What’s On Tap: Where modern coffee magic is mastered in KL
March 7, 2020
What happens when a Malaysian interior designer and his Melbourne-based coffee specialist brother open a café in KL? What’s On Tap is the remarkable result, physically unlike any other coffee bar in the city, modelling a 1,000-square-foot space on the Modbar concept for a futuristic vision of caffeine to propel us into 2020 and beyond.
When we first visited What’s On Tap in April 2019, we were dazzled by its distinctive sleekness, with what looks like beer taps sprawling across a 27-foot-long polished counter - these chrome beauties are linked, in fact, to Italian-made La Marzocco espresso machines, reconfigured to be concealed beneath the counter. But beyond the stylish visual impression, What’s On Tap strives to engage all five senses in practical, pleasurable ways.
Ten months later, we sit with co-founder Andrew Chung to chat about the whys of What’s On Tap, over many cups of marvellous coffee in Plaza Mont Kiara.
When customers come to What’s On Tap, Andrew and his brother Eric (who’s been honing his craft in Australia’s coffee industry for about a decade) hope they’ll enjoy an immersive experience.
“We want to give customers a new feeling about visiting a café, from the time they order till they leave,” Andrew explains. “That’s not only in the clean design of the café’s environment but the other elements that they can see, hear, smell, taste and touch.”
Indeed, the scent of freshly roasted coffee wafted beautifully through the background, awakening our palates even before we tasted a sip. The sight and sounds of the coffee beans floating and popping like popcorn in the German-built Neuhaus Neotec hot-air roaster makes for a playful scene – though Andrew diligently logs in data about every batch.
Other aesthetics are equally thoughtful. There are no glass doors or other obstructions to the entrances, so customers can move in and out freely and conveniently, even with both their hands full with food and drinks. Even the lighting is meant to simulate the brightness of the outdoors, bringing a soothing naturalness to what risks seeming stark and sterile.
Many first-timers and regulars will note that the coffee is served here supremely fast, so if you’ve only got a couple of minutes to grab your espresso, What’s On Tap is where to go – some customers might even receive their coffee as soon as they finish paying for it. Even at peak hours, there won’t be a long wait, with no compromise in consistency.
Andrew stresses that What’s On Tap thrives on a range of equipment to measure and uphold the quality of its coffee, “to make sure everything reaches the gold standard of world-class coffee.”
There are intriguing subtleties because What’s On Tap chooses a wide variety of beans for its house blends. The current seasonal WOT espresso blend showcases Brazil Santa Lucia, Colombia Pitalito, Ethiopia Guji Chire White and India Thalanar varietals, hopscotching across multiple continents to yield aromatic nuances of jasmine and lemongrass out front, enriched by an orange-berry sweetness and a caramel-chocolate smoothness.
The latte (RM11; small) and cappuccino (RM13; large, sprinkled with Valrhona chocolate powder), make for easy-drinking milkiness. What’s On Tap relies on efficient double-boiler espresso machines that can be automatically programmed to ensure continuous precision for temperature, volume of the water and boiling, extending to the filter coffee equipment as well, Andrew explains.
Much of the Modbar appeal rests in the removal of barriers between the barista and the customer, with bulky espresso machines no longer on the counters. “You can see the process and what’s happening, how we make every cup of coffee,” Andrew says.
There feels like more room to maneuver both behind and in front of the baristas’ workstations, a testament to space planning and a blessing for customers who enjoy observing the intricate process of preparing pour-over coffee, with a Modbar twist.
The filter coffee equipment is also meticulously programmed to curb human error and to match the highest potential professional scoring for its coffee, operated from an established height over the counter. “You’ll find consistent quality in every cup, every 10 cups, every 20 cups – if you like the taste of it this year, you can return next year for the same taste,” Andrew says.
The single-origin options for the filter coffee evolve every month or two, with our recent pour-over with the CORES gold cone filter showcasing Haru Suke beans (RM18) and the Bairro Alto Air II dripper comprising Guji Chire White (RM14), both Ethiopian varietals exhibiting exuberant intensity with orange-like notes.
While serious coffee fans have much to explore at What’s On Tap, there’s room for light-hearted creations that illustrate a sense of sparkle – such as the Melbourne-inspired Sparkling Long Black, a double espresso mingling with sparkling water, tasting nearly like a coffee in soda form, cleansing the palate while letting you taste the inherent sweetness of the coffee (RM12).
Also a bright choice is the orange nitro fizz, teaming up nitro coffee with cold-pressed citrus juice, honey and coconut nectar for a lively, fruity refreshment (RM18).
Alternatively, for a non-caffeinated buzz, one of What’s On Tap’s latest offerings is its chai latte (RM18) – black tea made richly fragrant and flavoursome with soy milk, coconut nectar and hints of ginger, cinnamon, star anise, clove, cardamom, goji berries, kaffir lime leaves, lemon myrtle leaves and chilli, packing a complex punch.
What’s On Tap’s lemon poppyseed cake is perfect for pairing with the coffee, alongside croissants, granola, chocolate chip cookies and homemade biscotti.
Beyond speciality coffee, non-caffeinated beverages and lattes brings Instagram-friendly colours galore to What’s On Tap. While hot chocolate devotees should sample the Chocolate Valrhona (RM13), adventurous patrons can check out the golden latte (RM15; turmeric, cinnamon, ginger and milk), blue sesame latte (RM15; butterfly pea flower with sesame and milk), beetroot latte (RM15, premium dried beetroot powder with milk) and matcha latte (RM15; imported Japanese matcha with milk).
Exclusive What’s On Tap merchandise can also be purchased here, from T-shirts to hoodies and caps, plus various tumblers. The venue is capable of hosting events too, and Andrew hints that further outposts could be in the cards.
“We roast our own beans and we have reliable equipment to eliminate human error, so we’d be highly confident in being able to maintain and control the quality of our coffee if we had a second or third branch.”
Many thanks to What’s On Tap for having us here. Note that What’s On Tap is a participating merchant in our coffee pass subscription, which enables subscribers to enjoy espresso-based coffee at a discounted rate.
What's On Tap
B-OG-05, Plaza Mont Kiara, 50480 Kuala Lumpur.
Open Mon-Fri, 8am-7pm; Sat, 8am-6pm; Sun, 9am-6pm. Tel: 03-6419-6794
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