Sarawak: The Original Keto Coffee Or Opium Coffee

Looking for keto coffee? Look no more than our very own backyard - Kai Joo Lane. 

Hiap Yak Tea shop serves this unique brew that is very popular amongst the local and tourists (pre-Covid times). 

The coffee is creamy and buttery. Well, who doesn't like butter anyway, right? One of the unique "takeaway" packing too. If you plan to take away the coffee, be prepared to do it the "old-school" way - in a washed condensed milk can!

Opium Coffee, the original keto coffee - Hiak Yak Tea Shop

Madam Tan holding the unique 'takeaway' coffee. Image source via freemalaysiatoday

Madam Tan, the owner of the shop, is a friendly and people person. Ask her about the history of the street of Kai Joo Lane, and she will give you a brief history of the street.

Mural at Kai Joo Lane -

The first man in the mural is famous for his chicken porridge. The middle lady is serving plain Tauhu Hua served with light syrup. The last guy served fire-grilled, flattened, yet juicy squid. Image source via Facebook/ Leonard Siaw

The History of Kai Joo Lane

Kai Joo Lane was built in 1923 by a Teochew businessman named Teo Kai Joo

This lane has gone through many names change. First, it was known as Zinc Lane or "Sa Lee Hang" in Hokkien as the roof was made from zinc sheets. 

Many shops started selling coffins, hence the name Coffin lane, or  "Kua Cha Hang". But the coffin businesses were closed down around the 1980s by the local authorities because visitors were afraid to visit the lane. "The owners would display the wooden coffins outside their shops," according to Madam Tan.

Finally, now it is renamed, Kai Joo Lane. Teo Kai Joo, was known to have a great relationship with the third White Rajah of Sarawak, Charles Vyner Brooke, who named the street after him. 

The History of The Opium Coffee

Hiap Yak Tea Shop has been around for more than 70 years. 

Madam Tan inherited the business from his father, who had come to Sarawak from China in 1927 at the age of 13. 

She said that her father used to sell drinks at a canteen near the Kuching Waterfront before moving to Kai Joo Lane. Her father, a Hainanese, did a lot of things back in the days. He was a traditional Chinese physician and also a cook for the 'white people' back then. 

Back in the days, Kai Joo Lane had a lot of opium dens. 

So, the idea of butter coffee came from opium smokers who would consume pats of butter and thick coffee to soothe their dry throats. Hence, the birth of the Opium Coffee or the original Keto Coffee, butter coffee.

Kai Joo Lane - Opium Coffee or butter coffee, sarawak - Hiap Yak Cafe

An elderly Malay man enjoying his cup of hot butter coffee in Hiap Yak Tea Shop. Image source via newsarawaktribune

The Current Hiap Yak Tea Shop

Now, not a single opium den is left in Kai Joo Lane, but instead, this coffee remains an attraction to many locals and tourist, the Chinese and even the Malays! Here's how harmonious Sarawakians are! 

Many visitors from the peninsula, Sabah, Singapore, Vietnam, China and European countries. Artists, photographers, or videographers would come here to paint or take photos and videos of the coffee shops. 

The best combination one MUST have in the shop is the coffee with a nice toasted "kaya" sandwich. However, you can order other food from the nearby shop and dine in the shop. 

Some of the more popular dishes are the sio pau, curry puff, yam puff, and Mee Jawa. Talking about all these make our mouth salivate. 

Address: No. 17, Kai Joo Lane, 93000 Kuching, Sarawak

Operating Hours: Monday - Saturday | 7 am to 4 pm, Sunday | 7 am to 2 pm

Reference: 


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