“Indonesia is a nation of coffee drinkers , and I want to tap into their consciousness in the morning!” says the self-confessed coffee lover Dr. Syahrizal (Rizal) Syarif who by day is a lecturer in Public Health at the University of Indonesia, and at night a barista.
”Its an amazing market of 250 million coffee drinkers,” adds the coffee King of Depok, who recently opened another branch at the University of Indonesia. Kimung Cafe in Depok isn’t Four Squared yet (I’ll do that later!) But Rizal doesn’t need that kind of promotion. It’s packed most days around midday as government officials take their lunch break. And in the evening, there’s a constant buzz of coffee lovers streaming through his doors.
The sign at the front advertises Ox tail. Located twenty kilometers from Jakarata in the new Grand Depok City, you can’t miss this cafe which is opposite Aladdin Water Park. The day before, I was on a mission at the local immigration office here in Depok, where the cafe is located amongst a row of new shop buildings.
It was a chance meeting and a very unassuming cafe, with tables and chairs outside covered by a green canopy. Rizal, who recently finished his PhD in Newcastle, Australia, is the kind of cafe owner who will sit down at your table, and explain his menu. He’s particularly fond of his coffee, and so am I.
Would you go as far to say that drinking coffee is a philosophy? “Yes its an ideology as well. I want Indonesians to drink better coffee. This coffee shop is a medium for that!” Locally, Depok Coffee culture is despairing. There’s Harvest, a high-class franchise coffee shop, offering great coffee and cakes at inflated prices. But that human touch is lacking. To find place where you can chew the cud with the owner, and explore together your passion for coffee, you aren’t going to find that a Starbucks.
“Nope,” says Rizal, ” But here you will. And nor are you going to find good quality Indonesian coffee at an affordable price at those kind of places.” On the menu, there’s a quote from Albert Einstein: “There’s always room for a cup of coffee with friends.” And many coffees and hours later, I’d say that Rezlee is a man who practices what he preaches.
”I’m actually a researcher,” he says. He shows me a list on his Blackberry of 62 places of coffee houses he has researched and adds Memory, on Jalan Jaksa to his list. “I will check it out!” he’s says, after my recommendation. He just got back from Acer where he visited the largest coffee plantation in Indonesia. “I’m still sourcing for the best coffee,” he said, when I met him recently in the lift, at Margonda Residence, where we both live.
He tells me that for the Vietnamese filtered coffee on his menu, which is served with sweet condensed milk, “I went to Ho Chi Min City and visited every coffee shop over a five-day period until I found out how to make it.” Now that is dedication.The self-confessed hobbyist of coffee not only can boast being a barista of extreme virtue, but he also decorates his walls with photographs of books he has read and coffee shops he has been too.
“I read a book in a cafe, then I take a picture of the coffee cup and book.”
Its time to smell the Java, says Rizal. ” I’ve been Star Bucks, I’ve been to Killiney , I’ve even been to Dunkin Donuts. But after a while, the blandness of taste just blends into a blur, and enforces the fact that it’s really hard to find a good cuppa coffee. “
He believes half the blame lies with the Indonesian government who should be promoting home-grown coffee.” What happens is that companies like Star Buck and Killliney, come in from overseas, set up shop, and buy local coffee and charge hight prices.”
In 2010 he opened up this cafe for daughter, who seems to have a flair for running coffee shops. ” I asked her what she wanted to do, and she said she wanted to run a cafe!” He adds that she is a special needs child, and “it was a case of opening up her own business. She can’t read or write, so that really disadvantaged her in the job market!”
Certainly a good ingredient for a successful cafe? “More like a labour of love,” he answers, saying that he will open up two more branches in the next few one months, one in West Kalimantan, the other in Jakarta (which he opened up last month, in front of the University of Indonesia).
“This is my service to Indonesia, to put coffee back on the agenda, and let Indonesians enjoy what is their right. We have three of the best top ten coffees in the world, yet we can only drink it an expensive internationally owned franchise companies.” ”I want to bring the great coffee back to the people. Everyone should have a chance to have a good coffee at an affordable price. That is why I promote original Indonesia coffee. I gIve my customers the best three choices. Why confuse them with a selection of 16 different coffees, when they don’t know the difference between arabica and robusta.”
How did you learn about coffee. “I leant by myself. If I love a coffee, I’ll try to find it on the internet. Like This one, “he points at the Vietnamese coffee that we are savoring, ” I spent three months experimenting for the best coffee that works with condensed coffee.” He won’t tell me the brand of the condensed milk. ” Not all condensed milk works with the coffee.”
To find the right mix, he spent many months perfecting his blend for his Vietnamese coffee, which is a secret combination of arabica and robusta . As to what condensed milk he uses, I ask him again. “It’s unethical to divulge,” he says, with a mischievous smile. I went out the back, and can confirm, he only uses the best condensed milk.
“You’d be surprised how a good condensed milk can enhance a coffee.”
“Yes,” I answer, “Carnation sweet condensed milk can really bring out the flavor!” He’s a perfectionist. And when it comes to coffee that is highly appreciated ! Nothing worse than a bland and uninspiring coffee.
” I’m here to create an awareness that our coffee is just as good. That is why I offer three choices, coffee from Aceh, Sumatra to West Papua. I want to show case the best Indonesia coffee growers have to offer.”
I”m now drinking Sumatra Madali. People must think we are crazy. We are. But Rizal is in form, and doesn’t miss a beat. “Its acidity is medium! And bitter! And rich!” he explains. And this is what Kimung is all about. You’d be hard pressed to find a place like this where you can spend the afternoon drinking coffee and doodling thoughts on coffee and its virtues. I’m buzzing, “Yes, my coffee really does give you a ‘boost’,” he says!
Editor’s Note. I come back to Depok, five months later, and Rizal has opened up his third branch. We met a shopping mall, and in the elevator. His enthusiasm for coffee hasn’t wained. But I didn’t tell him that I found a great coffee shop in Depok, that’s very unpretentious and offers the best coffee in the area, rivaling Kimung Cafe. Check out my link below for a run down on Star Mugs.
- Battle of the Street Bands, Depok (farsidetravel.net)
- Star Smug coffee house, Depok, Indonesia.
- Vietnamese Coffee (eztravelpad.typepad.com)