To non Penangites, Toh Soon Cafe is a small coffee shop situated at a back lane along Campbell Street that serves a variety of bread and toasts, homemade Hainan coffee and nasi lemak. Before the ‘invasion’ of Oldtown Kopitiam, Starbucks, Coffee Bean, Station 1 and others, Toh Soon was THE place in town for coffee.
For us especially the older generation, it is the perfect old place for breakfast and tea break. Many people who work in the shops and market nearby and tourists frequent this place the most. While for me, I just drop by when I have a sudden crave for a rich cuppa Hainan coffee.
Any set of toast or bread with 2 half boiled eggs and a cup of coffee is somewhere around RM3.80 to RM4, a reasonable price if you ask me. The uniqueness of Toh Soon’s toasts is the preparation method by using a super old charcoal stove. In Penang you could probably see this kind of stove at Toh Soon only, partly because it is modified from an oil drum. The rest have converted to electric toaster to save the hassle (you will see why)
Besides having your bread toasted, they also serve it steamed if you like it less heaty. Other choices include Hainan roti, coffee marble bread, low calorie bread etc sourced from a bakery in Kedah called Luan Fong. Just ask what they have for a better idea.
Packed nasi lemak placed on each table.. I have never tried it before.
As much as I admire the coffee shop’s husband and wife owners to preserve the traditional ways of toasting the bread, (good to attract tourists too) the toasts are not the main attraction for me because they don’t taste much different to those toasted electrically. And the kaya and butter spread given is very inconsistent too..
So if you are serious about traditional toasts, I highly recommend the one at Joo Leong Cafe located on the way to airport. They serve the best toasts in the whole island, no joke.
Back to my favorite at Toh Soon – the homemade Hainan coffee. Thick, aromatic and deliciously addictive.. I always have the urge to have a second cuppa after my first lol, simply satisfying. I prefer Hainan Kopi Susu more than the O version for the consistency after being mixed with condensed milk.
This is the charcoal stove used by Toh Soon I have mentioned earlier. Basically has three compartments: top for steaming bread, middle for the charcoal to burn and bottom for toasting bread.
But don’t worry your bread is not just thrown into the bottom compartment just like that lol. The to-be-toasted bread is placed on a wire net then fed into the stove carefully. During the process the bread will be flipped continuously to ensure an even toasting.
Honestly, this is a very tedious process because you have to be extremely careful not to burn the soft bread. The fire is so strong that any small mistake would cause the bread to catch fire. And when that does happen, they would have to scrap away the burnt parts with a knife and restart the process. It is no wonder many have converted to use a toaster instead. Imagine the time and effort required just to prepare 1 set of toast!
If you’re driving, forget about looking for a parking along Campell Street. Instead, turn into Lorong Kampung Malabar (next to Lebuh Campbell) where there’s a lot of parking always available and just walk into the lane only about 50m away.
Toh Soon Cafe 多春茶座
Campbell Street, Off Penang Road,
George Town, 10100 Penang
Tel : 04 2613754
GPS Coordinates: N5 25.118 E100 19.916
Business hour: 8am to 6pm (Closed on Sundays)