EACH MORNING before I hit the streets I would drink my cup of jo to tune up to this city we all had to learn to live in. And my mornings were better each day, as my cup was filled with different blends of black as I progressed with my assignment. It took me six weeks to search and research, walk and drive throughout Jakarta, discovering, writing and looking through the viewfinder. And I saw more and more personal stories of coffee on the way, on every street, around each corner. I met interesting people, made new friends and tasted amazing Indonesian coffee (tried the less tasting one as well). From the street until coffee shops—and even further—I went to people’s offices and homes to see their rituals and witness their relationship with the drink that rules the world. They say reality is stronger than imagination… My impression during the first days of this assignment was: I see no coffee, I see no people drinking it on the street, there is no coffee culture I am used to from Europe. But all I had to do was look closer, I had to walk (which is hell of an issue in this city), do some research and talk to local people, which I always find pleasant. I managed to find the history of coffee—which goes a long way back: traditions bound with black concoction, passion and pride for Indonesian blends and much more…
Coffee has been a part of Indonesian culture for ages. Written records show that the first coffee to set foot in Indonesia was back in the year 1696 by the Dutch colonials and their VOC (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie). Since then Indonesia has been exporting coffee to many countries all over the world. Indonesians eventually took the coffee drinking culture into their daily life. I have always expected much from coffee. Since I started to drink it as a high school student getting ready for my finals. And I rely on coffee until today. I reach for it when I need to be sharpened, leveled, when I need to focus. Sometimes, I rely on my cup of jo as a muse, source of inspiration: I crave for it knowing it will not let me down. We have history together. Like each of us by drinking the hand picked green beans, roasted with scientific care, grinded and prepared in many ways, we tell the story. You tell the story. You are the story. So please sit down, turn off your wondering thoughts, open up yourself and enjoy my personal blend of Kopi Jakarta.
Juraj Sedlák Jakarta, december 2011
On the street Road side baristas
Plastic coffee from a cowboy
He has been reaching put out his hand to offer small plastic bags filled with coffee for more then 21 years now. Anwar (51) works on the street next to Pasar Minggu selling black and milk coffee. His cowboy hat is his trademark. It is most likely the cheapest coffee in town: it costs Rp 1.000 and is sucked from its plastic container after you tear the plastic with your teeth. Easy as that! The Empty bag will surely end up on the street again but garbage is no big deal for the majority of Indonesians.
Preparing coffee is a ritual for Anwar; he has his own ‘signature’ coffee mix of black. “I go to bed early, wake up at 11 p.m. and mix two brands of black coffee: Kapal Api and Ayam Merak. The reason is to make the coffee stronger. My customers like it. I go to bed and wake up again at 2 a.m. to boil the water. Then I fill up 100 bags and tie it with rubber bands. I put them into a rice thermos–the one people use to keep their rice warm in,” explains Anwar, descendent of the Banjar people from South Kalimantan. His customers are mainly bus and Angkot (minibus public transportation) drivers.
“Loyal customers don’t have to pay right away,” explains Anwar, who supports his wife and two children back home. “Not an easy life, but I got used to it. I work until 10 a.m. and go back to a rented room to have a rest.” “If I make extra money, I send it to my wife. She doesn’t like coffee, but came up with the mix of the two black coffees,” he admits and politely moves away from my ‘bule’ attention, which doesn’t do good for his coffee sale. Wonder why?!
Coffee for electricity
If you ask Rosalinda (50), why she sells coffee on the street such a long way from her home village for more then 10 years, she has the answer right away. “To pay for the electricity bill back home in Duku Jati near Tegal and to support my husband Tani. He is a farmer.” She even tells me, he is 5 years younger then her. They have a little rice field which hardly supplies their needs for basic food. “We only buy vegetables, can’t afford meat,” she explains.
Rosalinda travels home every month after she saves 1 million Rupiah. She Works for 12 hours, from 5 p.m. until early morning. “It was not easy to find a spot for selling, but I have been at the front of Grand Kemang hotel for over 10 years. Coffee basically feeds our family,” she concludes. There are thousands of street sellers of coffee in Jakarta just like her. Probably only cigarettes are sold by more vendors then coffee.
Mamat (52) and Afriadi are brothers from Pandeglang Banten, selling coffee since 1982 from a street push cart. Their spot is on the busiest market street in Jakartaâ€™s China town. Looks like their business partnership is cloudy these days. They donâ€™t want to take a picture together. Mamat drinks black Kapal Api 3 times a day.
Pak Rahman (55) loves old Jakarta. That’s why he works in Kota. It is mainly teenagers drinking coffee at his street booth surrounded by old buildings from the Dutch era. “I feel 10 years younger when I am around them. Just like this young Lolita on the picture. Isn’t she beautiful?”
Syaiful Anwar (42) has been selling coffee for 5 years outside Jin De Yuan, one of the oldest Chinese temples in Jakarta. His costumers are mostly people who come to pray in the temple. His daughter Ifa plays with small birds near the temple all day. The best time for Mr. Anwar is during Chinese lunar new year. He drinks Kapal Api 3 times a day.
Ibu Salbia, 47 years old and mother of 3 children, has been selling coffee at the train station for more then 5 years. If she’s lucky she sells up to 40 cups a day. “I know people, who come to Jakarta once a week by morning train and first thing they do is buy
a coffee from me. That’s what makes me happy.” Her son Tejo earns money as a street musician and drinks three cups of coffee per day. For free. Prepared by his mom.
Ibu Ratim is 62 years old. Half of her life she’s been selling Coffee. The last 5 years in her warung near the Lebak Bulus bus station. “I started to sell coffee for Rp 500 from plastic glasses 32 years ago. A glass of coffee today in my
warung costs Rp 2.000,” she says. Kapal Api and ABC Susu are the favorites of her customers. “This job helped me to pay for college of my daughter Dyah,” says Ibu Ratim—holding a picture of her grandson Ogem, who she loves very much.
Mrs. Siti Rohimah, 31 years old. Sells coffee at warung Tapomas, but doesnâ€™t drink coffee herself. Her husband is a different story. He loves instant coffee and drinks it 3 times a day.
Mr. Sudijah, 71 years old. Selling coffee ‘for ages’ in Pasar Ciputat in his store Kopi Harum Sari. “It is not what it used to be. I wanted to close down the store long time ago. Business is not good. People do not buy beans, they started to go to coffee shops. I don’t drink coffee anymore,” says Pak Sudijah.
Ibu Fatimah and her husband Ateng have been married for 29 years. They have been selling coffee together at the bus station for more then 15 years. They usually sell 30 to 40 plastic cups a day for Rp 2.000 each. â€œMost people are buying black coffee Kapal Api,â€? says Ibu Fatimah, 52 years old.
Circle of friends
Sony (45) is doing his rounds every morning. Going back and forth from his small shelter in the hot and smelly underground of Pasar Minggu, where he boils water and makes coffee for his customers: his circle of friends. Each coffee is hand delivered in a glass covered with plastic foil. Circling the market for more then 8 years he knows his customers by name, type of coffee, time of serving, spoons of sugar or just by what they are selling. He knows every client’s personal backround. Encek for example. “Chicken seller in his late fifties. Inherited the business from his father 12 years ago. Hates killing the chicken, but his siblings don’t want to do it either. He drinks black coffee to cheer up,” uncovers Sony. His oldest and most loyal customers are Erifah, Darmawan and Suryono: all three are fishermen and addicted to
coffee. They drink first and pay later. Usually in the afternoon, when they find time to chat a little with Sony over a cup of coffee. First delivery starts shortly after sunrise at 6 in the morning. “That’s rush hour.” Sony is able to serve 15 cups using a wooden coffee glass holding tray. “People like to drink warm coffee, so I have to move fast”. He is able to sell up to 100 glasses a day. His menu includes all instant coffees, with milk or without and herbal ‘macho’ coffee—often described as coffee for better sex, potency and health. “Some men order it before they go home from work, but it doesn’t work for everybody,” giggles Sony while the water for his coffee starts boiling. He is about to do his next round outside one of the busiest traditional markets in Jakarta.
Sony and his loyal customers
Mr. Didin learned to ride a bicycle in his village. When he was six years old. “I never thought I’d earn money riding it,” he says sitting on his first bicycle he bought just over a year ago. “I payed Rp 150.000 for it, got it repaired and painted it blue myself.” Many people—mostly men—selling bicycle coffee have to rent a bike and thermos from a boss. Mr. Didin has a thermos of his own. “I just buy coffee and pay the boss once I earn enough money, usually before I go back to my village in central Java during Lebaran.” On my question how many coffees Mas Didin drinks each day he confidently answers: “Three, but I can’t afford to drink more. It depends how long I ride. Usually I work 12 hours.”
Name: Rahmat Surudjin Ilmi Age: 40 Occupation: Body healer Rahmat uses special cups to extract blood and dangerous poisons from the body. Treatment is quite painful and hygiene is questionable. “I have a gift from God to detect people’s illnesses. I can also tell if a person drinks too much coffee, which mostly effects the stomach.” He drinks one cup of coffee per day.
Name: Ardinan Born: 30th December 1983 Occupation: licensed soothsayer (peramal) Specialized in â€˜reading peopleâ€™, rain maker and mover (pawang hujan), aura cleansing, ghost hunting, excorsism.
Religion: Islam. He believes in Allah, but he also believes in his own special talents. Media: He uses dupa (incense) and black coffee as part of his rituals along with praying and special mantras. Uses coffee specifically to call the spiritual world and his ancestors. He has to fast for 40 days from time to time.
Reading from my right hand:
I can tell you are on a good path in your life. You are not married, but I feel you already have somebody to pass your wisdom onto. Women in your life loved you for your wealth and sex. Your current girl is tall and skinny. You have some health issues concerning your stomach. I can move your health problem into an egg.
How many cups of coffee do you drink a day?
The multitasking coffee bean Coffee plusâ€Ś
Arang, ngek, joss coffee with coal
It is called kopi arang in Jakarta, kopi ngek in Solo and kopi joss in Jogja, where coffee with hot coal originally comes from. Angkringan is one of the places where they sell it. Here you hang out with friends, sit on a carpet that is spread on the pavement, sidewalk or in the front of a closed store: you name it. This nongkrong place, as they call it in
Jakarta, pops up out of nowhere shortly after sunset on Jalan Barito and disappears before sunrise. It’s a night ‘thing’ to come here and drink coffee to warm up. The basics are simple and hot! Black coffee with coal, on which the water for coffee is heated.
“It’s a tradition to put the coal into the coffee. I come from Solo where many people drink kopi ngek. Maybe it’s just a myth, but kopi arang makes you more relaxed and you can still feel the effect in the morning,” says Dani, who doesn’t really like the taste, but decided to put it on the menu, because of his roots.
To be honest, I tried the coffee, but didn’t enjoy it either. But the angkringan atmosphere reminded me of Jogja, where I spend one year of my life studying and learning about traditions.
Premium coffee for men
“Shouldn’t it be called No limmit?” I asked one of the ‘obat kuat’ (strong medicine) sellers on Jalan Gajah Mada. At first he didn’t want me to take his picture, but quickly changed his mind ‘for promotional reasons’. He sells a variety of medicine for better performance in bed. Both for men and women. Although the majority of his night customers are men. “The effect of this coffee is like Viagra, but it lasts much longer: 36 hours,” the seller explains. One cup of coffee costs Rp 35.000 and who knows what you can expect... I bought one package, but haven’t had the guts to try it. Yet, 36 hours is long time to be excited. Imagine!
Here is what the coffee claims to do for you: 1. Help your sexual response 2. Good for stamina and vitality 3. Help your blood flow Use 1 sachet per day, maximum 2 days (just mix with 150 ml warm water). Please consult your doctor before use for high blood pressure, and heart disease patient.
What is Kopi Tahlil? “Google it. Our pictures are on the net. We are the only place in Jakarta that make and sell this coffee,” says Ahmad, owner of a small night warung on Jalan Cikini Raya. Ahmad named his coffee as Tahlil for sentimental reasons. “I was thaught how to make the coffee by my former boss when I worked for him as a driver. My boss often held Tahlil’s”—an Islamic prayer event for the death. “He used to make the coffee for his guests. It’s basically a black coffee that is made of a mixture of clove, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, pandan
leaves and brown sugar. You just roast the clove and cardamom and boil them together with the coffee, ginger, cinnamon, pandan leaves and brown sugar.” Ahmad serves his signature drink with honey. Kopi Tahlil costs Rp 10.000 per glass. You can order it with egg. I have to say, it is sweet and the taste is interesting. I can imagine it in winter, when snowing and outside temperature drops way below zero. But that’s another coffee story…
Durian enjoys great prominence in Jakarta. Many claim it symbolizes the city: large, spiky and smelly on the outside, but soft and delicious on the inside. Hence Jakarta’s nickname; the Big Durian.
is very expensive. You need to use a lot of seeds to give the coffee the right thinness,” says Bari, 33, the owner of a small booth selling drinks next to many durian sellers.
No wonder many people enjoy their coffee mixed with fresh durian. Although the fruit is also grown in Thailand and Philippines, it is native to Sumatra and Kalimantan, and the word ‘duri’ means thorn in Malay. Many people come to Jalan Makam Pahlawan in Kalibata to buy durian. And to enjoy a durian coffee. “I love it, but can’t afford it. One kilo of durian is Rp 27.000 nowadays. So the coffee
I found out that for the true kopi durian-connoisseur, selecting the right durian is a ritual like making coffee. They breathe in the scent, inspect the color, study the rind and shake the fruit to check for loose seeds—which indicates ripeness. I asked one of the sellers to choose a good durian for me to put in a few seeds in my coffee: Made me dizzy afterwards…
2 in 1 Get me high
The relationship between Pak Jajang and coffee go back a long time. “I started to drink coffee when I was six years old. There were no rules on drinking coffee in our village. Question was if the child liked it or not,” says Pak Jakang, who is well into his 60s now. The personal driver and ‘Mister fix it’ has been working for the same Jakartan family for over 30 years now. He is from a small kampung in the hills three hours from Jakarta. “I kill chickens, pay bills, cook and fix everything from lights to house accessories for the family.” Back to coffee… Pak Jajang remembers picking up coffee beans from the trees behind his house with his grandparents. They were the ones who offered him coffee for the first time. Home made: picked by hand, grained with old wood from a coffee tree called halu, accompanied by the sound ‘bruk-brukbruk’. Jajang claims that is where the name tubruk comes from. “When you drink it from a coconut cup and add palm sugar you can still feel beans in your mouth. Since then I’ve never had a better coffee than tubruk. The real one.”
“Later on the villagers taught him to smoke, as part of the Indonesian ‘national sport’. And men in the village used to combine good and useful. Two in one: smoking clove cigarettes with coffee to ‘get me high’. Jajang still smokes according to an old tradition. “When I’m tired and sleepy, I make myself coffee and apply coffee grounds on my cigarette. First of all I have to give my cigarette a gentle massage to make the tobacco softer. Then I enjoy smoking and drinking coffee,” he explains. He always makes coffee himself. Three times a day. One spoon of coffee and three spoons of sugar is his stirring combination. He has tried a few brands, but sticks to Kapal Api Special. “I don’t like the coffee mixes. Kopi Luwak is haram: not allowed by Islam because considered to be not clean. Normal Kapal Api smells like smoke, its too roasted. I think they add corn into it. Nescafe is too acidic. Coffee with milk is not my type either. The family I work for often drinks coffee from Aceh. I don’t like the way it smells. Since I remember I like it black. The tubruk way: poor and sip or smoke. Coffee and cigarettes bring back all the memories.”
Traditional way of drinking black
Glue and coffee
Iwan (38) is repairing car and motorbike lamps in his workshop in ITC Fatmawati and uses coffee for sticking plastic and acrylic things together. He mixes glue with coffee, sometimes with acrylic or cigarette ashes. â€œIt holds much stronger, when glue and coffee are mixed,â€? says Iwan. He learned this trick from an older colleague at work 8 years ago. Iwan does not drink coffee, but likes the smell of Kapal Api he uses.
Old school Indonesian tradition: give a spoon or two of black coffee to a baby, when it has a fever or just for a better heartbeat and blood pressure.
Spreading the black Coffee shops and more
Starbakss Copycat of sexi coffee
Two long wooden benches, a table and a plastic roof supported by a few bamboo poles, fixed wherever possible. Setting up and packing takes about an hour or so… Coffee and drinks are instant, take away in a plastic cup or plastic sachet. Dishes are washed on the spot, ice for cold coffee drinks is bought nearby from an ice seller. Welcome to roadside Warung Starbakss near Senayan City. Open from 7 a.m. till 10 p.m. The owner, Mumut (38), renamed his warung two years ago. He came up with an Indonesian copycat of ‘sexi coffee’, as he calls his big brother. He never visited the real Starbucks: even never tried the coffee. So I brought him one. Take away grande cappuccino, no sugar for Rp 33.000. And I asked him to make me one of his instant cappuccino, the most favorite drink in his place. With a smile we cheered to each other. “You can get six cappuccinos here and even then you get Rp 3.000 back for one real Starbucks. It’s expensive as hell,” he laughs.
Sipping from the white plastic cup with the same logo as ‘his’ for almost two hours he concludes: “It’s too bitter.” His friends agree. It’s mostly students who come to his ‘no rule policy’ warkop. They come to meet, not to stare at their laptops hooked to wi-fi —there is no free connection here. “Many people stop and take pictures,” admits Mumut. The logo is the same. I warned him about possible trademark problems but he just smiled. “Well, Starbucks created a space for drinking coffee. Starbakss has as well.” So Indonesian. ‘Asli’ as an Indonesian would say. Original in every way.
Warung Tinggi His and Her beans
Male and female. Coffee Jantan and Betina are made of beans separated by hand. His and Her. The round-shaped male beans are stronger and more expensive. Female beans are flat on one side: it looks like half of it is missing. If you dig deep enough on coffee in Indonesia or you are a coffee hunter, you cant miss this place: Warung Tinggi
or Liauw Tek Soen, separating male and female beans is part of a long tradition. Tucked away in a small alley off Jalan Hayam Wuruk in Chinatown is a well-kept Jakartan secret. It boasts that it is Indonesiaâ€™s oldest coffee company, founded in 1878, run by fourth generation of ancestors. Pak Asiong is not the owner, but he works here since 1955.
“There was no competition in the 60s. Warung Tinggi started to make more blends at the time I started to work here. Many of our customers were coffee addicts. The business kept growing without advertising. New customers came by word of mouth,” he recalls sitting in front of a wall that displays black-and-white photographs of the store’s various incarnations, from its ramshackle start 132 years ago, to the colonial era when it displayed
a sign in Dutch and beyond. Not much has changed since then. In this modest, no-frills shop-house framed with bird cages, you can buy coffee beans and have them ground but also sample a cup of freshly brewed coffee of your choice. “I love to work here, to serve our customers. Many of them I know from their childhood. Pak Rudy, the owner is a very nice guy. He is keen on the traditions and I think that’s the best way to sell coffee.”
An exciting trip with coffee
“My friends call it smuggling. I don’t really feel that way, even though it is an adventure from start until the end,” says Eddri. He brings coffee to Indonesia from East Timor, that separated from Indonesia in 1999 after messy events. He doesn’t share a lot of details, just some basics. Fact is, it is a long journey for coffee from East Timor to reach his small coffee shop in Kalibata–Jakarta: probably the only place in the city where you can buy and try the taste of this coffee. He started more then a year ago. Went to East Timor in search of the best coffee. “I found out that Timor Leste, as we call it, is divided into territories controlled by US, Japan, Portugal and Australia. Same with coffee. Its is mostly exported to these countries. Not much left over for others.”
There is no sophisticated scanning machine at the customs, so they have to check each bag by hand. When the Indonesian customs-officer discovers my underwear, he’s normally finished searching,” laughs Eddri.
Eddri traveled to the mountains, visited many coffee farmers and found his coffee. “I Buy it very cheap,” he admits. “I put ten kilograms into my backpack and try my luck. I bring my medicine and put dirty clothes over the bag with green coffee beans.
It takes about 6 hours by off-road car to reach the coffee farms in the mountains. “Best coffee is grown in the middle of East Timor. It smells of tobacco.” And what about politics in coffee business? “I smell it, but I can not see it.”
He admits he is always excited when flying back to Jakarta. “I don’t feel like smuggling or doing something illegal. I am just bringing good coffee to my country. And East Timor used to be part of it. It is probably not fair for them, but the coffee tastes really good and official papers for exporting goods to Indonesia are so expensive. I would love to bring more, even half a ton, but I am afraid, there is no stock,” Eddri explains.
Sabang 16 Coffee and srikaya
“I really know what I drink. I don’t want any coffee, I want my coffee,” explains Timothy Marbun, one of the owners of coffee shop Sabang 16. Timothy went out there in search of his taste, found it, brought it back and opened a coffee shop to share it with others. He comes from Medan in North Sumatra and basically serves coffee in the the same tradition of home. Coffee and roti panggang srikaya, a bread toast, is a must try in Sabang 16. I tried. It is amazing. Just like his coffee. French press of sidikalang blend from farmers in the highlands of North Sumatra. That’s where the roots of Timothy’s black are. “Try it or go your own way. Coffee has a lot to offer, if you know how to treat it. Once I found this blend, I can’t go back to any other coffee. On the other hand, I am not an expert or a coffee freak. I drink my cup with milk, for instance,” he adds.
Two spoons at Phoenam
Two long spoons. One for mixing, the other one for tasting the manually made coffee. That’s the story behind coffee house Phoenam, which attracts the Sulawesi coffee loving community in Jakarta. No wonder they greet their customers by ‘apa kareba’ (instead of ‘apa kabar’, which means ‘how are you’ in Indonesian). Phoenam coffee is derived from Makassar, known for the highest concentration of coffee shops in Indonesia (besides Aceh). It was founded by a Chinese family in 1946 and since then their coffee became an integral part of local community life. There are four shops in Makassar owned by the family and one in Jakarta.
Boni (39) is a grandson of Liong Thai Hiong, founder of Phoeanam. The coffee magic was passed on to him by his uncle. When he is around, you can be sure that he is the one making your coffee. Manually! Old school! Using long sachets and the ‘pour-over’ method. “Taste and quality is our tradition. I want to keep it that way. That’s why I make and taste each coffee personally,” says Boni.
Phoeanam means terminal or place for transit in Chinese. The shop really is a transit place of local people. From normal people with no importance to hot shot politicians. No wonder they say that if you want to run for governor in Makassar, you have to conquer Phoenam in Jakarta.
JCH Embassy of coffee
If coffee embassies exist, one would definitely be the Jakarta Coffee House on Jalan Cipete Raya. Which would make owner Bori (37) an ambassador of good coffee. He is a die-hard local Indonesian coffee bean lover. His middle name should be ‘coffee’. “My aim is to introduce and give knowledge to local people about great Indonesian coffee, which is among the best in the world. Coffee is planted and produced all across Indonesia, but the quality and
taste varies, depending on climate, soil and care,” Bori tells me with passion. You find a roaster in his shop and the archipelago’s best coffee beans. From Aceh Gayo: which tastes like skin lime. From Sumatra Mandailing: high bodied, with low acidity and an aftertaste of tobacco. Luwak: with its famous peanut mark. Java Ruang: light bodied, high acidity and a feel of chocolate. Toraja Kalosi with it’s carameled herbs. Papua Wamena with a fruity body. And Flores Bajawa with a medium body and indication of citrus. To name a few.
He owns a small coffee plantation in Sumatra and grows his own blend called Si Petung. “Coffee beans are all turned clockwise when harvesting, that is one of the secrets of the taste. Proper roasting is the science behind it: every second and detail counts. Making and serving the coffee is the magic,” reveals Bori. He even uses coffee for healing his wounds. “If I cut myself, I put a bit of ground coffee on the cut and the wound will heal faster. Coffee is my blood. But the coffee he loves the most, is the one made by his wife. “It tastes so different. Seriously. And I found that the best time to drink espresso is before 10 a.m.” I wish I had more time to chat with him… But ambassadors are busy people.
Antepodean CafĂŠ culture
“My relationship with coffee? I have two wifes. One is called Arlini and the other is coffee. Coffee has been in my life for quit a long time, longer then my wife, actually. I don’t think of coffee as my job, it is part of me,” says the owner of Kemang’s Antipodean café and coffee brand Merdeka—Alun Evans, expat from New Zealand. The relationship with coffee started back in 1988 in Wellington, where he studied. “It was on a typical windy and rainy day. I was on the way from university with my friends and we didn’t know
how to get home in this weather. We noticed a sign Wellington First French Press Coffee and decided to try it. It was my first French press ever. The coffee was Colombian, not very good, but compared to what we had been drinking all those years before, it was amazing. So we drank some more, which got us a bit awaken and drunk. That is basically, where I decided what I really wanted to do after I would finish my studies. I wanted to be involved in the coffee business. And here I am today after a long journey with lots of twist and turns,” Alun tells me his story in short.
He started 10 years ago in Indonesia developing a network to purchase coffee from small holder growers. “I gave them freedom, so I decided to name my coffee brand Merdeka. My plan was to wholesale the coffee, but the best way to promote land share coffee is through a chain of cafes. We have a few in Jakarta, Malaysia and soon opening one in Sydney and Abu Dhabi. There was not really a café culture, when I started, no Starbucks at that time. I am one of the pioneers of the café business in Jakarta. ‘Café’ to me means
a warm space, where they serve great coffee, but primarily a place to meet new people and exchange ideas and experiences. In today’s modern age, we meet virtually and cafés are ideal places to chat eye to eye. Coffee has the ability to bring people together,” explains Alun, who admits to be a caffeine junkie himself, downing 15 shots a day. “When roasting, I have to taste it. If the coffee does not taste good, or it is not done properly in the café, we throw it away! I need the taste of coffee on my tongue. It opens my senses, tunes me up and helps me to remember things I don’t want to forget.”
“In our family, we all drink coffee, even our four year old son Elijah. He actually steals our coffee. He has been drinking it since he was two and a half.” Because Merdeka coffee is exported to many places and countries, Alun can compare the coffee culture in the countries in the region. “In Singapore and Malaysia people do not switch from Starbucks for example to a different coffee, because they don’t drink coffee, they drink the brand. Here it’s easier. People start to really focus on quality of the coffee. In this matter, Jakarta is miles ahead.
What I don’t like about Indonesia is the lack of understanding that the coffee they grow locally is actually one of the best in the world. They export the highest quality coffees and import coffee roasted in Italy, New Zealand or Australia. I would like to see pride in Indonesian coffee. I truly believe it’s a fantastic coffee.”
Kapal Api Indonesian coffee icon
“My grandfather Go Soe Loet came to Indonesia in 1922 from China on a steam ship (kapal api), which at that time was the symbol of technological superiority and a mark of luxury. In 1927 he began to sell unbranded coffee at the Pabean market in Surabaya, later distributing tin cans to stores using a trishaw. He bought a small grinder and slowly conquered the city. He named his coffee Kapal Api and was one of the first to brand tin cans and later the first to put roast and ground coffee into small packages for people to bring home,” says Robin Setyono, the 32 year-old grandson of the co-founder of Kapal Api, Indonesia’s most successful coffee producer. “We introduced Kapal Api to the mass market much later, in the 1970s. At that time coffee was a commodity like sugar. People were buying it without knowing its origin, quality or branding. We were the first to have a commercial on TV in which a comedian told Indonesia that Kapal Api tastes better. Some people still remember it.” “We started to expand. Grandfather covered Surabaya well with a trishaw but my father used a motorbike to reach further. They ended up buying a pick-up truck. In 1978 my father came to Jakarta and set up an office with 5 salesmen from Surabaya. Basically they lived, ate and worked to sell coffee together.” Robin wonders why his grandfather started in the coffee business. “Chinese people do not drink coffee, they prefer tea. Indonesians started to drink coffee earlier than the Chinese because of the Dutch influence. My grandfather probably saw an opportunity for business, it was not out of a passion for coffee or tradition.” Robin continues: “He used to drink 2 cups of coffee every day and lived a long life. He passed away as a 90 year-old. Father of 3 sons and 3 daughters. According to Chinese tradition females are not important for business so the brothers ran the show. My father moved to Jakarta to focus on the marketing side of the business while his brothers stayed in Surabaya to handle the production.” I asked Robin what knowledge was passed on to him from his father. “As a 10 year-old, I asked my father why he still went to work even though we had enough
money. He impressed me by saying that we can open up lots of jobs. Back then we had several hundred people working for us. Today we employ more then 10,000. Lots of families depend on us. We are truly a Kapal Api family. Many people have been working for us for years, even in management.” “Ask people why they drink Kapal Api and the answer is always the same: because it smells better. Compared to other local brands, ours always smells better. Not many people can make coffee that smells better then ours. It’s a secret recipe. Our coffee tester for black has been with the company for over 20 years.” The secret of Kapal Api’s success also lies in the taste. “The taste varies throughout the country. It tastes different in East Java and Sumatra for example. The formula and blend is different because local people have different tastes. It is based on tradition.” Kapal Api has several brands all competing in the market as rivals. Nevertheless, Kapal Api remains the icon. ABC was introduced in 1985 as a fighting brand while with Good Day the company introduced its first 3-in-1 instant coffee. “It was an act of desperation,” Robin recalls. “At that time coffee was considered an old people’s drink. We wanted to differentiate and target the younger crowd, high school and university students who were not accustomed to drinking coffee. We were trying to make it a lifestyle drink, so we added flavors. The idea came from abroad but it was 2 years before Starbucks came to Indonesia and brought the American coffee culture.” Kapal Api has sailed a long way since 1927. “We have a 1,200 hectare plantation in Toraja, mainly for export and our premium brand Excelso. We buy beans from local farmers as well and we import coffee from Brazil and Columbia to give our blends aroma. With 400 luwaks, we also produce the most expensive coffee in the world. Our portfolio includes chains of Excelso Cafés and Café Grazia. Excelso are our premium beans. The good beans go to Kapal Api, and the lower quality beans to ABC. For our brands Ya, Kapten and Kopi Kemudi the quality will be inconsistent. It is the leftovers. We use everything. Truth is, we sell more sugar than coffee because Indonesians like it sweet.”
Research shows that Indonesians drink 0.7 kg of coffee per person a year and the market for coffee is growing. “Our products are easy to sell and we are often the target of copycats and fake branding, even truck high-jacking. We have the largest production capacity in South East Asia. Recently we built a factory for producing instant coffee. We are also sponsors of a specialty coffee contest. Farmers send us samples of their coffees which they think are unique. We discovered there are more then 400 kinds of coffee in Indonesia.” When I ask Robin about the Indonesian coffee market he explains: “Kapal Api controls more then 50 percent of the market. Nescafe has around 6 percent. 80 percent of the market is roast and ground. It is growing faster then instant. Nescafe didn’t look into this segment until recently.
They used roast and ground to make instant but they lost the smell. The biggest competition is the 3-in-1 segment. If somebody drinks black or black with sugar, they are normally very loyal to their brand. Like me,” Robin laughs. “I prefer Kapal Api special mix, black coffee with sugar, usually 2 cups a day. I have the first one at work. I like to stay asleep until I reach the office. During meetings we always serve Excelso from an espresso machine. At home we have Nespresso for the sake of trying other brands. When I travel I don’t bring my own coffee. I like to try the local coffee, so I can get inspired.” One more secret from Robin. His grandfather had another brandname on his mind, besides Kapal Api: Flying Car (Mobil Terbang). Looks like that time has not come yet.
At work Coffee, the great helper
Talking is his job. But Andira Pramanta (35) is a good listener also. As a radio announcer on Hard Rock radio, you can be sure to have nice conversation when you are around him. On air or ‘backstage’. And there is plenty to talk about: Andira is a passionate cyclist, music lover and graphic designer. And he travels… “I started to drink coffee probably 10 years ago. I like coffee tubruk, because I can feel the roughness of it. I started to really enjoy coffee during my trip to Italy. Italians have a real coffee culture. The way they enjoy it is full of passion. I realized that coffee was cheaper then mineral water, so I drank it a lot,” says Andira in between his ‘on air’ talking. “When I studied in Melbourne I started to drink coffee with many flavors.
Even ice blended coffee. Since I came back, I converted straight to black coffee again. It gives me more strength when bicycling. I like Nescafe also.” “The Hard Rock radio special blend is ‘kopi bangsat’ (bastard coffee) made by our colleague DJ Adi. He comes into the studio with hot black coffee of secret origin and you can smell the strong aroma all over the radio. We share it from one glass like a family. But when somebody else tries to make it, it tastes different.” “Coffee from the office boy is another option: It’s just a simple 3-in-1, but the way he makes it is just good. So I came to the conclusion that best coffee is when somebody else makes it for you.” Respect!
Be aware of trains
Sardono sees hundreds of trains daily. “I’ve been working on the station for 12 years, but I never counted how many trains pass by exactly. I drink 3 coffee per day.” Sardono guards the tracks for those who want to cross, by opening and closing a bamboo pole. Simple as that. Sardono (54), like many, tries to make a modest living in the 9,6 million city. “Coffee helps me to stay alert. That’s important when you have a job like me, with that kind of responsibility. After we say goodbye and I cross the tracks he kindly says ‘hati-hati’ to me: ‘be careful’.
Cars, coal, coffee
“I don’t consider myself a real coffee lover, because more then coffee I love cars,” laughs Putra Fajar (Ucul for friends). But looking closely at his family, I found some coffee genes. His office life is marked by basic coffee. Cheap, fast and easy: 3-in-1. Made by Ace Santoso, office attendant, who carries sachets of coffee in every pocket. Ace drinks at least 6 cups a day: every time he is sleepy. “Mister Putra likes cappuccino, his brother Patra prefers the one with milk,” Ace tells me. There are always glasses of coffee lying around the office that is home to a coal mining company. There is coffee next to calculators and the distribution schemes from the coal mine in Kalimantan to Surabaya and Jakarta. “I am new in this business. I like it, but cars run in my blood since I was a teenager. My brothers and father, we are all passionate about cars and motorcycles. We collect them,” says Putra. Most of his cars have one thing in common. Licence plate number 1745. “Independence day: 17 August 1945,” he proudly explains. At home Putra drinks Nespresso, which is espresso from a capsule that you put into a special Nespresso machine. Sounds difficult? Putra had to look for the instruction manual to figure it out. We join forces and after a while espresso drips into the cup. “I pressed the right button, but you have to hold it
for 3 seconds. Usually my housemaid makes my coffee. But she is not here now. I like the coffee, but you have to remember to buy the capsules,” says Putra, who gives coffee to his two children, when they are feverish. His family meets every Saturday or Sunday for coffee after lunch or dinner. In a mall or coffee shop. It’s a ritual and habit of Putra’s father Firdaus to gather his family. And that’s where the coffee genes come from. His father, Doctor Firdaus, a famous urologist, is a coffee freak in a good way. “Black coffee is for real men,” he tells me on his coffee date with his daughter and his three sons. And their families. He works in three hospitals and teaches in a medical school. Drinks about 2 liters of pure black no sugar. “I am accompanied by coffee all day. Even when I am proceeding an operation. Don’t forget to mention that I love the smell of coffee. I put beans into my car for aroma and change it every 2 weeks. Coffee from Papua is my favorite.” His habit of drinking coffee started in Holland, where he studied. Cars and cigars came later. “Is coffee good for your health?” I asked at last, because he had to go back to the hospital. “It’s good for you and for children as well,” he said and went from one coffee in a mall to another in the hospital.
Park your coffee at Starbucks
Their contract says: “parking staff can drink a coffee ‘on the house’ prepared by our staff 2 times a day”. Darmawan (32) wears a decent dark-blue uniform, Onai Morfino (31) is dressed as an ordinary guy. Two parking guys who help your car to be parked and watch it for you. It’s a common job in Jakarta. And in the rest of the country. Their service usually costs Rp 2.000 for a car and Rp 1.000 for a motorbike. Anyway... Onai drinks coffee from his employer, Starbucks, the famous coffee house that has become an example of the globalization of coffee taste. Darmawan doesn’t like the ‘free’ coffee from his boss. So while Onai drinks his afternoon cappuccino with rich foam from a proper coffee
mug, Darmawan waits for Linda, the old coffee lady. She comes around 4pm everyday. Carrying a bag on her back with coffee sacs and a thermos for hot water. She is right on time today on her daily route walking from one customer to another on Jalan Kemang Raya. For more than 15 years she has been serving her loyal clientbase on a daily basis. She knows that Darmawan drinks the black Kapal Api ‘icon’ coffee. It takes her tree minutes to prepare and she is on her way again. “I am more than 50 years old,” says Linda, mother of 4 children from central Java. Darmawan tells me she is 58. Their coffee relationship is already personal.
Step A coffee
Bima and Boris are the two creative figures behind RVM, Royal Video Magazine, based in Jakarta. They are part of a community of skaters and surfers who converted their hobby into a lifestyle. You can bet that coffee is part of it. You make friends with Bima and Boris in an instant. Even though I am not a skater or surfer. But I snowboard and that is related. Even though it’s not so useful in Indonesia. They tell me they haven’t tried it. Belum. Yet.
But let’s focus on coffee first… “More work, more coffee. That’s the basic math at our office on Jalan Panglima Polim. Our office boy Dimas is the coffee maker. He goes to the warung across the street and makes it there by himself. Without asking, without paying, self service.” Dimas comes back with two coffees in a glass and serves it to the computer desk of Bima and Boris. They are always online, editing, uploading, browsing. Web is their world. It’s flat just like a skateboard. Almost.
“Caffeine is a big help to us. It’s like putting a match in your eyes to keep it open,” says Boris. They all drink the basic coffee, instant one from sachets, let’s call it step A on the coffee scale. Stepa (from Step A) is also the name of the skateboard brand produced by Bima (31), who once was Indonesia’s top skateboarder. He is also a DJ and has a drum ‘n’ bass community called ‘Crime Scene’. Skate and music is his life in short.
The surf and skate videos they make are amazing. Check it out on www.royalvideomagazine.com One more thing. Boris is getting married. Aline is the one. They invited me to their wedding. Hydrant from Bali will play. They rock! I wonder, if the energy they produce on the stage doesn’t come from caffeine.
Life style Living with coffee
Art students and coffee
I asked few art students at Institute Kesenian Jakarta four â€˜coffee questionsâ€™:
1. What is the first thought that comes to your mind, when I say coffee? 2. What is your favorite type of coffee? 3. How many cup of coffee do you drink every day? 4. What is your name?
Spreading the black virtually
“It was a freezing afternoon in Toronto. I was hungry and sleepy, just about ready to have a nice and warm cup of coffee. Found a coffee shop, sat down and ordered. The coffee was delicious, so I asked the barista: “Where does this coffee come from?” “It is your coffee sir, Gayo from Sumatra.” It was like slapping my face. It struck me. I had to go all the way to Canada to drink coffee from Indonesia,” Tony Wahid reveals. His coffee story started 3 years ago. Today he writes the best and most visited coffee blog in the country: www.cikopi.com. “I am not an expert, not using sophisticated language, I am not teaching, not preaching, I just publish (mainly after midnight) my explorations on Indonesian coffee,” he tells me in the penthouse office of clothing brand Gap, where he works full time. Blogging is just a hobby which slowly started to take control of him. “I can’t stop now. There is always more and more to write about coffee. It is the never ending story.” He is one of those people, who are spreading the black ‘disease’. His phone is full of contacts of coffee people. He influences not only his readers, including coffee farmers, but also colleagues at work, friends and family. “My father can’t drink instant coffee anymore after I introduced him to a good coffee. I get all the free samples of coffee and when he runs out of beans, he calls me to ask for more. On the other hand, my wife didn’t convert yet. Coffee is a black hole. Once you get into it, you can’t get out,” says Toni. At his house he has a stock of coffee equipment samples, send by manufacturers to test them and review them on his blog. All kinds of coffee machines are stored. Kitchen walls are decorated with coffee recipes and Tony’s daughter and wife know that chatting about coffee is not for short term visits. We stopped at 2 a.m. after a few cups of coffee that made us comfortable and sleepy.
Drinking coffee for a living Telling a fortune from coffee
If you are looking for an absolute coffee nerd in Jakarta, just turn on your TV. Tune to the Kompas TV show Coffee Story. The guy who is hosting it, is the one: the life of Adi Taroepratjeka is all about coffee. He drinks coffee for a living. How awesome it that? “My parents didn’t allow me to drink coffee until I was 18 years old, but it was love at first taste, when I tried it,” Adi recalls. He was introduced to coffee during his study in the United States. His host family in Vermont was passionate about coffee. “They taught me to enjoy it in many ways, with or without sugar, and in many flavors: chocolate, caramel, spice, cardamom. After that my natural curiosity grew. I wanted to know where it came from, how it grows, how it’s harvested and everything else.”
“Back home, Toraja was the place, I really fell in love with coffee. And with this country.” Talking about love, his wife Mia, has the same ‘diagnosis’. She joins the ‘black’ crowd and became an internationally certified Q-grader just like Adi. Coffee became their profession. “A Q-Grader is a person who has been accredited and certified to evaluate coffee, ranging from green beans up to roasted coffee. Coffee gets graded based on international standards to meet minimum requirements for green, roasted and cup quality. A certified or graded coffee will bear a Q Certificate logo on its package verifying its quality,” explains Adi.
Adi and Mia can spend hours talking about coffee. “We share our attention between coffee and our 3,5 year old daughter Nayla”, says Mia. They also own a small coffee shop on Jalan Senopati. “For the spirit of sharing, we sell the coffee at cost. And we play with coffee. It is like playing chess. I love to make espresso, because it is science and magic to make a good tasting cup of espresso.” Adi also travels to many places all over Indonesia for his TV show. “I meet the people who are behind the coffee we drink here. I appreciate farmers who pick the beans and work with coffee their whole lifes” Adi tells me. His recipe for enjoying coffee is simple: “Just open up to coffee, it is a very personal drink. There is no right or wrong in drinking it, it all depends on your mood, background, how your family and friends drink coffee, how you appreciate life in general. If you open up, coffee will tell you where it’s from, the way it was brewed and roasted. It will keep you company.”
“We like to go to coffee shops and watch people drink coffee. We have developed certain personality patterns by observing what kind of coffee people order”: Espresso When ordering an espresso you are either thrifty and surprised about the small size, or you are the macho type of guy, who likes it strong in everyway. Or you’re a real coffee freak who goes for the taste of rich coffee. Espresso is all about details. It requires huge skills and passion to brew a 30 ml cup of coffee.
Mia is also a fortuneteller. She can read your future from your palm, face, tarot cards, wine, tea and coffee. “Coffee is the hardest medium. I need to save up energy from the previous day to be able to do it. And I become tired and hungry afterwards. I need to feel comfortable, when doing it. It can only be done with hand made tubruk. The one that leaves the coffee grind on the bottom of the cup,” she explains. “When you drink coffee you transfer energy, which I can feel with my hand. I touch your cup and poor the coffee ground with a bit of coffee over a white plate and I look at it like I would look into a mirror. I feel, I see and I read. Spirits talk to me and I listen,” she tells me in a quiet voice. The gift runs in her family. Her parents discovered it when they were 40 years old. She noticed it much earlier. Fortunetelling is her side job now. She has many clients, some of them become addicted and depend on her fortunetelling. They contact her for every important and even minor decision. She doesn’t know anybody else who reads fortune from coffee and she doesn’t do it often, never done it for her husband. Mia can also feel the taste of coffee before she tries it, same with food. “It is all a matter of placing energy. I feel many things. Jakarta is full of visual pollution. Most people, I feel, are sad, tired, angry... This city is polluted in many ways.”
Tubruk If you see a person drinking tubruk, it’s either his passion or he is the kind of guy who knows what he wants from coffee. He likes it simple. Some of them are adventurers, because with tubruk you can go anywhere in the world and buy a cup of coffee. Brewing is simple, just add hot water. However, some people are very picky about type of water and it’s temperature. Cappuccino Cappuccino drinkers are often still learning how to drink coffee or didn’t venture out and got stuck with cappuccino. Blended drinks Many consumers of blended drinks think that the logo on the cup is more precious then the content of the cup. I don’t blame them. It is lifestyle. 3-in-1 “I used to be 3-in-1 crowd,” says Adi. “It is a nice way of boosting your energy. You get a warm drink loaded with caffeine, sugar and proteins. But you gain weight, if you drink too many sachets a day. Sad thing is you sacrifice the coffee. Basically, you do not need coffee, because you drink the worst one available. It is far from good coffee.” “Me?” Adi responds when I ask what his coffee personality is. “I’m a coffee nerd. I can spend hours talking about coffee. Get a life, some people tell me. I drink 0 to 40 cups a day. Seriously. It is my job! There are days, when I don’t drink it at all. But I just love making coffee, can’t help it. At home, I usually prepare espresso. My wife Mia makes poor over, because it is like meditating. All about rituals.”
Building his body with coffee ‘on the side’
Coffee plays a small part (in movies they would say a supporting role) in building the body of Gadafi, Indonesian national athlete. Gadafi is big. He’s huge. And he drinks lots of coffee. Ten cups a day. It all began 10 years ago, when he started to work out. “I discovered drinking coffee helps me in two ways: Coffee contains caffeine, which can stimulate the fat burning processes in the body. And if I drink coffee before exercise, it helps reduce muscle pain afterwards. I am having my caffeine hit half an hour before cardio work out. Plain black, no sugar. I prefer Nescafe, because I love the smell and it is strong enough for me.”
How come children drink coffee?
The answer is simple. Tradition. I met three boys on the street. One was carrying a cage with pigeons on his back. They were in a hurry. Don’t know why. I asked them if they drink coffee. “Yes I do. But today, I haven’t had one yet. Would you buy me one?” asked Arip, the oldest one. They released the pigeons and headed back home. I followed. We ran for twenty minutes through the narrow paths of a large poor kampung just behind Jalan Sudirman, one of the main streets of Jakarta. Once we arrived at their houses we chitchatted about pigeons. Pigeon keeping is a widespread hobby. This probably has a lot to do with the Javanese obsession with birds (rare birds, singing birds, mythological birds, you name it).
The kalangan burug (bird people—in this case kids), ran to nearest warkop and ordered coffee mix: coffee, milk and sugar. They were excited because I was paying. “Many children come here to drink coffee, even with their parents,” says Adri, owner of the simple warung. Arip (12), Dupri (8) and Pai (9) sat down and shared 2 glasses. They seemed to enjoy it. Very soon they ran away again to feed the pigeons. And I had time to find out more about their obsession.
Adri explains: â€œMating, thatâ€™s what interests me most. Here is how it works: a sexy female pigeon is held in the hand of the owner somewhere in the kampung as bait to lure the males. The pigeon jockeys run away with the males, sometimes as far as a few kilometers, and set them free. Hence the importance of the mating process: the male and female need to be so headover-claws in love that the male will want to fly at lighting speed straight back to his female.â€? The human equivalent would be heading straight home from the office instead of stopping somewhere for a cup of coffee.
The coffee talks Traveling coffee
Raymond Malvin, graphic designer: “Coffee has been my best friend, it is part of my existence and I can’t function well without it.” Perhaps this is why he and two likeminded friends decided to pay tribute to their caffeine muse by initiating an art project called Kopi Keliling or Kopling (Traveling Coffee). They gathered Indonesian artists and introduced coffee as a medium. “Kopi Keliling is showcasing coffee-related art and we’ve already done the 4th event on our tour. We are trying to come up with the perfect blend of art and coffee,” he explains. Through the traveling event, Raymond, whose love affair with coffee began as a child, hopes to raise young people’s awareness of local coffee varieties. “Coffee is one of our country’s most valuable assets. Indonesia is the 4th largest producer of coffee in the world. The sad thing is that we export our best coffee beans and our farmers are still poor.”
Eko Bintang, an illustrator based in Jakarta is one of 28 artists that contributed to the collaborative art project Traveling Coffee. He is a typical 2-way coffee personality. He didn’t convert to ‘coffee religion’ truly yet. “I drink café latte in coffee shops, but at home I still belong to the 3-in-1 crowd,” he admits and points out the dark side of coffee. “You can do nasty negotiations while drinking coffee. On the other side, it’s a mystery how a cup of coffee can always be a reason why we meet and make conversation. You can also use coffee as a shield and protect yourself. Restrain from conversation, sit back and enjoy your cup of coffee. Its a personal drink. That’s what my art tribute to Traveling Coffee is all about. It talks for itself, just like good coffee.” Coffee as a medium, coffee as an art tool.
Coffee as muse
Coffee and inspiration? Tell me about it. I knew exactly what Ciprut, as friends call Stefanus Hermawan (28), is talking about. Sometimes, I rely on my cup of joe the same way. Waiting to open me up for new ideas. “I started drinking coffee in elementary school. It makes my day complete, especially in the morning. It wakes me up and all of a sudden I am part of this world again. Usually I have one cup a day, but when performing or directing a musical such as today, I drink four or five. When writing scenarios I rely on coffee as my muse,” says Ciprut, an artist of many talents. He is into pantomime and performing arts. I asked him to pay tribute to coffee by a small performance. He said more then most of the people using words… A quote from legendary Czech writer Karel Capek came to my mind when watching him: ‘Imagine the silence, if people would say only, what they know’.
At home Personal flavour
Go slow, see more
Widi is 29, doesn’t talk much, but seems to be happy. He finally found a job that suits him. Selling coffee from his bicycle. “You see more, when you go slow,” he says. The bike is not his. He rents it. “I try to take good care of it. I hope I save enough money soon to buy my own. That’s my dream for now.” He lives in a simple house where he rents one floor with three rooms with eight other people. He sleeps on the floor, mostly during the day. “I’m out of the house before sunset and I stay up all night. When I come home everybody else goes to work.” Widi drinks three coffee per day: two during the night, one when he wakes up—usually in the afternoon. “Before I go to work, I love to watch TV. Soccer especially. When I can’t watch it, I take a small radio and listen to a game while bicycling through the dark streets of Jakarta.” Maybe thanks to Widi’s coffee, the city never sleeps.
Coffee maniacs Body and soul
Who would expect to find a bunch of coffee maniacs in a small kampung in the industrial area of north Jakarta? It was Bob Marley and Indonesia’s first president Soekarno that brought me to house of Ibu Peggy. Turns out to be a place of many kinds of worship. “I myself am pengopi,” admits Ibu Peggy. Pengopi is the Indonesian term for a coffee maniac. For her family, originally from North Sumatra, it is a personal drink. “Everybody has their own opinion about taste and how to drink it. I like to add soul to a body, that is why I stir my cup with a rolled package,” she tells me while preparing a coffee ‘her way’. For me. For free. I went out today without a single rupiah. I am ashamed, but this family is more then nice. “You are our guest.”
They invite me to their front room. Surprisingly it is a public space: a small warung, where Ibu Peggy serves her coffee and drinks. She used to do it along the side of the road, but a few years ago decided to move the business to her house. Home sweet home. “It’s not so busy, but somehow selling coffee at home feels better.” Forefather of Indonesia Soekarno hangs on the wall in every room. Peggy’s husband is a big fan. He also loves coffee, songs of Bob Marley and Argentina’s soccer team. “My Peggy is the one, who always prepares coffee for me. We drink it together, 5 times a day. I like it black with three spoons of sugar. I am Indonesian, we all have sweet tooth,” explains Agus while showing me his collection of Indonesian icons. He’s known in the kampung as a bit of a playboy. But that’s just between us.
Everybody in their house drinks coffee. The entire family of fifteen. Even babies when they have fever. “It is a tradition passed on by my mom. Two spoons of coffee brings down the fever. From the age of two I gave our son coffee when he was sick. It stabilizes the heart beat and prevents seizure.”
For Peggy and her family a cup of coffee is a ‘body charger’: just like charging your phone. Wherever they go, they look for a warkop—short for warung kopi. “Even on a hot day on a market I rather drink coffee then a cold beverage.” In this kind of weather. That’s what I call maniac!
My fuel: coffee
Icha is a producer. Her fuel is coffee. She is a nocturnal creature. Stays up late, wakes up late. Not anymore though, since the arrival of first born Arka, her 9 months old son. You would think she stopped being passionate about coffee. “Not exactly. I stopped drinking coffee for a few weeks and thought that Arka would sleep more. Turned out, Arka is nocturnal just like me. With or without coffee,” says the proud mom. “I have to have coffee, that is my ritual. It is part of my existence. I am not functioning properly without it. My personal assistant at work is always hunting for good coffee.” She likes to experiment and try different tastes and brands. “Starbucks is not the best, but it is 24 hours. McCoffee in McDonalds is good. Sometimes I enjoy instant Kopi Luwak —3-in-1. And there are days, when I bring my
espresso machine to work, because not many offices provide good coffee.” “My mug is my companion. Some mornings I bring hot coffee from home. I am the type of person who has to drink coffee in the morning. Usually 2 cups, another one after lunch and two in the afternoon. If I work late, I drink late.” There is a small blackboard in her kitchen on the microwave. She uses the kind of chalk that is normally used against bugs and ants to write down the name of the coffee beans that are in her coffee machine. ‘This week is Excelso week’. Making coffee is her ‘thing’. “I always do it myself. Love the process, the sound and the smell. It makes my day. Its my wake up call.”
My choice is heritage
When drinking his coffee, Om Daung usually sits on the terrace of his house, smoking and enjoying his view of the garden. Listening to the birds in their cages—especially the laughing rooster from Makassar he purchased recently. “I am a music lover, you know. And a heavy coffee drinker,” he tells me. “When it comes to coffee, my choice is always heritage. That’s why I buy coffee with history from Bakeol coffee, the oldest coffee company in Indonesia: fifth generation and established in 1878
by Liauw Tek Soen,” says Om Daung who started to drink coffee as an 18 year old. “It was not about the taste at that time, only about drinking it. As long as it was black, it was coffee. As I grow older, I started to appreciate the taste and quality. Over the years I found my coffee. It’s a mix of Robusta and Arabica. Arabica is too sour, Robusta a bit bitter. Their combination is my cup of coffee,” explains the former manager of Indonesia’s biggest oil company. He prefers to buy and make coffee by himself. Three and a half spoons of ground beans, bit of palm sugar. Three times a day.
He admits that from the age of two, he gave two spoons of coffee twice a week to his four children and two grandchildren. “It is the Indonesian way to prevent fever and keep good blood pressure,” he says. “Tell you the truth, I am a choosy guy for coffee. I prefer not to drink it when I visit someone’s home. You know why? I don’t want to be disappointed by the coffee they serve. Even in restaurants. I know only few places where it is safe to order coffee. Best cappuccino is in Pand’or restaurant and best Irish coffee in Fountain lounge at Grand Hyatt hotel. They know the art of serving this drink. Irish coffee must be served with caramel on the edge of the glass, for example.” Om Daung also enjoys bicycling. Three times a week, 15 to 20 kilometer. Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. Sometimes he stops in McDonalds for coffee. “It is better then Starbucks, where people go only for fashion.” When Om Daung is traveling, he brings his personal coffee kit. It consists of a portable water heater and his own coffee. “When I go abroad, I drink Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee. It’s expensive, but delicious. I buy it, take it to the hotel room and open it. Aroma spreads all over the place. No other drink does that. It’s an emotion. Just like looking at my garden. It doesn’t feel like Jakarta, right?”
Life of rituals
Watching ibu Ime in a beautiful sarong prepare coffee for her Daughter–her only ‘coffee soul mate’ among family and friends–is unforgettable. “It’s all about the details.” They’ve been sharing rituals over two cups of espresso for more then five years now. Beans are stored in the fridge. Grinding them is the start of the process. The fresh smell spreads over the terrace. Ibu Ime has two colored mocca espresso machines. Yellow is for two cups, the brown one for when drinking alone. Four spoons of grinded coffee go in the filter.
“My coffee habits and rituals are marked by European influences. I started to drink coffee when I studied in France. The French really know how to appreciate good coffee, they have a real culture of drinking it,” says ibu Ime. She taught her daughter Shawnee, a 35 year old painter, to drink coffee with style and rituals. Unfortunately, her son never drinks coffee: “No influence on him. I don’t share the same passion with any of my friends, only with Shawnee.” They drink latte and cappuccino and wonder what I like so much about a small espresso.
The yellow espresso machine is put on an electric heater, because on gas the heating would be too quick. It doesn’t take long for the coffee to make its bubbling way through the machine. Then comes the ritual of serving the coffee. A Tray. Two neat coffee cups made of glass set on a saucer with small coffee spoons. A few small rocks of palm sugar on the side, if you like your coffee sweet… This is the way to enjoy coffee into the smallest detail…
“My mom tells me: pamper yourself with coffee. She is my coffee guru. We always drink it together. It tastes better when my mom makes it. The way she prepares it is more sophisticated. Every detail counts,” Shawnee tells me while working on her newest painting. I proposed to use coffee grounds as paint: she loves the idea.
The coffee rituals of mom and daughter are slightly different. “Especially in the morning, when I need to have my coffee. Sometimes I don’t care about the cup or spoon, just want to get coffee into my system. Mom still criticizes me,” Shawnee complains. “Our life should all be about rituals. With everything we do. That’s how you enjoy life more. It’s very spiritual,” ibu Ime declares. And our conversation continues… That’s how a talk over a small coffee becomes a memory.
Meditation (not only) over coffee
Drinking coffee is part of Will Wiriawan’s morning meditation. Photographer, columnist and feature writer for the Jakarta Post. To see it and talk about it with him was a very personal experience. Just like his cup of coffee.
He never skips breakfast. As a vegetarian, his morning meals seems boring to many of his friends. He looks forward to preparing his simple sandwich with butter and brown sugar: Breakfast, Dutch old style.
Will usually wakes up around 6 a.m. That’s when his morning rituals start. He drinks plenty of water and reads first. After big business in the toilet, he does his yoga and meditation for an hour and a half. But it doesn’t stop there. Will’s meditation continues in the kitchen when he prepares his cup of coffee. Following the same routine everyday.
“Part of the meditation is cleaning the tools. I do it the same way as I would clean my own body. By holding the tools, I thank them for such a great coffee. After I finish breakfast, I sit quietly and let it soak in and feel the completeness. Without enjoying it, you don’t feel the effect in you body,” he explains passionately. When traveling, Will never leaves without his complete coffee kit to prepare his personal signature drink.
“First I choose my beans, depending on my mood and taste. I go with the feel. I have a coffee memory, you can say. Robusta is best pure black, Sumatra makes the best latte. I grind the beans, boil the water, timed by intuition. When I use a french press I pour the water evenly in circles. For latte, I heat up the milk and make it strong. That’s the way I like it,” Will tells me holding his morning cup.
His coffee cup is also part of his personal coffee philosophy. He has been using this cup for black coffee for over six years now. “It’s perfect. Shape, size and tip of the cup. Details, details, details!!!”
“On the other hand, I also believe coffee is a simple delicacy; I don’t need fancy gear and equipment for my coffee, most of the time I prepare it with some makeshift, often cheap tools from my little kitchen in my apartment.” I let Will talk for some more now: “I am going against the rules and currents here. Italians like small espresso. Americans like it big, oversized espressos with lots of water. I like it in between. Espresso is too quick to enjoy, but I like the power in it. I make my own black coffee, my size, my way. Many coffee aficionados tell me I am not a real coffee lover if I drink latte or cappuccino. I disagree with that. Its hazy, this coffee world. I distance myself from the so called ‘coffee lovers’. They’ve become corrupted with names and brands. Just don’t make a big deal of it I say. Enjoy your cup: it is just a coffee. My coffee drinks are associated with moods. I am a big believer in contrasts. I break the rules. I make my own latte. It is very strong. It’s coffee with milk, not milk with coffee. Latte is sort of Yin Yang. Black coffee is raw, black. Milk is soft. When you mix it right, its delicacy. My stomach is happy. On the other hand, when my day is bad, my coffee is bad and the other way around. It’s all about who is making it, how he is doing it and the state of mind he is in. I like to stay put, live for the moment and soak my day, my coffee, everything I do. That is my art of living.”
Published on Feb 4, 2013