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Coffee Travel Log - Indonesia

Last week I had the pleasure to travel with Raphael from The Pour Over Bar as well as Karen from Foxhole Cafe to visit Jakarta Indonesia for a friend's wedding. Needless to say, I took the opportunity to explore the coffee scene.

Whenever I travel, I love to taste and observe how coffee is influenced by culture. The different local brewing methods, taste preferences or even how its people appreciate their brew.

Jakarta have given me mixed feelings. I have found a few gems scattered across the city. But I was also disappointed by the utter lack of coffee culture considering the fact that they are one of the largest coffee producers in the world.

The streets are proliferated with deep fried snacks, satays and what-nots. But unlike most of South East Asia such as Vietnam or even Singapore, local coffee joints in Jakarta are sparse. Those who do take coffee simply consume the 3 in 1 variants.

At first I thought that it might be the case of poverty as majority of the local Indonesians struggle to make ends meet. The income gap between the rich and poor is very distinct. However, I remembered during my trip to Vietnam that the Viets are also not too well off themselves. That didn't stop them from having their daily cuppa.

Perhaps I have ventured into the wrong places? The places that do serve coffee, however, are using expensive espresso machines, V60s, Chemex and Aeropress - which is pretty impressive if you consider the fact that most people cannot even afford basic necessities and sanitation. They cater to a more affluent crowd of course.

Perhaps what I am trying to say is .. WHERE ARE THE LOCAL COFFEES!? What do the locals drink!?

Being the 4th largest coffee producers in the world, Indonesia has been on my checklist for the longest time. In general Indonesian coffees are known for their full-bodied, rich taste and vibrant yet low-toned and gentle acidity, and long finish/aftertaste. Some Indonesian coffees are quite earthy in flavour, a quality loved by some people but overpowering to others.

I love Sumatran beans especially those from Mandheling and Ling Tong for that sweet earthly aroma. Coffee from this region is generally processed at farm-level, using traditional wet methods. This gives the greens a complexity unique to this region.

I would have loved to visit some of the farms in Indonesia. But that shall be next on my list. During my 3 days stint, I have manged to cover some of the more well known cafes in Jakarta. Here is my list.

One Fifteenth Coffee

For those who do not know, 1:15 is widely known as the perfect or golden brewing ratio of coffee grounds to water. Perhaps that is how they came up with their name.

This place is on top of my list because they serve one of the best milk based coffee we have tried in Jakarta. The house blend consist of Sumatran and Java beans. Rich in complex aromas of red berries and chocolates.

The pour over on the other hand is disappointing. Raphael and I ordered 2 of their single origins only to find the flavours weird and the extraction awful.

In fact, the flavour is so intense to me that it tasted like a Chinese medical soup. I have no idea how they managed to pull that off but I must say, it is the first time I have palette a coffee that tasted like that. We had a laugh discussing if we should add salt and chicken into this coffee to make it a herbal chicken broth.

We also managed to sample one of the ice dripped coffee that our friend ordered with Pandan water.

Now this is also unique.

The coffee by itself does not have any coffee aroma. Instead, it smells strongly of lemon grass. The aroma of lemon grass is so intense we actually scooped the ice around trying to see if they actually placed a stick inside.

The clear glass on the other hand is simply sugar syrup melted down in pandan infused water. When we added this into the "coffee", the entire beverage tasted like our local grass jelly. No coffee aroma, no lemon grass. Just grass jelly!

How is that possible? We have absolutely no idea. Lemongrass + Pandan sugar = Grass Jelly?

As a beverage, I would say it is a somewhat refreshing pop. But I am not so sure if it can be classified as Coffee. Coffee coloured drink maybe?

Next up...

Sensory Lab

Located in a mall in Kelapa Gading is Sensory Lab. Along the same stretch lies Anomali Coffee and Toby's Estate.

One of the rarer places in Jakarta that serves Geisha Coffee. Their house blend for espresso based coffee is known as SteadFast and it consist of beans from Brazil and Colombia origins. The tasting notes of their house blend holds no surprises. As all Colombia beans, the coffee is rich in chocolate and nutty notes.

We were somewhat disappointing with the Geisha we've ordered. At SGD $9, it was considered a very affordable cup. But it tasted like a simple Ethopian Sidamo with no complexity. We were told the Geisha beans were roasted 1 week ago, which in theory should be the peak period to savour. Oh well, perhaps the skill of our barista was inadequate to bring out the bean's full potential.

Tanamera Coffee

There are quite a few outlets of Tanamera coffee now and even 1 in Bali where their roastery is. I have the opportunity to speak to their lady boss and heard that they are exploring the possibility of opening an outlet in Singapore.

The coffee is okay-ish. In my honest opinion, it doesn't do justice to the beautiful interior decor.

Spacious and clean, it is a very nice hideout away from Indonesia's legendary traffic.

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