ROAST OF THE TOWN
From artisan coffees and exotic aromas to in-house roasting and award-winning baristas, Jakarta’s coffee houses offer the perfect blend of quality and taste
WORDS: STEPHANIE BROOKES
Rich, aromatic and stimulating, coffee’s allure has endured over thousands of years, with more people than ever enjoying the brew around the world. Alongside well-documented destinations such as Colombia and Brazil, Indonesia is one of the world’s top locations for exporting coffee and, with a predominantly Muslim population, the drink has formed an integral part of socialising among its residents for generations. Now, the relationship between Indonesians and coffee is undergoing a new shift — especially in its capital, Jakarta.
Over the past few years, Jakarta has become increasingly influenced by the “Third Wave Coffee” movement, which had already taken root in numerous cosmopolitan cities worldwide. Essentially, this concept elevates coffee above the status of lowly beverage or commonplace commodity, repositioning the brew as a highly desirable artisanal product with a focus on origin, process and roasting methods.
As a result, Indonesian coffee culture is becoming ever more sophisticated. Opened up to the true potential of their locally grown — yet internationally sought-after — beans, locals and expats alike are paying more attention to what they drink, expanding their knowledge about flavour, acidity, aroma and body. Boutique coffee shops are opening up in the capital at an ever-accelerating pace. And unlike the uninspired, uniform beverages served by the global chains, in these cafés, ambience is important and serving specialist coffee is regarded as an art form. There is also more emphasis on presentation, with whimsical latte art gaining in popularity.
People want a place with a relaxed atmosphere where they can drink artisan coffee
As coffee drinkers become more discerning, demand is growing for alternative new drinks such as cold-press coffee, while many coffee shops stock coffee bean blends in addition to traditional singleorigin coffees. For instance, locally sourced Sulawesi coffee is popular, either drunk on its own to appreciate the full depth of its earthy flavour, or mixed with different beans to bring out its fruity notes or give it a milder finish.
Influenced by this fresh, urban attitude to coffee, today’s Indonesians will hunt down the latest coffee house on the scene. As Rico Pangadjaja, owner of the Lucky Cat Coffee and Kitchen, explains: “Customers are searching out artisan coffee hangouts where drinking coffee is a social experience. Ten years ago, we might have met in the local bar; now, people want a place with a relaxed atmosphere or somewhere funky and new where they can drink artisan coffee.”
Housed in a white brick building in the heart of Jakarta’s central business district (CBD), Lucky Cat’s airy, plant-strewn space is the capital’s only artisan coffee shop open 24 hours a day. Its cosy ambience and three state-of-the-art brewing machines — not to mention the Instagrammable appeal of the live tree growing in the middle of the café — make it a popular spot for Jakarta’s hip young things.
“We are passionate about serving coffee the right way, sourcing high-quality beans, using correct extracting methods and adding aesthetic value,” says Rico. “Not only do we craft latte art in the classic heart, flower or swan shapes, we also fashion 3D latte art in the shape of our signature lucky cat. The cat character is made out of foam, which is raised to the top and then we use a toothpick to make the eyes and carve out the ears — when we present it, it appears that a cat is popping up over the edge of the cup.”
Raffles Jakarta’s culture-inspired Arts Café is another thriving third-wave coffee hotspot. Barista Henry Fajar Ramadhan’s first-class skills recently led him to represent Indonesia at the 2016 Caffé Vergnano Best Barista competition and scoop the top award. He enjoys sharing his expansive knowledge with customers, in between making flavoursome coffee beverages.
State-of-theart machines give baristas full control over pressure, temperature and timing
“The coffee culture is a lot different here than in Italy, where people often down their coffee quickly and move on,” he says. “Here, people enjoy staying a while. We have the beautiful artworks of Hendra Gunawan on the walls, so people linger and chat with friends, or do business and share ideas. I like the way people sit around the bar to watch the coffee-making process. They ask questions and take photos, showing a real interest in observing our techniques and learning how we, as baristas, make coffee.”
He points out that the Arts Café has a special 95% arabica blend from six different coffee regions: “We use an Italian slow-roasting method. However, the most important thing is the passion we put into making it. That comes through in the coffee. The ground size is key — not too coarse and not too fine.”
Elsewhere, artisan coffee is making the move out of the city centre into local Jakarta neighbourhoods. A growing number of trendy cafés can be found in residential areas, such as the Giyanti Coffee Roastery in Menteng. New coffee places are also springing up in the city’s bustling commercial centres, such as Grogol Petamburan, where the cool Common Grounds can be found, or popular Tanamera Coffee in the Thamrin City Office Park, both ready to provide Indonesia’s expanding middle classes with their daily caffeine fix. Many of the new cafés opening their doors now roast their coffee on-site and often buy directly from plantations, reinforcing the third-wave emphasis on origin and process. Investing in state-of-the-art coffee machines is now a matter of course, giving baristas full control over pressure, temperature and timing to transform the optimal potential of locally sourced beans into a perfect cup of coffee for their customers.
Whether enjoying a flat white, a creamy soya latte or simply a classic black brew, Henry Fajar Ramadhan’s top tip is to drink coffee sugarless, so as not to disguise the true flavour and distort the aftertaste.
Cofffee Jakarta Story – Raffles Magazine June 2017
David Metcalf runs photography and cultural tours in Java, Bali, India, Myanmar and USA. David operates Taksu Photo Gallery in Ubud, Bali. By taking a workshop or tour with David you help support education and health programs in Bali and Kalimantan.