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Sampling Ipoh, Malaysia’s Famous Iced White Coffee


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Margret Mcphail



Welcome to the enchanting world of Ipoh, Malaysia’s famous iced white coffee. With its rich history, unique brewing process, and cultural significance, Ipoh white coffee has become an emblematic beverage of Malaysian cuisine and a beloved drink both domestically and internationally.


Ipoh, a charming city located in the state of Perak in Malaysia, is renowned for its distinctive blend of coffee that is brewed with a twist. While coffee has been a part of Malaysian culture for centuries, it was the invention and refinement of white coffee that truly put Ipoh on the map.


The story of Ipoh white coffee dates back to the early 20th century when the Hainanese immigrants first introduced coffee to the region. With their unique roasting and brewing techniques, these immigrants created a flavor profile that was distinctively different from the traditional dark-roasted coffee consumed in Malaysia. The result was a milder, smoother, and less acidic coffee, which earned the name “white coffee.”


Ipoh white coffee is crafted using a specialized roasting process that sets it apart from other varieties. The coffee beans are carefully roasted with margarine, giving them a light brown color and a subtle, caramel-like aroma. This gentle and delicate roasting technique helps to preserve the natural flavors of the coffee beans while minimizing the bitterness, resulting in a remarkably smooth cup of coffee.


What truly distinguishes Ipoh white coffee is its brewing method. Traditionally, the coffee is brewed using a sock-like cloth filter, known as a “kopi bag,” which allows the coffee to steep slowly, infusing it with a rich and full-bodied flavor. The resulting brew is then mixed with condensed milk, creating a creamy and slightly sweet concoction that is truly irresistible.


The cultural significance of Ipoh white coffee cannot be overstated. It has become an integral part of Malaysian culture, with locals and tourists alike flocking to Ipoh’s numerous cafes and stalls to savor this beloved beverage. The city has even earned the reputation as the “White Coffee Capital of Malaysia,” with its streets lined with coffee shops that proudly serve this iconic brew.


In the next sections, we will take a deeper dive into the history of Ipoh’s white coffee, explore the unique brewing process, discover popular cafes and stalls to sample this delightful drink, and even learn how to make Ipoh white coffee at home. So grab a cup of coffee, sit back, and embark on this flavorful journey through the world of Ipoh white coffee.


History of Ipoh’s White Coffee

The origins of Ipoh’s white coffee can be traced back to the early 20th century when Hainanese immigrants first settled in Ipoh, bringing with them their unique coffee brewing techniques. These immigrants, who hailed from the Hainan province in China, had a rich coffee culture ingrained in their heritage.


When the Hainanese immigrants arrived in Ipoh, they found themselves in a region known for its robust coffee plantations. Eager to continue their coffee traditions, they began roasting and brewing coffee using methods handed down through generations.


Unlike the dark-roasted coffee prevalent in Malaysia at the time, the Hainanese immigrants employed a lighter roasting technique, resulting in a unique flavor profile. The lighter roasting preserved the natural flavors of the beans and led to a milder, smoother, and less acidic taste.


The term “white coffee” itself originated from the light color of the coffee beans after roasting. To achieve this light color, the Hainanese immigrants typically used margarine in their roasting process, which added a hint of creaminess to the coffee’s aroma and taste.


With time, the Hainanese coffee shops in Ipoh gained popularity, attracting locals and travelers alike who were intrigued by this new kind of coffee. The reputation of Ipoh’s white coffee spread far and wide, cementing its status as a beloved Malaysian beverage.


In the early days, Ipoh white coffee was primarily enjoyed as a hot beverage. It was often served in traditional ceramic cups, accompanied by a small plate of soft-boiled eggs and toasted bread, creating a delightful breakfast experience.


Over the years, as Malaysians developed a fondness for iced beverages, the demand for iced white coffee grew. Today, both hot and iced variations of Ipoh white coffee can be found in local cafes and stalls, catering to the diverse preferences of coffee enthusiasts.


The popularity of Ipoh white coffee has extended beyond its home city. It has become a national symbol of Malaysian coffee culture, with coffee enthusiasts from all over the country seeking out the authentic taste of Ipoh’s white coffee.


As you explore the streets of Ipoh, you will find numerous coffee shops and stalls that have been brewing white coffee for decades, preserving the legacy and traditions of this iconic beverage. So, make sure to immerse yourself in the rich history of Ipoh’s white coffee by indulging in a cup or two during your visit.


The Unique Brewing Process of Ipoh White Coffee

One of the key factors that sets Ipoh white coffee apart is its unique brewing process. Unlike other coffee brewing methods, Ipoh white coffee is prepared using a specialized technique that imparts a distinct flavor and aroma.


Traditionally, Ipoh white coffee is brewed using a cloth filter known as a “kopi bag” or “sock.” This filter, typically made of muslin or similar material, allows for a slower extraction process, resulting in a fuller-bodied and more flavorful cup of coffee.


The brewing process starts with the carefully roasted coffee beans, which are ground into a medium-coarse texture. The coffee grounds are then placed inside the kopi bag, and hot water is poured over them, allowing the coffee to steep.


What sets this brewing method apart is the slow immersion process. Unlike other brewing methods that rely on quick filtration, the kopi bag is left immersed in the water for a prolonged period, allowing the flavors to extract more slowly. This slow extraction process brings out the rich, smooth, and slightly nutty flavors that are characteristic of Ipoh white coffee.


Another crucial element of the brewing process is the addition of condensed milk. Once the coffee has finished steeping, it is mixed with a generous amount of sweetened condensed milk. This addition adds a creamy and slightly sweet touch to the coffee, balancing out its natural bitterness and creating a well-rounded flavor profile.


After mixing the coffee with condensed milk, it is further strained to ensure a smooth and velvety texture. The resulting brew is then served piping hot or poured over a glass filled with ice, transforming it into the popular iced white coffee variant.


The slow brewing process and the use of condensed milk are what make Ipoh white coffee truly unique. It is a labor-intensive method that requires patience and skill to achieve the perfect balance of flavors. By taking the time to steep the coffee grounds and allowing the flavors to meld together, a cup of Ipoh white coffee is created that is rich, aromatic, and incredibly satisfying.


When you sip on a cup of Ipoh white coffee, you’re not just tasting a beverage – you’re experiencing the passion and artistry behind its preparation. So, take a moment to appreciate the unique brewing process that makes Ipoh white coffee a beloved Malaysian treasure.


The Cultural Significance of Ipoh White Coffee

Ipoh white coffee holds a special place in Malaysian culture, representing more than just a delicious beverage. It has become a cultural icon, symbolizing the charm and heritage of Ipoh and Malaysian coffee traditions.


One of the reasons for the cultural significance of Ipoh white coffee is its historical roots. The coffee culture in Ipoh can be traced back to the early 20th century when Hainanese immigrants settled in the city and brought their coffee brewing techniques from China. The unique flavors and brewing methods of Ipoh white coffee have been passed down through generations, becoming intertwined with the culinary heritage of the region.


Ipoh white coffee is not just a drink; it is a social experience. The coffee shops and stalls where it is served have become important meeting places for locals and tourists alike. These establishments provide a space for friends, families, and even strangers to gather, connect, and share conversations over a steaming cup of coffee.


Ipoh’s coffee culture has become an integral part of the city’s identity. Walking through the streets of Ipoh, you will be greeted by the aroma of freshly brewed coffee wafting through the air. Coffee shops and stalls, some of which have been operating for decades, line the alleys and main thoroughfares, serving as beacons of coffee tradition and community.


Ipoh white coffee has also gained recognition beyond Malaysia’s borders. With the rise of specialty coffee culture worldwide, coffee enthusiasts from around the globe have discovered the unique qualities of Ipoh white coffee. This has led to an increased interest in Malaysian coffee traditions and a growing appreciation for the cultural heritage that Ipoh white coffee represents.


Beyond its cultural significance to the local community, Ipoh white coffee has found its way into popular culture. It has been featured in films, literature, and television shows, becoming a symbol of Malaysia’s culinary prowess. Its recognizable flavors and association with Ipoh have made it an iconic representation of Malaysian cuisine.


It is worth mentioning that Ipoh white coffee has also been recognized on an official level. In 2008, the Malaysian government granted it the status of a geographical indication, underscoring its uniqueness and cultural importance.


When you indulge in a cup of Ipoh white coffee, you are not only experiencing a delightful and flavorful beverage but also immersing yourself in the cultural fabric of Malaysia. So, as you sip on this beloved brew, take a moment to appreciate the history, community, and heritage that Ipoh white coffee embodies.


Popular Cafes and Stalls Serving Ipoh White Coffee

If you find yourself in Ipoh, you will be spoiled for choice when it comes to finding cafes and stalls that serve the iconic Ipoh white coffee. These establishments have become destinations for locals and tourists alike, offering a chance to experience the authentic taste of this beloved beverage.


Old Town White Coffee is perhaps the most well-known and widely recognized chain of cafes that specializes in Ipoh white coffee. With its cozy ambiance and retro decor, Old Town White Coffee has successfully brought the flavors of Ipoh white coffee to locations throughout Malaysia and beyond. It is the perfect place to enjoy a cup of white coffee accompanied by local delicacies like Ipoh’s famous chicken rice.


Sin Yoon Loong is another institution in Ipoh that has been serving white coffee since the 1930s. Located in the heart of the old town, this unassuming coffee shop is steeped in history and remains a popular spot for both locals and visitors seeking an authentic Ipoh white coffee experience. Pair your coffee with their traditional Hainanese toast for a truly nostalgic delight.


Nam Heong is yet another long-standing establishment in Ipoh that has been delighting coffee enthusiasts since the 1950s. With its retro-chic interior and a wide range of local specialty dishes, Nam Heong provides a delightful setting to savor a cup of their signature white coffee. Don’t miss the opportunity to try their famous egg tarts along with your coffee.


For those who prefer a more modern and trendy atmosphere, Patisserie Boutique offers a contemporary twist on Ipoh white coffee. This chic cafe combines the traditional flavors of white coffee with innovative presentations and flavor pairings. From white coffee-flavored pastries to cold brew variations, Patisserie Boutique takes Ipoh white coffee to new heights.


Aside from these well-known establishments, you will find numerous smaller stalls scattered around Ipoh that serve delicious Ipoh white coffee. These local vendors have mastered the art of brewing white coffee and offer a more authentic, grassroots experience. While the setting may be simpler, the flavors are just as satisfying.


Exploring the various cafes and stalls in Ipoh is a delightful adventure. Each place has its own twist on the brewing process, creating subtle differences in flavor that cater to different preferences. So take your time to explore and discover your favorite spot to enjoy Ipoh white coffee in this coffee-lovers’ paradise.


Variations and Adaptations of Ipoh White Coffee

While the traditional preparation of Ipoh white coffee remains beloved by many, there have been some interesting variations and adaptations of this iconic beverage over the years. These creative twists add a new dimension to the flavors and showcase the versatility of Ipoh white coffee.


One popular variation is the addition of flavored syrups. By infusing the coffee with syrups like caramel, hazelnut, or vanilla, baristas create unique flavor combinations that complement the smoothness of the white coffee. These flavored Ipoh white coffees offer a delightful twist for those looking to explore different taste profiles.


Another adaptation is the incorporation of local ingredients and flavors. Ipoh white coffee has been paired with gula melaka, a type of palm sugar, to create a distinctively Malaysian fusion. The rich and caramel-like flavor of gula melaka adds depth and sweetness to the coffee, resulting in a delightful blend of traditional and local flavors.


For those who prefer a lighter and less sweet option, there is the option of “less sugar” or “no sugar” variations. These adaptations cater to those who want to enjoy the smoothness and flavor of Ipoh white coffee without the added sweetness from condensed milk. These less sweetened versions allow the natural flavors of the coffee to shine through.


There is also a rising trend of incorporating Ipoh white coffee into desserts and baked goods. From white coffee-infused cakes and cookies to ice cream and even cocktails, this versatile ingredient adds a distinct coffee flavor to various sweet treats. These adaptations offer a new way to savor the essence of Ipoh white coffee beyond the traditional cup.


Moreover, with advancements in technology and the growing popularity of coffee machines, it has become easier for coffee enthusiasts to recreate Ipoh white coffee at home. The availability of pre-packaged Ipoh white coffee beans and instant mixes allows people to enjoy the unique flavors of Ipoh white coffee in the comfort of their own homes.


While these variations and adaptations add new dimensions to the traditional Ipoh white coffee, they also pay homage to the rich coffee culture of Malaysia. They showcase the creativity and innovation of local baristas and artisans who are constantly pushing the boundaries of flavor while honoring the roots of this beloved beverage.


Whether you prefer the traditional preparation or enjoy exploring new adaptations, Ipoh white coffee offers a world of delightful flavors and possibilities. So, don’t hesitate to try different variations and discover your own favorite way to enjoy this iconic Malaysian drink.


How to Make Ipoh White Coffee at Home

If you’re a fan of Ipoh white coffee and want to recreate the aromatic and creamy flavors in the comfort of your own home, you’re in luck! Making Ipoh white coffee at home is simple and can be an enjoyable experience. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you brew the perfect cup:

  1. Start with the right coffee beans: To achieve the authentic taste of Ipoh white coffee, look for coffee beans that have been specifically roasted for white coffee. These beans are usually available at specialty coffee shops or online stores.
  2. Grind the beans: Using a coffee grinder, grind the beans to a medium-coarse texture. This helps to ensure a balanced extraction of flavors during brewing.
  3. Boil water: Heat water to around 90°C (195°F). This temperature is optimal for brewing white coffee and brings out its full flavor.
  4. Prepare the kopi bag: While traditional Ipoh white coffee is brewed using a cloth filter, you can achieve similar results with a coffee filter or French press. Place the ground coffee in the filter and make sure it is securely packed.
  5. Pour the hot water: Slowly pour the hot water over the coffee grounds, allowing them to steep for a few minutes. This slow extraction helps to bring out the smooth and robust flavors of the white coffee.
  6. Mix with condensed milk: Once the coffee has steeped, pour it into a cup and mix in a generous amount of sweetened condensed milk. Adjust the amount to suit your preferred level of sweetness.
  7. Stir and enjoy: Give the coffee and condensed milk mixture a good stir to blend the flavors together. Sit back and savor the rich, creamy goodness of your homemade Ipoh white coffee!

Feel free to experiment with the ratios of coffee to condensed milk and water, depending on your personal taste preferences. Remember, brewing coffee is both a science and an art, so don’t be afraid to adjust the brewing process to achieve your desired flavors.


Now that you know how to make Ipoh white coffee at home, you can enjoy this delightful beverage whenever the craving strikes. So, grab your favorite mug, gather the ingredients, and immerse yourself in the flavors of Ipoh’s iconic white coffee without stepping foot outside your kitchen!



Ipoh white coffee is not just a beverage; it’s a culinary experience that immerses you in the rich flavors and cultural heritage of Malaysia. From its humble origins to its widespread popularity, Ipoh white coffee has become a symbol of the charm and traditions of the city of Ipoh.


The unique brewing process and the use of specialized roasting techniques give Ipoh white coffee its distinctive flavor profile, characterized by its smoothness, mildness, and subtle caramel undertones. The slow immersion brewing method using a kopi bag and the addition of condensed milk create a cup of coffee that is both comforting and indulgent.


The cultural significance of Ipoh white coffee cannot be overstated. It has become deeply rooted in Malaysian culture and has gained recognition worldwide. The coffee shops and stalls that serve this beloved brew have become gathering places for locals and tourists alike, fostering a sense of community and connection.


Whether you explore the popular coffee chains or venture into the lesser-known stalls, the brewing methods, and variations of Ipoh white coffee offer a range of tastes to suit every preference. You can enjoy it as a traditional hot beverage or as a refreshing iced delight.


Ipoh white coffee has also adapted to modern trends and flavors, incorporating new elements and ingredients to create exciting twists on the traditional brew. Its versatility extends beyond a simple beverage, with Ipoh white coffee being used in desserts, baked goods, and even cocktails.


If you’re a coffee enthusiast or an adventurous food lover, Ipoh white coffee is a must-try. Its flavors and cultural significance make it a fascinating part of Malaysia’s culinary landscape.


So, whether you’re planning a trip to Ipoh or simply want to bring a taste of Malaysia into your home, be sure to indulge in the enchanting world of Ipoh white coffee. Each sip is a journey through the rich history, unique brewing methods, and cultural significance of this iconic Malaysian beverage.