“Ditto” it turns out can represent a number of meanings. No longer merely a shorthand for saying ‘the same thing’, it is now a Pokemon character and a fantastically chilled cafe on the first floor of a row of shops on Jalan Kasah in Kuala Lumpur. Ditto, the cafe, moved to the Damansara site in October 2022 having previously been a pop-up style cafe in Petaling Jaya.
A small sign hanging from the ceiling of the ‘5 foot way’ advertises that you can find the cafe up a set of unassuming looking stairs between two shops. Climbing the stairs, you do not expect the door at the top to open into such a quiet, ambient and welcoming space. Opening the door to the air conditioned cafe, the counter is diagonally left. A couple of circular tables are on your immediate left while a table full of coffee beans and coffee related books lies to your right. We first arrived very shortly after the cafe opened at 10am and so we had the place to ourselves. The coffee menu is extensive. Coffees from roasters around the world are available to try either as espresso based drinks or V60. Obviously I went for the V60.
The first coffee I tried was a Colombian from Netherlands based roaster Manhattan Coffee Roasters. Very well made and interesting as a coffee, I was convinced that this was somewhere I could enjoy a geisha on my second visit. Almost tea-like, this geisha cup was a bit subtle for me although I could appreciate the different flavour notes coming out. Other drinks were also available (Kombucha, chocolate based drinks etc), though the focus is very much on the coffee. With such an extensive coffee menu, there are many more coffees than I would be able to sample before returning to London. It’s definitely a place that you can return to again and again while still finding something new.
The coffee arrived in a jug together with a couple of cups and a card reminding me of the tasting notes of the coffee I had chosen (though the print was too small for me to be able to read without glasses!). The jug showed evidence of condensation around the rim reminiscent of the physics of dew and the greenhouse effect. Physics was apparent too in the title of a book on display with the retail coffee beans: “The physics of filter coffee”. Flicking through the book, it was clear that this was a very comprehensive guide to the physics of how to brew good coffee. Should this go on the Christmas book wish-list? Elsewhere books and magazines offered plenty to think about on issues about the architecture of cafes or the types of coffee to be found around the world.
This is definitely a space in which you can sit, enjoy a well made coffee and contemplate whatever thought train your mind decides to take you on. And yet, I would defy anyone to look at the circular table and not think “Jupiter”.
The tables are made of marble, the layers that made the first set of sedimentary rock (that is the basis of the metamorphic marble) are clearly visible as horizontal lines cutting through the entire circle of the table. They are the stripes of Jupiter. The colour too is similar to the images that we have seen either from telescopes or from the satellites that have flown by Jupiter since Pioneer 10 first flew by in 1973. Looking at the coffee on the table, we could find ourselves echoing the quote from one of the scientists involved in the latest fly-by probe (called “Juno”) describing the “incredibly beautiful” planet as “…an artist’s palette… almost like a van Gogh painting.”
We have been aware of the weather patterns that form these stripes, and in particular the “Great Red Spot” for hundreds of years. Yet it turns out that we still have a lot to learn about them. For example, the clouds in the band at the equator are moving eastwards, the stripes immediately north or south of those are moving westwards and then the wind pattern changes again with the latitude, eastward and westward as each stripe is formed. Then, every 4-9 years, depending on the latitude, the colours of the stripes change, a change that can be associated with brief but disruptive changes to the weather patterns. Shape shifting rather like the Pokemon character “Ditto” that is the inspiration for the name of the cafe.
Recent results from the Juno mission have revealed one of the things that could be underlying this shifting weather pattern: oscillations in the planet’s magnetic field. Juno, which has been measuring the magnetic field of Jupiter since it first started orbiting it in 2016 has revealed that the magnetic field strength is oscillating on a similar time scale to the changing patterns observed in the weather. Could this somehow be driving the weather that we see? Juno has also shown clearly a new feature in the magnetic field where the field lines are particularly intense, called the “Great Blue Spot”, this feature too may be oscillating spatially over the surface of the planet rather than rotating around it as the Great Red Spot seems to do.
Juno, the satellite, was named after Juno the Roman goddess who is the female counterpart of the Roman god Jupiter. Considered in some ways to be patron of women, there seems another link here to this women-run cafe. We may be tempted to think that we have fully explored this physics connection that has looped back to the space in which we are enjoying our drink. But there is one more connection between Jupiter and this cafe. The first probe to fly by Jupiter was Pioneer 10 in 1973. It was then that we first saw images of this planet close up. The first time we saw these stripes in such detail. The satellite was launched by NASA in 1972, the same year that this area of KL was being developed. Perhaps you could say 1972 was the same year this area of KL was ‘launched’. There truly are links and connections wherever we care to find them. When we slow down with our coffee and contemplate our surroundings while open to going on a thought-journey, we never know where we may end up.
Ditto Speciality Coffee Bar is at 128A Jalan Kasah, Bukit Damansara, 50490, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.