With coffee getting ever more popular among sophisticated Indonesian consumers, savvy lovers of their favorite brew are looking beyond the coffee out of a box outlet where they took their first sip.
They are looking for individuality in an intimate environment where coffee is king rather than the name on the mug.
Klinik Kopi, located on the campus of Sanata Dharma University’s school of environmental studies in Yogyakarta, is trying to meet that need.
Open from Monday to Saturday in the afternoons and evenings, manager and chief barista Pepeng has strict rules on how his coffee should be enjoyed; no small children and one must eat first and visitors are advised to let him know via Twitter of their planned visit.
Located at the end of a narrow lane, on one side is a series of murals stating support for one of the local soccer teams. The other side of the road is occupied by low maintenance and simple houses, probably used as kost — the ubiquitous student accommodation of Yogyakarta.
Klinik Kopi had been open only a couple of months before word got out in the urban grapevine of Yogyakarta — especially through social media — and Pepeng has since branched out into private brewing for parties and at homes. But again, he wants to do things his way.
“I always ask first: is it okay for me to wear shorts? If I’m not wearing shorts, then I’m not feeling comfortable,” he says.
He explains that he has a certain standard of informality when he takes outside jobs to do private brewing to serve his coffee at wedding parties, an informality which also applies to Klinik Kopi. There are no tables, no fancy decor, no music: the only food served is a rudimentary form of roti bakar — just toast with a kind of nutty spread.
His indifference to clothing contrasts with this fastidious approach to the intricacies of coffee brewing and making.
The price of the coffee is cheap thanks to him buying directly from the farmers. Pepeng talks fondly of his engagements with Pak Mukidi in Temanggung.
“For me, this is a project of connecting people. Introducing coffee lovers to one another. Of course this also has an educational purpose. I want to teach people about what good coffee is, about how it is brewed, where and how it is grown.”
“Most of the coffee served in Yogyakarta is terrible,” he states as he lifts up a sachet mix of coffee, milk and sugar. “People don’t know about what good coffee tastes like or how to make it. One of my customers said that his coffee didn’t taste so good after I sold it to him. I asked him how long he left it ground before drinking. He said it was a couple of weeks. Of course it tasted no good — coffee needs to be brewed when it is still freshly ground.”
Pepeng uses a Presso Espresso machine to brew his coffee. The machine is simple — similar to a two-armed wine bottle opener, in its upwards and downwards movements. It requires no electricity and is easily portable.
Unlike typical espresso machines: this one is silent and the barista approaches the task as if he were taking part in a tea-ceremony. His movements are predetermined, rhythmical and focused.
“I can take this anywhere. It’s environmentally friendly. I grind the beans, and then, within 20 minutes I have to use them to make the coffee, otherwise the beans already start to lose their flavor.”
There are some strict rules to follow in using the machine. Pepeng establishes himself as a connoisseur of coffee and also as a coffee educator.
Pepeng explains as follows, “the coffee must be tamped evenly, otherwise the flavor won’t be consistent. The coffee must drip onto the side of the cup, otherwise the crema will break up.”
The intimate setting of Klinik Kopi allows him to engage directly with his customers. It’s as much about a process of engaging with an expert (and business man of course) as it is with drinking coffee.
There is a touch of zeal about his coffee enthusiasm. On this night, Anang, a Yogyakarta-based architect from Lampung, is enjoying a late night coffee before going off to work. He says, “when I have coffee here, it doesn’t give me palpitations. There is always a new bean to enjoy, too. This mean one doesn’t get bored. The Toraja Kalosi beans are my favorite.”
The espressos cost Rp10,000 (90 cents), a modest price aimed at aspiring coffee snobs. It’s not a cafe but a clinic for coffee education.
Gd. Pusat Studi Lingkungan Kampus Universitas Sanata Dharma