Wong Mee Coffee Stall

At 4.30AM, night owls have not yet fallen asleep, the city has not yet woken up, street lights illuminate dust that has not yet been kicked up by traffic. A MPV drove slowly into the dark alley behind the Public Bank building on Jalan Tun HS Lee and pulled over aside. Uncle Wong Hoong Hon got out of the car and unlocked the fence of “Wong Mee Coffee Stall”. This small plot accommodated his daily necessities. Uncle Wong turned on the lights, washed the cups and plates, boiled the drinking water, and then set up tables and chairs on the roadside. With everything in place, he sat on the stool in front of the stall, looking at the brightening sky and waiting for customers.

The rosy morning glow peeked out shyly from behind the tall buildings, and the alleys began to crowd with people. Around 7.30AM, customers flock in, filling the empty seats. Neighbourhood residents came for their daily drinks, office workers hurriedly left after eating, and travellers from afar took a rest. Long-term close friends with graying hair on their temples gathered here as usual. Everyone smoked, chatted, and spent the morning laughing and joking. When Uncle Wong’s finally made it through the morning rush, he joined them until other customers show up.

The rich coffee and tea has maintained the livelihood of Uncle Wong Hoong Hon and his father Wong Mee for two generations, and the fragrant aroma lingers in their ordinary lives. Wong Mee started a coffee and tea-making business decades ago in a small shack not far from the current location, and his wife and children helped deliver it to customers in nearby shops. The busiest times every day were the tea breaks at 10AM and 3PM. Wong Hoong Hon, who was still young at that time, had to bring a tray laden with drinks and send to a dozen shops. When he grew up, he went out to work, but when his father passed away in 1987, he resigned and returned home to run the coffee stall with his mother.

Despite having relocated about 30 years ago, Wong Mee Coffee Stall has always been tucked in the alley, just a stone’s throw away from the bustling streets. The current location of the stall was provided by a regular customer, who hopes that Uncle Wong Hoong Hon will continue to operate the coffee stall as a gathering place for the neighbourhood community. The signboard handwritten by his father on red paper was damaged by rain, but he kept his father’s name and printed it on an acrylic signboard. At this point, Uncle Wong was running the business alone. Due to lack of manpower, he could not continue to deliver, so customers had to dine in. He also sells some light bites, such as bread, eggs, bao and dimsum. Earlier on, the menu included chee cheong fun and fried noodles homecooked by his wife, but was omitted after MCO.

Traditional coffee and tea making is not about technique, but achieving a balanced flavour between the base coffee or tea and condensed milk. This is what Uncle Wong surmised from decades of practical experience, and he can tell the difference at a glance. Cups of unpretentious fragrant coffee or tea capture the taste buds of customers and became a daily part of life, therefore customers willingly come back to Uncle Wong. He is reluctant to see his old friends break up, and he will continue to work until he is no longer able to.

As Uncle Wong Honghan is getting older and lacks physical strength, his operating hours from 5AM to 8PM were shortened to 12PM. Whenever passing by this alley in the afternoon, the space where the seats were placed is full of cars, and the stall is fenced up tightly. The scene in the morning is like a dream and a fantasy that has never really happened. Want to have a cup of tea in this alley? Please be early tomorrow.

有你 UNI Production
Producer : Daniel Lim
Cinematographer : Amelia Lim / Michael Lerk
Drone : Daniel Lim
Video Editor : Amelia Lim
Copywriter : Pua Hui Wen


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