When thinking of museums in Cambodia, it’s usually ancient carvings and Khmer sculptures that come to mind. But there’s a new museum in town, and it doesn’t have even the slightest connection to Angkor Wat.
Instead, the Golden Mountain Coffee Museum is dedicated exclusively to celebrating everyone’s favourite pick-me-up: a good old cup of joe.
Perhaps an unexpected addition to Siem Reap’s caffeine scene, the one-month-old museum is owned by Kim Jong Yoon, a Korean coffee lover keen to share his passion with others.
“Most people drink coffee” he states, “But they don’t understand where it comes from, and the process of making it. I want to introduce people to the story behind coffee.”
And that’s exactly what the museum does.
Alongside artistic black and white photographs of all things coffee, the walls of the bright airy museum are covered in colourful displays detailing every step of the journey from bean to brew.
Visitors start by learning about how coffee is grown, selected, and harvested, before moving on to different types of coffee making machines.
Ever wondered how a French press or a vacuum pot actually works? Or perhaps how to brew traditional Turkish coffee? The answers are here.
Other displays give tips on grading, rating and roasting beans, infographics of coffee ingredients, and information on the allegedly many health benefits of drinking coffee.
And yes, ‘hangover cure’ makes the list.
Also on display is Yoon’s personal collection of coffee grinders. “They’re from all over the world” he says proudly. “I’ve always loved coffee, and have been collecting these grinders for years.”
After all that learning this visitor was in need of a cup of coffee herself, and as luck would have it Yoon has opened a coffee shop beneath the museum.
“The idea is that visitors will take some time to learn about their favourite drink, and then come downstairs to taste it with a better knowledge of what they’re enjoying” says Yoon. “So far, it is working well.”
Aside from being an obvious addition to a coffee museum, Yoon wanted to re-create the stylish coffee shops he’d loved while living in Bangkok.
“I didn’t find anything like that here in Siem Reap” he says, “so I decided to build it myself.”
Excitingly for the coffee addicts – and soon-to-be-experts –Yoon’s café stocks a vast variety of coffee beans from all corners of the globe.
“We offer coffee from eight different countries, including many in Southeast Asia. We import some coffee, but we also have five of our own blends from Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, and of course Cambodia. We roast and package them here so they’re fresh.”
That is right; Golden Mountain has its own purpose built “roasting room”, so that the coffee served up tastes as fresh as possible. Nosy guests will also be pleased to hear that a glass wall allows people to watch the entire process.
When asked about his best coffee, Yoon does not hesitate to recommend the “elephant dung” coffee that he imports from Chiang Rai in northern Thailand.
For the uninitiated, this coffee is made from coffee beans that elephants eat, digest, and then return to nature. They are then retrieved, cleaned, and readied for roasting.
“The elephant coffee doesn’t smell so good” he admits, “But the taste is naturally very sweet.” That may well be true, but at $10 a cup this is a caffeinated treat for the brave of palate and large of wallet.
But there are many other coffees available, including a strong black Dutch coffee served with ice and a little sugar syrup – a perfect choice for a typically humid day.
Yoon also has some interesting plans for his coffee shop.
“At the moment it is low season, but next year when there are more people in Siem Reap I would like to start offering tasting classes. Then my customers can learn even more about coffee.”
The Golden Mountain Coffee Museum is at the front corner of the Charming Tourist City complex, and opens daily from 8am-10pm.