Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Cafe pioneer stakes out new territory




Cafe pioneer stakes out new territory

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Locally produced art adorns the walls of Java’s newest location. Kimberley McCosker

Cafe pioneer stakes out new territory

After 15 years of pushing caffeine and promoting the arts, Java Cafe and Gallery has opened a second location in the burgeoning Tuol Kork area

Open barely two weeks, Java’s new Tuol Kork location already feels like a regular neighbourhood hangout.

On an overcast afternoon this week, many of the plush lounge chairs were occupied by chatting couples and people clicking away on laptops.

The waitstaff buzzed between them balancing aromatic plates and steaming mugs of joe.

Sipping a small cappuccino, owner Dana Langlois expressed pleasant surprise at the high turnout.

“It’s been overall pretty good for the first week. Busier than I first expected,” said the sharply dressed US expat, who opened Java’s first location on Sihanouk Boulevard in 2000, a time when Western-style cafes were few and far between in Phnom Penh.

Langlois sat at the end of a long, dark wooden table running through the centre of the high-ceilinged cafe. On the white walls around her hung abstract paintings done by local artist Heng Ravuth.

Sunlight shone in through giant windows and the whole place had the feel of a chic, LA art studio. But it was not just the smart decor that brought in the customers, it’s the reputation.

“We tend to do well because of word of mouth. And it still seems to be going well – knock on wood. And we have a strong commitment to quality and authenticity. We make everything fresh,” Langlois said.

Besides the interior – which has a simpler, more industrial feel than the organic, colonial-style aesthetics of the Sihanouk location – and absent a first floor, there is little difference between the two Javas.

The menu is “exactly the same”, and includes all the Java go-to’s: the vanilla latte ($3.50), banana nut pancakes ($4.50), and the scrumptious burgers ($6-$6.50).

The coffee beans still come from local roasters Feel Good and the animal protein from Danmeats.

While Langlois had been mulling a second location for about two years, setting the place up took only four months. She did the majority of the design work herself and had the place built from scratch. Building it from the ground up, she said, was key.

“I wanted a large space where I could move things around [for live events]. It’s an important part of our brand, but also it makes us stand out.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Dana Langlois opened the first Java Cafe and Gallery in 2000. Kimberley McCosker

In Tuol Kork there isn’t much in terms of live music and arts. We wanted to offer something different,” she said.

Along with the normal slew of Java events – poetry readings, literary discussions, art exhibits – Langlois hoped to add to the mix at her new Tuol Kork locale, with live music, photography shows and theatre performances.

In October, she plans to host a show from a UK theater group who will be in town performing The Gentlest Giant.

Java’s move to faraway Tuol Kork joins a trend of popular local businesses making the move up north. To many, it has become the next up-and-coming neighbourhood, alongside the Russian Market, a place that Langlois had also considered for the new Java location.

But for Langlois, Tuol Kork seemed to be moving in all the right directions. Increasingly, there are lots of expats living there, especially families, and many businesses have already moved in to accommodate them, including Lucky Supermarket, The Shop, Burger King and Joma (located caddycorner to Java).

Aeon Mall is also set to build its second location there, to be finished in 2018. All of this prompted Langlois to get in on the action.

“The city centre is getting really expensive, so people are starting to migrate out to the edges of the city more and more,” she said.

“It makes Tuol Kork viable for businesses like mine.”

Mike Chenda Im, the owner of Mike’s Burger House, who also recently opened up a location in Tuol Kork, had similar reasons for moving out to the faraway neighbourhood.

“[Tuol Kork] is more affordable. That’s why everyone is moving towards Tuol Kork right now. Phnom Penh, in the city, you cannot afford an apartment there. It costs you three or four thousand there. Over here, it costs half the price,” he said, adding that the sense of community and lack of traffic were also major draws.

He, too, cited the imminent arrival of Aeon Mall as an indicator that he should open up in Tuol Kork.

Simon Griffiths, associate director at real estate firm CBRE, agreed the neighbourhood was an increasingly attractive place for investment. “Certainly Tuol Kork is an up-and-coming area,” largely due to low land costs, he said.

Finishing her coolled cappuccino and plugging her tablet charger into a table-side outlet, Langlois seemed confident of her decision to open up in Tuol Kork.

While she had heard the “disappointing news” that Starbucks was coming to the Kingdom to open its umpteenth location, such plans didn’t vex her.

“What’s disturbing to me is Starbucks’ way of operating, where they come in and just try to crush the competition. Still, I feel that we stand out enough with our arts programs and food,” she said. Java Tuol Kork is located at #20A Street 337.

MOST VIEWED

  • Would you like fries with that? US burger chain makes Phnom Penh debut

    California-based The Habit Burger Grill restaurant chain is all set to serve up a delicious array of charbroiled burgers and sides at its newest international location in the centre of Phnom Penh. The Habit is “renowned for its award-winning Charburgers grilled over an open flame,

  • Banteay Meanchey flood victims receive aid

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday provided aid to more than 10,000 families affected by flooding in Banteay Meanchey province’s Mongkol Borei district and offered his condolences to the 18 victims who drowned in the province over the past week. He said flooding had occured in

  • Angkor provides ‘valuable’ water storage

    The Apsara National Authority (ANA) has stored millions of cubic metres of water at reservoirs in the Angkor area after Cambodia experienced a series of rainstorms over the last few days. The storing of the water, besides serving temple conservation, will also be used to

  • PM urges caution as Polish man tests positive for Covid

    The Ministry of Health on Wednesday reported that a 47-year-old Polish man tested positive for Covid-19 after arriving in Cambodia on Monday. There are a total of six Covid-19 patients currently in the country, all of whom are being treated at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital

  • Banteay Meanchey floods kill one more as death toll reaches 15

    As floodwaters start to recede in Pursat, Battambang and Pailin provinces and Phnom Penh, Banteay Meanchey continues to bear the brunt as one more person was killed on Monday, bringing the total number of flood-related deaths to 15 in the province this month. Banteay Meanchey provincial

  • Serving coffee with a side of robots

    The eye-catching glass building surrounded by greenery at the intersection of Streets 371 and 2002 in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district is more than just another coffee shop where you can while away a few hours. UrHobby House cafe is filled with robots and characters from