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.
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.
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.