Malaysians are no strangers to coffee. Our kopitiams have Hainanese coffee, our malls have ZUS Coffee, and most of our office pantries stock up on instant coffee drinks too.
So what makes hitamanés different? The short answer is that this local brand specialises in serving fruit flavoured coffee.
And not just any fruits like orange or lime. I’m talking about Malaysian fruits such as jackfruit and guava. But is there a market for this though?
Brewing up new ideas
Launched in 2021, hitamanés was founded by Shafiqe Illanie, a 35-year-old coffee lover who has been in the coffee field for over 10 years.
Shafiqe, or more known to his peers simply as Black, used to work in various parts of the coffee industry. He eventually figured that he wanted to do something more. So he opened a neighbourhood pop-up coffee shop called hétam to serve specialty coffee.
According to Salman, hitamanés’ creative coordinator, the brand once went viral on social media and got the attention of locals. And he doesn’t mean just locals in the Klang Valley area, but also those from as far as Perlis and Johor.
Then Shafiqe was struck with a new business idea—instead of just specialty coffee, why not add more localised flavours to it?
Adding a local touch to coffee
“Most coffee shops offer quite similar menus for their drinks, so we figured that adding a little bit of twist to the concoction might intrigue people to try,” Salman explained.
“We (the team behind hitamanés) thought that fruity flavours could be something interesting; we have never heard [of] anyone else doing it.”
So, the team began R&D to test this idea.
In the beginning, they experimented with ten different fruits to find out what tasted good, but only ended up with two. This made them realise that not many local fruits are suitable to mix with coffee.
However, confident in the business idea, Shafiqe and his team opted to not give up. More fruits were tested and tasted to find the right ones that met their expectations.
And eventually, the hitamanés team came up with their fruity curations like jackfruit latte. But that wasn’t the end of their challenges.
Sweetening up your drinks
Once the team determined the fruits, the next step was finding the right syrups.
For context, similar to other flavoured coffee, hitamanés uses fruit flavoured syrups for its unique concoctions. “The local fruity flavours that we came up with use only syrups on top of the latte,” Salman explained.
To get consistent flavour, the brand finds syrups more practical than fruit jams as the texture is more suitable. Hence, the right syrups would make or break the business idea.
So they continued the R&D process by experimenting with fruity syrups from different brands. Not wanting to limit themselves, Shafiqe and his team even ordered brands from overseas just to get it right.
In the future, they hope to come up with more fruity flavours like starfruit coffee using their very own syrups.
It took them a while, but the team finally found their “holy grail” and set up a kiosk in Central Market, KL.
From 10 to 150 cups a day
Since most coffee drinkers prefer something they’re familiar with, Salman shared that hitamanés faced some difficulties in introducing their fruity lattes. “When we first opened, we were already happy if we were able to sell 10 cups per day.”
So they spent a lot of capital on brand awareness, coming up with promotions on social media and at their physical kiosk to attract customers. Salman credited this as one reason why they managed to sell up to 150 cups a day afterwards.
Another advantage they had was the aesthetic appeal of some drinks, such as their Yam Latte, sporting a mix of purple and brown. Made of milk, espresso, and concentrated yam syrup, it’s the brand’s most popular drink according to Salman.
Besides that, there are also flavours like banana latte, guava latte, and pineapple latte.
For those less adventurous, you can rest assured that there’s something for you too. The menu consists of familiar beverages such as mocha, vanilla latte, and cappuccino, with matcha as an upcoming addition.
Expanding into the new year
Speaking candidly, Salman explained that the idea of hitamanés has been changing as the business grows. From attending pop-up events to having a once-permanent kiosk at Central Market, the brand has been growing slowly but steadily since its start in 2021.
And they don’t seem to be stopping anytime soon.
With their time in Central Market having ended last month, the team is expanding their wings elsewhere. Salman explained that their previous kiosk had a few limitations. As a rental space, they were subjected to the rules and regulations set by the establishment.
But with their own space in Bangsar soon, Salman said, “We [will] have more freedom to be ourselves based on our [creative] direction.” There, they will open from as early as 7:30AM to serve the early risers.
Alongside their coffee, you can find simple local breakfast options like toast, nasi lemak, and bihun goreng. Salman also shared that they will further expand the beverage menu with fruity sparkling drinks. This is to help cater to the preferences of those who don’t like taking caffeine.
Going back to why it began
“To be frank, we started as a brand to serve the community,” the creative coordinator stated. “[And] though we enjoyed our journey serving coffee to different types of people, as the business becomes more mature, we still want to be based at a place with a good community and serve its people.”
As such, hitamanés hopes that moving to its new Bangsar location will give them a good start to refocus on this goal.
Ideally, the plan is to serve as many communities in different locations as possible. This is done by not only setting up shop but also tailoring special menus for these communities, which is the brand’s dream.
This might take some time as the brand is still relatively small, not to mention its founder is juggling two coffee businesses. So in the meantime, hitamanés will be channelling its efforts into making this new outlet the best it’s ever had.
Featured Image Credit: hitamanés