that it was one that coffee connoisseurs could trace the source of the beans from where they were grown and processed, with the best green beans selected for roasting before the ground coffee was brewed and served.

Signing My Johor Stories books to present to Jason
This clarification helped me to zero-in on My Liberica, a brand which, by definition, is a proudly Johor-grown specialty coffee!

I thought that this Johor brand fitted in beautifully into my Book Three, in the section for proudly Johorean brands that were established here and have gained national and international recognition.

Further research into My Liberica affirmed my hunch that theirs would be a story worth sharing and I did not hesitate to write them with an introduction of My Johor Stories and a proposal to include this Johor brand into my next book.

On March 30, I received a positive reply from Vivonne Soong, who introduced herself as their Tours Manager and she would be the liaison person for this project between me and My Liberica founder and Managing Director, Jason Liew.

My Johor Stories, Book One and Book Two presented to Jason Liew [Centre] with Tours Manager,
Vivonne Soong [Left], enjoying cups of freshly brewed My Liberica specialty coffee at the Roastery.
Among other kind comments, she said, “We are proud and grateful that you have extended the invitation to us and we will gladly cooperate with you to provide our story and any photos you might need.”

I couldn't wait to take a sip...
This initial contact was followed by an exchange of emails. But due to the prevailing Movement Control Order, it was some four months later that we finally arranged to meet on July 24.

I explained that a meeting with Jason will be a good start for us to get to know each other and for him to feel comfortable to share his story with me.

When I arrived at their Roastery located at the EcoHub in Taman Ekoperniagaan, I had a few minutes to take in the contemporary décor and spotted their tagline, “Passion for 1%” boldly emblazoned on the wall behind the counter.

On another wall, a poster provided a brief explanation in Chinese and English.

It reads, “Liberica is a coffee variety with less than 1% in world’s coffee production. From seed to cup, we are dedicated to specializing Liberica, in hope that through our focus on Liberica coffee, coffee lovers will enjoy with us our Passion for 1%.”

When we sat down together, I took time to introduce My Johor Stories to Jason and Vivonne and presented him with autographed copies of My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage and My Johor Stories 2: Interesting Places and Inspirational People.

My Liberica specialty coffee packaging has
a uniquely Johor identity inspired by exclusively
woven Johor fabric designs by Gallery Tenun
As I briefly recounted my storytelling journey, we discovered people and places in Johor that were mutually familiar to us, and this set the tone for Jason to share with me his family heritage and his love affair with coffee, a story succinctly summarized in his tagline, “Passion for 1%”

Jason’s spontaneous sharing continued over cups of fragrant Liberica coffee and I could hear the pride in voice as he introduced – and let me taste – a series of coffee blends, uniquely created from his own research and technology.

When Vivonne showed me the packaging for the varieties of coffee popular with connoisseurs locally and abroad, she pointed out that the inspiration for the packaging design was from a visit to the Gallery Tenun at Yayasan Warisan Johor or Johor Heritage Foundation.

A range of My Liberica specialty coffee on the counter
I am familiar with this Gallery which produces exclusively woven Johor fabric designs and instantly recognised how the sides of their smart coffee packages presented a uniquely Johor identity.

Meanwhile, when Jason was speaking on a subject close to his heart, he was literally on a roll.

His eyes sparkled as he shared details about the humble beginnings in their family business, their plantation and the challenges they faced with finance and pestilence, the establishment of their coffee mill and farm tours, right up to the café and roastery and his future plans for My Liberica.

During a natural pause, Jason asked me, “Do you like chocolates?”

My reply was a spontaneous, “Yes!”

Two varieties of Jason's work-in-progress
specialty chocolates for me to sample
He went on to explain that along with the coffee trees, they were also planting cacao trees and he was doing serious research into making artisanal chocolates with the tree-to-bar concept.

I did not have long to wait because Jason went to retrieve two varieties of his work-in-progress and offered them for me to sample. Mmm…

With specialty coffee and specialty chocolates in the picture, I was more than pleased with the outcome of this meet-up with Jason, the first in a series of meetings planned with him before the manuscript will be finalized.

Next, I will arrange to join their Grand Tour, a plantation and mill tour with an itinerary to observe the growing and processing of coffee beans, and a hands-on experience in roasting and brewing freshly ground Liberica coffee at the Roastery.

Even after all these years, I am hopeful that YB Wong can avail herself from her busy schedule to join me on this Grand Tour.

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