[Review] Mods Cafe, coffee shop in Melaka with RM60 latte

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First of all, I’m not a coffee snob.

That said, I do enjoy a good brew, but the problem is I can also enjoy an “bad” one. Cheap convenience store lattes are as enjoyable as a specialty coffee shop’s one to me.

However, when I was presented with the opportunity to purchase an RM60 latte at Mods Cafe in Melaka, I decided I would have to at least give it a shot (pun intended).

The story and concept behind Mods Cafe is a fascinating one. For one, the place prohibits photography, welcomes only serious coffee drinkers, and has earned itself numerous negative comments on its pages. Yet, it has also won over many coffee lovers who regularly visit the local haunt.

Having interviewed the man behind this seemingly polarising establishment, Abert Khow, I know for a fact that he’s not really fussed about the negative critiques, which is mostly regarding its customer service.

“These reviews won’t affect us, because people who will give these reviews don’t come for the coffee,” he shared.

But what does a person who does go for the coffee think? This article’s goal is to answer that, and give a look into whether a visit to Mods Cafe is worth it.

A cosy, personality-filled shop

As a Melaka native myself, I actually hadn’t heard of Mods Cafe prior to this. As I would later learn, a big chunk of their customers do travel from out of state just to get their fix of the establishment’s coffee.

Still, it’s surprising that I haven’t noticed the store before, considering it’s on Jalan Tokong, not far off from the Jonker Street area.

On the day that I visited, Abert was out of the country. Instead, I was welcomed by the barista—a younger girl who told me at the door that I won’t be able to take any photos in their establishment, despite a sticker already telling me so.

To that, I explained that I was the writer from Vulcan Post. Abert had given me clearance ahead of time to take any photos I want, which surprised me—he was much more reasonable than I expected.

Inside the coffee shop, I was met with a collection of knick-knacks, including personal affects such as trophies from childhood. There’s also a drum set in the corner, memorialising the owner’s past as a professional drummer.

In the center of the store is the iconic vintage van. Mods Cafe used to be a mobile store in its early years, with the owners attending many coffee fairs and events.

The day I visited, there was a group of young girls who sounded quite interested in coffee, based on their line of questioning about whether the cafe does pourover coffees. There was also a Caucasian couple sitting at the back of the store, quietly enjoying their drinks.

No photos, no problem

As I snapped away freely at my surroundings, a regular actually walked in, and I noticed her side-eyeing me.

Noticing this, the barista assured her that I was a writer. It was interesting to see how regulars seem to be in support of the no-photography rule.  

And, it wasn’t just the regulars, either, but the barista herself.

Chatting with her, she shared with me that she first came to Mods Cafe when she was getting into coffee. She was introduced to the spot by a cousin that this was the go-to place if she wanted to up her coffee know-how.

When she became a barista, she actually had a stint at another undisclosed coffee shop, but she did not have a good experience. There, patrons would just snap pictures and videos of her as she was working, which she felt uncomfortable about, like she was on display.

However, at Mods Cafe, the focus from customers is very much on her drinks, allowing her to improve her craft.

Hearing this straight from her, I better understood the reasoning behind the no photography rule. It’s not just an ego thing, or even a marketing thing like some of our commenters argued when we published our feature on the business.

There’s a clear reason why Abert implemented the rule, and honestly, I think it’s a welcome reprieve from the “pics or it didn’t happen” culture of today.

The most expensive cup of joe I’ve ever had

When it came time to place an order, I initially had my eye set on the regular iced latte, which was priced fairly, at around RM13.

However, the barista introduced me to another option—the premium series. Essentially, these are special roasts that can rack up a hefty sum. For a latte, the asking price is RM60.

Telling myself I won’t get many chances to try this again, I took the plunge and ordered the drink.

For the latte especially, I learnt that they use a special machine to refine the milk. A machine that Abert himself put together, the moisture content of the milk can be removed, resulting in a creamier liquid.

The barista told me only four bottles of the milk can be made per day, and its shelf life isn’t long, which is why the price is higher. I later got to try the milk on its own. With an interesting salty edge, it definitely doesn’t taste like your typical dairy—but not in a bad way.

I stood by and watched the barista prep my drink. She was methodical, and actually threw out the first pull she did, starting all over again.

The beans here are roasted using Binchotan charcoal. I’ve noticed Binchotan become more popular nowadays in the food scene, and the reason for this is because it’s so pure that it burns without leaving smokiness, resulting in a very clean roast that never tastes burnt.

Once the coffee is served, I’m told to drink without slurping. Instead of vacuuming the drink into my mouth, I should just pour the coffee in, letting the flavours coat my tongue before slowly swallowing.

Carefully, I did as told. To cut to the chase, it was good. It was definitely a delicious brew with a perfect amount of nuttiness, and was very fragrant, the mild acidity perfectly complementing the bitterness.

Was it life-changing? Not really.

But I’ve always believed that a good painting will make even those uninformed about art feel something. And I feel the same can be said about good food, or good coffee.

So, is it worth it?

The latte was delicious, but the price tag leaves me hesitant to recommend the drink.

That said, if you can afford it, I would say give it a try. The drink is made with great care, formulated with over a decade’s worth of experience and fine-tuning, and while I might not be able to savour every sip, just knowing that makes it feel worth it for me.

Drink aside, here’s what I think about the overall experience. As an amateur coffee drinker, I don’t really see myself as a “serious coffee drinker”.

Even so, my experience at Mods was nothing but pleasant. I didn’t feel ridiculed about not knowing how to best enjoy a cup of coffee, or what comprises a good roast. The barista was blunt but generous with her explanations.

At the end of the day though, not every business has to be for everyone. Mods Cafe isn’t seeking to be for everyone, and that’s okay. In fact, that’s preferred for Abert.

Just keep an open mind, and don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

  • Learn more about Mods Cafe here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written about F&B businesses here.

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