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Ah Lim

Ah LimNative Profile

Ah Lim

Call him "Ah Lim" or uncle Lim. And he has become a true friend of Tribe's. Initially reserved, he has emerged from his shell and become quite the star with our guests. Ah Lim opens up about the secrets of the local coffee roasting trade, stories about himself and even allow us to sample kopi black. His 'office' is hot, stuffy and back breaking, and he doesn't see how the young would want this kind of work.

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  • What's different about local kopi versus coffee from Starbucks?

    The beans. Local kopi uses robusta while the Western type coffee uses Arabica.

    Also, the roasting technique is very different. Local kopi roasts with margarine, salt and sugar which gives local kopi an aromatic, sweeter smell and taste. Also, there is an almost oil-lier after taste which is from the margarine.

  • How and why and whom was behind this local adaptation?

    The Hainanese. Most Hainanese where working with the British on their ships and many were cooks or doing something related to food. They came up with the sock filter technique because they had no access to brewing appliances and improvised with the "sock" filter. The kopitiam kopi locals have grown fond of today of adding sugar, condensed milk and evaporated milk is also from the early Hainanese kopitiam owners.

  • Uncle, who takes over from you?

    No one! Everyone doing this is in their fifties and sixties. The youngest being in his late forties. For the pay we get, many younger ones have alternatives. How many people you know want to be in this hot, sweaty, sooty environment all day?

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