Inside the bright, minimalist space of Vuthy Horng’s new café on Street 21, the aroma of freshly ground and brewed coffee is practically palpable upon entry.
Story Coffee Roasters recently entered the local café scene on April 3, but has already amassed a loyal following among young Cambodians, with a young professional crowd filling up the space on a recent Sunday afternoon. Yet the story was hardly scripted, according to Cambodian owner Horng, who left his job at an insurance company to strike out on his own.
“I didn’t quit to start a café. That wasn’t the plan,” he says. Horng originally intended to spruce up the space and sell it as a way to break into the local real estate market. However, Horng’s wife was keen on keeping the building, which is conveniently located near her parents’ home. Instead of renting it out, Horng decided to open a café, inspired by a barista he met when checking out local coffee shops in Vietnam, where his wife is based.
“His passion for coffee got me into it . . . his love and care around the bean,” he says. “He taught me about the beans, the different processes, the difference between beans used for the machine and pourovers.”
Armed with a year’s worth of coffee knowledge, Horng opened his own café, with the aim of providing good, ethically-sourced coffee to young Cambodians. “We want it to be a place where people can come enjoy themselves freely and express their opinion. That’s why I called it Story,” says Horng.
He hopes that Story will be a place where they can congregate, discuss their career goals and bounce ideas off each other about how to achieve them.
“We have the opportunity to talk to them, push them, give them a bit of direction and get them to think it is possible because other people have done it,” says Horng.
That conversation also extends to the story behind every cup of coffee. What sets the café apart are the baristas, who understand the complex process behind making a good cup of coffee and are equipped with the know-how to operate different machines and grinders to customise each cup to individual preference.
At Story, single serve hand-poured coffee (from $2.75) and cold drip coffee (from $2) is served in addition to the typical range of espresso-based brews. As Horng prepares a serving of hot pour over coffee with beans from Ethiopia, he explains the process and the variables affecting the taste of the coffee, such as water temperature and size of the grain, which determines the speed at which the water goes through the grains.
“If it goes out too fast it will taste sour, because the water doesn’t stay long enough to get the caffeine content,” he explains. “For a finer blend, it will stay too long, and it is too bitter. You won’t get the acidity, the sweetness. It depends on the customer’s preference, but we also want a balance.”
Story Coffee Roasters is located at #2 Street 21 and opens from 6:30am-9pm daily.