In Pursue Of (Self) Excellence

Bringing almost two decades of coffee experience, Vivi Sofia established Simply Brew as a part of her pursuit to excellence.

After almost two decades of learning and doing process, Fifi Sofia has now stands among the best coffeepreneur in the island and beyond. Passion Media has a chance to catch up and chat with this amazing Iron Lady of coffee, in which she shared many interesting perspectives that can only come from a brilliant mind with relentless zeal in pursuing the best of herself.

Could you share a bit of your background in the world of coffee; how it all started, and who inspires you to enter this business?

I started 18 years ago in coffee business as marketing at Kopi Bali, selling coffee machines. I go door to door from one hotel to another. I also took care of the service and maintenance of the machine. After a while, I tried to study the inside of the coffee machine, because I cannot sell them if I don’t know what happen inside of the machine. After that, I eventually learned how to be a barista. When people started comparing local coffee imported one from Italy, I learned how to roast and blend the coffee to compete with that imported coffee.

The person who inspires me to do coffee business is an old relative of mine. He is the owner of Kopi Bali. He teaches me how to do the business, how to be a wise person in this business. He always says; ‘It’s better to be a big fish in a small pond, rather than small fish in the ocean”

According to your experience, what is the characteristic of coffee that Bali consumer loves the most? What makes it different from other parts of Indonesia, let’s say, Jakarta for example?

For me, Indonesian in general has one similarity of favorite coffee characteristic; Dark roast, robusta, less acidity and they like to put sugar in it.

Most Indonesian people likes to put lots of sugar in coffee, ya?

Yea, but again, I don’t against sugar in coffee, because in some ways coffee is kind of chemical, and if you put a bit of sugar sometimes can chance the flavor of the coffee, make them taste even better.

Tell us about your achievement so far. Which one is the most memorable?

Become a person who drinks coffee (Laugh)

You didn’t drink coffee before your enter the business?

No. But now I have become a Q Grader and AST International Trainer for roasting, brewing and barista.

What do you think are the best trait to have if someone wants to become a good Q Grader? Share your insight with us.

Well, lots of people still don’t fully understand what ‘becoming a Q Grader’ means. They think that once earn the title they already on the top position. Q Grader is essential if you want to work as bean trader or roaster for example, because you have to trade the green beans, than its fine. Q Grader title is not that important, in fact, it is the last thing you will ever need to add if you’re not working on areas mentioned above. Being in a coffee business is a never-ending process of learning. At the end of the day, it is the taste of your coffee that will matter to others, not the title behind it.

How did you tell a good coffee bean from a bad one? Is there any specific method to determine?

First of all, when you receive the sample, you have to open, roast and taste it. There are so many beans that look nice, but tasted unacceptable. For me it’s always the taste, not only by the look.

What is the most common misconception about coffee that you’ve been dying to tell people all of this time?

Drinking coffee gets you gastric. People think it is the fault of the coffee, but for me that’s not always the case. Sometimes it’s caused by mistake in the process, either roasting or brewing. For example, when I have a gastric, I’ll be fine to drink 20 cups of coffee if I don’t have anything on my stomach before. But when I drink coffee that has been soaked with water for more than 6 to 8 minutes, then, no matter how good  the bean or brand is, it will immediately give me gastric. So the problem is not in the coffee, but how people approach it whether in the making or drinking process.

What do you think about the growth of ‘Third Wave’ coffee generation. Would it be just another temporary trend?

Not temporary trend, but so many people on ‘Third Wave’ generation don’t learn the coffee well. I saw a lot of people are just like ‘Monkey see Monkey do’. For example, if you see someone from another country more profound in coffee, people just see the end result but sometimes they forget about the ‘Why’. Let’s say, if someone makes coffee with this way, you have to see that coffee related to water, temperature, roasting style. Maybe he uses another kind of water, why he used this method. Keep in mind that not everybody in the world ready for ‘Third Wave’ coffee. You have to slowly give them knowledge about the ‘Why’ before you actually serve them a ‘Third Wave’ type of coffee, otherwise, you’ll just make them scared.

What is your most favorite coffee-related quote?

Coffee makes life more alive.

If you could master one skill that you don’t have right now, what would it be and why?

Baker, my passion is actually being a baker, not a coffee maker.

That’s surprising! So why don’t you just become a pastry chef and open a bakery?

I always want to do something and be the best. When I started doing coffee I also tell myself that I have to do good and become a master of this, and then, you have to continue learning. Until now I’m still learning and never consider myself as a master. After I feel enough and I have known everything in coffee, then I will go and become a baker. Eighteen years and I haven’t felt enough (laugh).

So when one day you decide to become a baker, do you think you’re going to be as successful?

I think yes. I always said to my son; if you put me as farmer, I will be the best farmer ever. If you put me in other kinds of business, I will be the best there as well. Whatever you do, if you want to do it good, it will become your passion.