Before Starbucks, San Francisco Coffee, and all those fancy, hip cafes, there were mamaks and kopitiams. It was at these kinds of roadside stalls where Azzad and Hadi started their lifelong coffee-drinking habit.
The two met at work, with both of them having backgrounds in IT. Today, they’re still working together, with the main difference being it’s not in the field they studied anymore.
When it comes to coffee culture nowadays, people typically think of high-end cafes using espresso machines and expensive beans, serving what’s typically called third-wave coffee.
Drinks like vanilla lattes, cappuccinos, and caramel macchiatos have become mainstays and even many young Malaysians’ introductions to coffee today.
However, Azzad and Hadi had grown up on kopi kampung and wondered what it would be like to start a kopi kampung brand but dressed up in a more modern way.
Azzad already had some F&B experience since his family owns a coffee stall and used to run a kopi kampung roaster back in Kedah. So, amidst the pandemic, the partners decided to start their own brand—Kopi Dua Darjat.
Coffee for the unpretentious
To some “coffee fanatics”, kopi kampung might not seem like “real coffee”. This was something that Azzad and Hadi had observed, so they decided to name their store Kopi Dua Darjat as a reference to those “double standards”.
For those who are unaware, kopi kampung generally is made with Robusta beans, which are cheaper and more bitter compared to Arabica beans. According to Hadi, this was more accessible in Malaysia due to our climate and altitude.
“Our older generations find Robusta too bitter to drink on its own so they roasted the Robusta beans with sugar, margarine, and sometimes palm oil to make them taste better,” he described.
“All these additional ingredients blended together give the ‘kaw’ taste to kopi kampung that we won’t be able to get from pure Arabica coffee.”
This kind of coffee is also known as Hainan Kopi, which might be a familiar term to some. Kopi kampung and Hainan kopi became the foundation of coffee in kopitiams, mamak stalls, and now, Kopi Dua Darjat.
At Kopi Dua Darjat, rather than using espresso shots, popular coffee beverages such as vanilla lattes are created using kopi kampung.
However, Azzad and Hadi never meant to promote Kopi Dua Darjat as a fully kopi kampung brand. They originally used the term as a disclaimer for customers so they know the coffee isn’t produced from espresso machines, “just to manage their expectations.”
In hindsight, it seems like the reception of kopi kampung might’ve actually exceeded their expectations.
Spreading the kampung style
Beyond just offering kampung-style coffee, the duo wanted to offer a whole kampung-style experience.
Thus, they chose to go with a roadside stall concept for starters.
“Within months, a lot of our customers were noticing the brand and they became interested to open an outlet under the same brand,” Hadi shared.
This was happening during the pandemic when many were losing their jobs. So, Hadi and Azzad decided to give people the opportunity to earn while they could expand the brand—a win-win situation.
So, they started franchising, allowing more people to open a Kopi Dua Darjat outlet. The company would supply the ingredients to them and take a small percentage of their revenue. It would also provide training and conduct R&D for new menu items.
“To make it more affordable for most people to open an outlet, we maintained the concept to operate as roadside stalls,” Hadi said.
However, he said that the company is flexible when it comes to the concept because it all boils down to the owner’s own capacity and budget.
For instance, there’s a Kopi Dua Darjat outlet operating as a permanent kiosk in Central Market, and there are several Kopi Dua Darjat food trucks in Lakefield Sungai Besi, Putrajaya, and Seremban 2.
Kopi Dua Darjat is also gearing up to open its first mall outlet in Metro Point Kajang around November. Other than the signature kopi kampung drinks, it plans to venture into espresso-based drinks too.
“Our end game has always been to open physical kiosks or cafes all around Malaysia,” Hadi revealed. “However, we see ourselves as a startup that was not made of money, so we believe in taking small baby steps in growing the business.”
Down the roadside
Today, Kopi Dua Darjat has around 50 outlets in KL, Selangor, and Negeri Sembilan, though only two outlets (and the upcoming mall outlet) are directly owned by Kopi Dua Darjat HQ.
The main issue the team is facing right now is logistics. According to Hadi, there is high demand all over the country to operate Kopi Dua Darjat, but the HQ doesn’t have the proper supply chain ready to open in areas outside of KL, Selangor, and Negeri Sembilan.
With that said, the team does anticipate setting up shop in other states soon, starting with Melaka and Perak.
Hadi also revealed that the brand may be launching its own retail products soon, such as Dua Darjat flavoured syrups.
“I believe that kopi kampung has a special place in us Malaysians, since this is the coffee that most of us drink growing up,” Hadi expressed.
However, even those who started their coffee journey with Arabica coffee and fancy espresso machines may enjoy kopi kampung too, if Kopi Dua Darjat’s expansion is anything to go by.
Featured Image Credit: Kopi Dua Darjat