Malaysia has been growing coffee for centuries. Bordering Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand, Malaysia sits in the heart of tropical Southeast Asia.
Today Malaysia grows about 25,000 hectares of coffee mainly in the provincs of Kelantan, Kedah, Trengganu, Sellangore and Malacca. Coffee is also cultivated in the Sabah region at the northernmost tip of the island of Borneo.
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Malaysia Coffee Plant Varietals
Both the lower grade Robusta and the higher grade Arabica coffee plant varietals are grown in Malaysia but about ninety-five percent of the crop is the Liberica Coffee varietal which was first introduced to the country in 1875. Only about two percent of the world’s coffee production is Liberica.
Total Malaysian coffee production in recent years has been around 160,000 bags of coffee totaling less than ten thousand tons. Coffee culture has been growing in Malaysia and coffee cafes are a relatively recent phenomenon and becoming very popular, particularly among young people.
Malaysian Coffee Culture
The number of cafes in Malaysia has been increasing rapidly, supporting the idea that Malaysia’s coffee crop in coming years will likely struggle just to meet the country’s own internal demands rather than focusing on exporting.
Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Starbucks and Gloria Jean’s have all entered the market, likely adding to the popularity of coffee in the country including specialty coffee drinks like lattes and cappuccinos.
As a major producer and exporter of palm oil, rubber, sugar and tea, Malaysia’s land resources do not place a priority on coffee but instead coffee cultivation has historically been relegated to secondary status in comparison to these other commodities.
However now that the country’s domestic specialty coffee market is taking off, including in the thriving capital of Kuala Lumpur with its large, well-educated middle class, coffee production may see a new emphasis, particularly in light of high worldwide coffee prices.
The Future of Malaysian Coffee Production
This may gradually occur with the rise in popularity of coffee in the country as well as the higher overall value of the commodity in comparison to other competing commodities in Malaysia (e.g., competing for resources and labor for production).
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