For almost ninety years this Malaysian mill has made coffee the old-fashioned way

Wood fire roasted coffee beans at the Antong Coffee Factory in Taiping, Malaysia
Wood fire roasted coffee beans at the Antong Coffee Factory in Taiping, Malaysia Copyright MOHD RASFAN/AFP or licensors
Copyright MOHD RASFAN/AFP or licensors
By Katy Dartford with AFP
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The Antong coffee mill has been using antique machines and traditional bean-roasting methods to produce its famed caffeine-laden powder for 87 years


The Antong mill in Malaysia is believed to be the oldest such set-up in the country and has been using the same methods to produce its popular coffee for almost nine decades.

"I want to let young people know what coffee factories looked like 50 or 100 years ago," explains Thian Boon Chung, the boss of the small mill in the town of Taiping.

"I want them to appreciate the old ways of making coffee."

The mill was built by Thian's grandfather in 1933 and is a small wooden building with a zinc roof.

It houses machines for roasting coffee, removing the husk from beans, and mixing them up with sugar.

Many of the contraptions are original, dating from when the factory started operations, although their motors have been replaced.

MOHD RASFAN/AFP or licensors
A worker pours roasted coffee beans into a pot of bubbling, melted sugar as an ageing machine stirs the ingredients into a sticky black mixture over a crackling wood.MOHD RASFAN/AFP or licensors

The mill workers use wood gathered from construction projects and abandoned houses to roast the beans, giving it a distinct, smoky flavour.

Thian said his wood-roasted coffee tasted better than other varieties: "It has 'power' in the taste that cannot simply be explained by words."

After the beans are mixed with sugar, they are dried and crushed into a coarse powder before being packaged and sold to restaurants and other customers.

"When we mix it (coffee) with the sugar, the coffee becomes more 'oomph' (power), stronger, bitter, and richer," says Boon Chung.

MOHD RASFAN/AFP or licensors
A worker pours pre-sweetened black coffee into a tin for sale at the Antong Coffee Factory in Taiping in the Malaysian state of PerakMOHD RASFAN/AFP or licensors

The mill can produce up to 2,000 kilograms of coffee products a day, with half its beans sourced in Malaysia and the rest imported.

The type of sweet coffee produced at the factory has long been popular in Malaysia, where many like their drinks sugary, and is commonly served at restaurants.

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