There’s a small, non-descript coffee shop named Hiap Yak Tea Shop, tucked somewhere in the alleys of Indian Street in Kuching, Sarawak, where the hot, steaming coffee is still served with a pat of butter. Of course, it makes for a creamy, buttery, if a bit strange, brew but there’s an interesting backstory (or tale, if you prefer to think it’s part-fiction) to why in this small shop, the coffee not the bread or biscuit is buttered.
Our Hokkien guide, Margaret, who spent 30 years as a policewoman, has compiled interesting bits and pieces about Kuching and its nooks and cranies, including this alley, erstwhile filled with coffin makers turned into a haven for Chinese food and coffee stores. In the olden days, the Chinese migrants used to frequent this coffee shop for their fill of opium. To wash down the drug requires more than just any liquid as the dried latex of the poppy can irritate the throat lining. In their case, they quaff butter with coffee, hence, giving it the name “opium coffee’.
The opium clients have been long gone but this small coffee shop and its tale of “opium coffee” lives on. One of the more interesting stops on the Kuching tourist walk through the city’s version of Chinatown. Look for it if ever you find yourself in this side of Sarawak, the only Chinese coffee shop with a basket of eggs hanging from its front kitchen window.
Hiap Yak Tea Shop
25, Lorong Kai Joo, 93000
Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
Business Hours: 7AM to 4PM Mondays to Saturday; 7AM to 2PM on Sundays