On the My Liberica specialty coffee tour

The morning sun shone brightly on the mural painted across an entire wall of the warehouse in the My Liberica farm in Simpang Renggam near Bukit Batu and I watched as visitors took turns to pose against it for an attractive photo backdrop.

Tour Manager, Vivonne Soong [Right] sharing information
with visitors on the My Liberica farm tour
Cars were arriving to park in the spaces provided and I observed that some of the number plates were not local but registered in other states like the Federal Territory, Selangor, and Perak.

As more cars with various number plates arrived, I guessed the Public Holiday weekend probably encouraged more visitors to come to Johor from afar.

I was standing among the pockets of people gathered, waiting for others to arrive for the start of the farm and processing mill tour. While waiting, I could not help but listened to snippets of conversation in Mandarin and English, floating around. 

I inadvertently tuned in to the chat among a few men – whom I later learnt were from Kuala Lumpur – who said their visit to Johor was the outcome of a bet.

I was chatting with My Liberica founder, Jason Liew,
outside the farm's warehouse
Apparently, the one familiar with the My Liberica brand of specialty coffee won the bet against his friend who had confused My Liberica with Iberico pork.

The two names, in fact, had similarities and to find out more about My Liberica specialty coffee, they decided to make this trip to experience the Specialty Coffee Grand Tour!

In the two-part tour, Part One was from 9am to 11am in the farm located at Kampung Melayu Bukit Nyamuk, Simpang Renggam, to experience the Growing and Processing stages of the My Liberica coffee beans.

Part Two from 12pm to 5pm was at the My Liberica Roastery located in Johor Baru Ecohub to learn about the Roasting and a hands-on experience in Brewing (and tasting!) coffee from beans that were roasted at three different levels.

The farm practices intercropping where calamansi plants
[Right] are grown alongside the coffee trees [Left]
With an early start, visitors should assemble at the farm for Part One of the Grand Tour and then proceed to the Roastery for Part Two, where lunch was also served.

There was of course, much opportunity to sample a range of brewed coffee and teas created through innovation from coffee beans, coffee flowers and coffee berries.

Led by Tour Manager, Vivonne Soong, the tour kicked off with a trek to the fringe of the plantation for a closer look at the coffee trees while she provided an informative commentary.

Visitors could walk among the coffee trees and experience the taste of the sweet mucilage on a ripe coffee bean, removed from a split coffee berry that was freshly plucked from the tree.

A close-up view of My Liberica coffee berries on the tree
While walking among the lush green plants, I observed that this farm practices intercropping where calamansi plants were planted among the coffee trees to maximise the use of the land.

Started in 2014, this is the first specialty coffee processing plant which is dedicated to Liberica coffee in Malaysia.

In the farm tour, visitors not only observed the processes but also had the opportunity to try their hand at tipping baskets of coffee berries into the machine which jigged and jogged to separate the various sizes of harvested berries.

Visitors lend a hand in tipping coffee berries into the machine
which should separate the various berry sizes and drop
them into three separate baskets in front [on the ground]
To remove the outer skin of the coffee berries, the fruits were then passed through a de-pulping machine which sliced off the berry skins to reveal the beans within.

These moist beans were then laid out on rectangles of concrete ground to dry in the sun.

The farm had constructed shelters that would automatically glide over the concrete at the touch of a button, to protect the drying beans from rain by day and from dew by night.

At the end of each day, the drying beans would be raked into a pile and covered by these shelters for the night.

Tipping a bucket of coffee berries
into the de-pulping machine
The next morning, these shelters would be drawn back, and the beans raked across the concrete ground again to continue being dried in the sun.

When the coffee beans were completely dried, the beans would then be packed in bags and stacked up to “rest” inside the warehouse.

Finally, we were invited into an air-conditioned lounge to rest and sample a range of specialty coffee and tea, uniquely created by the My Liberica brand.

Behind the serving counter, I spotted My Liberica founder, Jason Liew, who was busy preparing the various brews of My Liberica coffee and tea for us.

Tiny glass tumblers were distributed for us to fill with sample sips of innovative brews of tea created from coffee leaves, coffee flowers and cascara or the dried skin of the coffee berries.

Then the team members served us one drink after another, with Liberica Leaf Tea, Liberica Blossom Tea and Liberica Cascara Tea, for a taste of these innovative products.

Coffee beans laid out to dry on the ground
After taking orders for each individual choice for coffee – black, with condensed milk or sugar, Liberica Classic Coffee was served in traditional kopitiam cups and saucers.

For a touch of nostalgia, cream crackers fondly called soda biscuits (Hokkien: soh tah piah), were also served.

I was amused to see one of the older gentlemen, cracking the square biscuit and dipping it into his cup of brewed coffee, before eating the damp biscuit.

Then it was time to sit back and watch the screening of a recorded episode when Malaysian TV host Jason Yeoh AKA Axian, interviewed Jason Liew, on his visit to this farm.

Bags of dried coffee beans "resting" in the warehouse
Part One of the Grand Tour came to an end as visitors were invited to buy packs of a range of My Liberica specialty coffee from the counter and to collect their souvenir before leaving.

This souvenir was a tiny flowerpot, filled with earth and planted with two coffee beans for visitors to take home to nurture and grow our very own coffee plant.

When I arrived at the My Liberica Roastery in the Ecohub, I noticed that not all the visitors from Part One of the Grand Tour chose to join the second part of the tour. Instead, there were some new participants who joined us just for Part Two.

My Liberica specialty coffee served
with a side of cream crackers aka STP!
As lunch was part of the Grand Tour, we were invited to take our pick of the main course item from the menu and while it was being prepared, a refreshing salad and tasty appetizer were served.

Then I overheard one of the visitors requesting for coffee after his meal and Vivonne assured him that there will be plenty of coffee to drink in the latter part of the itinerary when we will have a hands-on experience to grind the coffee beans and brew coffee to drink, not just our own but also brews by the other participants.

When everyone had comfortably finished our lunch, Vivonne continued the tour with an information sharing session on coffee cultures and coffee appreciation around the world, and the roast levels adopted at My Liberica before we moved into the hands-on coffee brewing experience.

With thoughts of the Cinnamon Roast, Medium Roast, City Roast, Full City Roast, French Roast, and Italian Roast still steeping in my mind, I was more than ready for a taste of our self-brewed pots of coffee.

Vivonne [Right] conducting Part Two of the Grand Tour
Just as was promised, the aroma of freshly brewed coffee along with the taste of each of the three different levels of roasted beans, more than satisfied any coffee cravings.

It was eye-opening to learn the better way to grind the roasted beans, the temperature recommended for the hot water, the method of pouring in boiled water onto the ground coffee, and all the nitty-gritty details to achieve a quality cup of freshly brewed coffee.

By 5pm, I had my fill of delicious freshly brewed coffee – not just my own but from the other participants too – and gained a better appreciation and respect for My Liberica specialty coffee, proudly prepared from seed to cup.

For more information and to join the next Specialty Coffee Grand Tour in Johor, call or WhatsApp to Tel: +6016 733 1082 or +6011 1099 9768.

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