My Jakarta: Narti, Juice Seller
Kevin Sanly Putera
Whipping up juices for 12 hours starting at 4 a.m. and fighting off hoodlums is not an easy job, but Enyak (a Betawi term for ‘mommy’) Narti has been doing it for 11 years. Employing four workers, the 43-year-old Narti and her crew offer fruity goodness to customers daily at the gates of the Citra Garden 2 housing complex in Kalideres, West Jakarta.
Doing her part to encourage healthy lifestyles, Narti hopes to persuade more people to consume fruit, in whatever form they may take. She tells My Jakarta that expanding her juice stall into a cafe would be one way to further the reach of her pro-fruit agenda.
You let your customers decide any combination of fruits in their juices; has anyone ever complained about any weird tastes?
As far as any weird demands for combinations, I use my feeling as well as the information I get from books and my own experiments. If I think it won’t have a nice taste, I will tell my customer. But if they insist, I let them try what they want.
For my own experiments, I have tried most of the fruit combinations commonly used in juices. I once pioneered a passion fruit juice; I realized it would be a delicious drink if I used ordinary white sugar instead of syrup for sweetening. I still rely on my instincts for measurements.
What are your guidelines for creating an excellent combination?
Everyone has their own taste, but before initiating an experiment, I will take a little time to think and anticipate its taste and effect — will it have a synchronized taste and mix nicely on your taste buds? And once I have the result, I keep all the combinations in my mind.
What’s your personal favorite juice?
It’s a combination of lime, dragon fruit, pear and milk. It’s delicious and it can cure panas dalam [a medically unacknowledged sickness in Indonesia, manifested in different symptoms, from mouth ulcers and a sore throat to constipation].
As a fruit enthusiast, do you have any childhood stories of stealing fruits from your neighbors’ trees?
As a matter of fact, yes. I remember this one time with a neighbor who had jackfruit and orange trees. I was craving them so much at the time, so I threw a stick at one of the ripe jackfruit hoping that it would fall off. My effort ended up with a good result; a jackfruit fell off and I took it away. Unfortunately for me, but fortunately for the owner, he spotted me with my loot and I was scolded like crazy [laughs]. It was a beautiful childhood, indeed.
How much fruit do you use every day?
For popular fruits like oranges, we use around 15 to 20 kilos, and 8 to 10 kilos of avocado. For other fruits, we stock three kilos each. I always buy the fruits myself. Even though the prices of some seasonal fruits are expensive, I still have to buy it and adjust my juice prices later. I am always looking for the best quality fruits. At most, we can make about 200 glasses per day, and around 100 glasses at the very least.
How did you start your business?
I was working in 2000 but I could not make a good enough living, so I tried having my own business. Even though I didn’t have enough start-up money, there were friends who helped with financial support. And so, this juice stall was born.
Now I can make a living for me and my three kids, my employees and pay my stall rent. That last one keeps me busy. As for my husband, he abandoned us for another woman in 1988.
Have you ever run into any kind of trouble doing business at your current location?
I don’t really know about the rent system in my complex. Even if I’ve paid the security fee and other fees, they still complicate my business with their rules and regulations. I guess this is our fate as lower-class citizens.
Some hoodlum here was actually someone that I once helped. One day, he came with his gang and wanted to pester my customers for money. I faced him and talked to him by myself. He even tried to bump me with his motorcycle. I said, ‘I once helped you in your hard time. And this is how you show your manners? You may disturb me, but not my customers. And if you want to apologize, I forgive you.’ After a hard argument, he apologized and left. It’s not only about money, it’s the mental pressure. I have to ‘pay’ more for that.
You have four employees right now. Do you have any plans to expand the business?
I want to have a long and healthy life tending to my business, which I hope will one day be expanded into a proper cafe. Serving more customers and influencing more people to consume more fruit is my goal, because there’s simply no reason not to. Fruit is very good and healthy.
Narti was talking to Kevin Sanly Putera.