If you’re new to coffee, or just trying to understand what’s going on in this trending business, here’s the summary of what happened in coffee scene through the eyes of Toni Wahid.

The Story So Far

If you’d like to know about the development of coffee industry in Indonesia, perhaps Toni Wahid is one of the first people you need to see. The author of Cikopi.com has been writing about coffee since 2007, dar before single origin bean or manual brew became common sight. To many, at the time Cikopi.com is the only media in Internet to learn about coffee. Until now, if you’re Googling for nything related to coffee, it’s highly possible to find Cikopi’s link at the

top of the search results.

When we met Toni Wahid in his office, we’re a bit surprised to know that he’s actually a Manager Assessment & Remediation Supplier Sustainibility for a retail clothing company, Gap Inc, not related to coffee at all. As expected, when 2 coffee drinkers talk about coffee, accompanied by a glass of coffee, of
course, time flies. Here’s our interview with Toni Wahid.

It seems like people’s perception for coffee has completely changed?

I ask you, what’s so cool about drinking coffee? It’s a drink for elders, for night patrols, or students who are facing exams. Everything’s changed with the arrival of Starbucks (came to Indonesia in 2002), with Schultz’s proficiency in changing coffee activities and adapted them into American culture. If cappuccino was served in small cups, he upsized everything, then add sugar, who doesn’t love sugar? Ever since, coffee shops have become the third home, asidefor house and office.

We can get Blue Batak or Ethiopian bean in coffee shop easily, but 5-7 years ago, we have very few single origin coffee, even though coffee shops are growing. Finally, we have Anomali Coffee (est. 2005) which focused on single origin Indonesian bean. Since then, we have more middle class with their rising purchasing power and overseas graduates who just returned from America or Australia. There were many of them, some opened their coffee shops because they want the same coffee they had in other countries.

Tell me about the legendary unboxing V60 story at your house, it seems unforgettable for many coffee people.

Same like coffee bean, the brewing tool was very limited back then. I was very happy when I saw someone sold Vietnam drip in Kaskus for Rp 75.000-100.000, or when I bought French press at Starbucks, but it was very expensive back then, around Rp 400.000-500.000. Of course, people would think, why spend over Rp 500.000 just to brew coffee? Not to mention the coffee grinder. We haven’t got any manual grinder, meanwhile espresso grinder was very expensive.

When Maharaja Coffee sold V60, which was very popular in America and Japan, I immediately ordered one and invited all the coffee people to come to my house. It was around the end of 2010, we have some coffee people such as Adi (Taroepratjeka), Irvan (Helmi), Mirza (Luqman), there were around 10 people. We
were so happy to find a brewing tool that can simply brew nice tasting coffee, even though it was just just basically, a plastic cone. We tried to brew coffee using it until midnight, a bit cheesy I know, but we were so excited back then.

Please note that I was probably the first Indonesian to have Hario Buono, which I bought in Korea 2007. It was a very sexy kettle, this was the first step and we
were expecting other more sophisticated brewing equipments to come along.

We already had a coffee community back then?

Coffee community is a bit loose, we’ve been friends for a while. Whenever we have anything new, we’ll contact each other, “care to try this tool?” After that, we
had Gene Café roaster, we never imagine to have portable roasting machine which produce decent roasted coffee. And then we gathered again to roast coffee at the side of the road, because it was smoking. Coffee people have high curiosity, we’re very eager for knowledge, not just as coffee drinker, we’d like to know the story behind everything, from brewing, roasting, to coffee farm.

What’s the idea behind Cikopi.com, there was no such blog in Indonesia which focused on coffee?

We have many coffee blogs now, but perhaps I started earlier, around 2007. I built Cikopi because I love sharing, of course with my simple approach. The topics were very general, after audience had the big picture, they will look for further information elsewhere. Back then, who would read blog about coffee? Moreover, if I had used complicated terms. So I used the blog to share my personal experience of testing equipments, tasting coffee here and there. People started to pay attention, and it continues until now. It’s been 10 years already, almost 11, crazy isn’t it?

The one who starts the 3rd wave movement in Jakarta was One Fifteenth.

Look, coffee shops were mostly conservative, don’t pay much attention to interior, and were not coffee showcase, more to usual hangout places. Then One Fifteenth came and offered something different. It had nice interior, expesinve machines and equipments, and we could see what the baristas were doing, similar to open kitchen concept, but we could talk directly with the baristas. Thus, interaction and engagement between visitors and baristas were created.

One Fifteenth also offered different identity in F&B world, it was not just about lifestyle or passion, we could enjoy the whole coffee drinking experience, using our own selected bean and direct interaction. Drinking coffee was no longer seen as private sphere, it turned into public sphere, moreover, when the guests started to upload the photos to social media.

Are you happy with the current coffee scene?

Both. I’m happy when people got the chance to enjoy the best commodities from Indonesia and the world, we have to appreciate it, and coffee shops offer it.
We can’t boast Indonesian bean’s quality without comparing them to imported bean, can we? Now we can do the cupping easily. Secondly, the business grows
entrepreneurships. Opening a coffee is sufficient with 1-2 million rupiahs, it has been proven.

1-2 millions? What sort of coffee shop?

Let say Kopi Apik in Majalengka. They opened a coffee shop at the house’s patio, initially offering Vietnam drip coffee with only milk, coffee, hot water, and
they earned success. With Rp 5.000-7000 coffee/cup, you can hangout as you like form 4.00 pm-12.00 pm, and people gathered there. However, in Indonesia, we
need main course to accompany the coffee, so it’s a bit difficult for a pure coffee shops, they’re gonna struggle a lot.

Yes, many idealist coffee shops started to offer main course menu.

At the end, it’s more to bistro. I always say it from the beginning, it’s not a coffee shop until you serve fried rice and oxtail soup. Indonesians love social interaction, they can chat for hours, and it makes them hungry. For them, pastry, cakes is not a meal. So there has to be main courses, be it local or western, in addition, there’s big profit behind those menus.

The realistic coffee shop will switch the concept, because, let’s be honest, how many cups of coffee you can drink? A cup? Two cups? More than that, your stomach will be bloating. You have to follow the movement of the industry. Keep your idealism for brewing coffee at home, it’s a different story when you’re
facing the customers.

The thing is, Indonesia is actually a tea drinking nation, not coffee, that’s why sweet ice tea and lychee ice tea sells really well. The one who’s most successful in changing the habit is Kopi Blandongan in Yogyakarta, it’s a 24 hour coffee shop which can be called as pioneer of coffee shop in Yogyakarta.

People are opening coffee shop with small to limitless budget, using very expensive machines. Back then, it was very difficult to sell grinder for 11-12 million
rupiahs. Now, to buy grinders worth over 20 million, people are like closing their eyes. When the products arrived, they were sold out immediately, you even
have to be on the waiting list. The same goes for espresso machine, it’s getting more sophisticated, attractive, and becomes the showcase in a coffee

Then, what makes you unhappy?

We have many closing down coffee shops, whether they’re too excited or because of poor execution. However, I believe it’s purely mismanagement issue, it’s not
the coffee. Just look at Kelapa Gading, they have so many new coffee shops. The condition is similar to San Fransisco, there’s a joke that said that San
Fransisco have more restaurants and it’s actual residents.

F&B industry has high mortality rate. Who says that? All of the coffee vendors, so I can safely say my data is valid. I don’t know the exact number, but let say
from 10 coffee shops, usually 2-3 will close down within 3 months - 1 year. Sometimes Indonesians are strange, when they have low income, everything is
okay, but when they started to gain success, they started to have conflicts, and in the end, they’re closing down. It’s the most common cause.

Second, many overly excited owners spend too much budget without thinking when to get ROI. They borrow loan from bank, hunted by debt collectors, and it’s the end. Last, it’s mismanagement issue. If a coffee shop has 10 investors doesn’t have any idea of where they’re going, when they had conflicts, one by one started to quit, and then the end.

On the other hand, we have so many success stories, most of them already have commitment to build a business, even though it started from idealism. They have
planning, clear vision of where they’ll be in the next 2-3 years, and they execute the plan well. Koultoura Coffee for example, they didn’t rush to open
new outlets, and then Ismaya Group with its Djournal Coffee that grow so fast, of course, they already have the basic to manage big F&B business properly.

Then we talk about roasters. Do you know how many roasters, or the self-proclaimed coffee roaster in Jakarta? Perhaps it’s over a hundred. We also have micro
roasters. Can you believe that you can start roasting business using roasting machine with only 250 gr capacity? People bought it because it’s all they can
afford, it worths around 7 million rupiah. One of them is my own best friend, Yunus from Roswell Coffee in Bandung. He started with 250 gr machine, then we
have Kopi Pak Wawan, Get Back Coffee. Now they already use bigger capacity machines, do you know Kopi Pak Wawan? Do you know their tagline?

We cover them in previous issues, it’s “Hati riang dan membuat ketagihan” isn’t it?

It’s an old school tagline, the name is also not sexy at all. Most people would use cool, sophisticated names. But make no mistake, they started it with small
roasting machine, but they had planning. I know Ronald (Prasanto) personally, he knew exactly form the beginning in certain year need to have this and that,
they have certain target, then they execute the plan with discipline and gain success. Then we have Society, a roaster in Purwokerto. They’re just a business entity in small town which can penetrate Jakarta, even better than the Jakartans. Can you imagine that? Purwokerto?

Since the arrival of One Fifteenth, Tanamera, Common Grounds, coffee has become something artisan. Suddenly came Kopi Tuku, how do you see it?

Let’s just talk the majority. How many percents of coffee drinks who have their coffee without sugar? If you came to a coffee shop, look at the ratio of manual
brew and milk-based coffee, it’s 95% milk-based, milk has slight sweetness in it, mind you. That’s the preference of majority, you can’t deny it.

Kopi Tuku changed the perception that artisan coffee doesn’t always mean expensive. It’s a very unique phenomenon where everyone can enjoy coffee without being bothered by tasting notes, as long as it tastes good, sweet, easy for anybody, the exact opposite of artisan coffee. The name is also catchy, the business
direction is also clear.

Actually, not only Tuku, in Kalimalang you can see many food stalls which ended up opening coffee shops. An then in Bali, we have BC Street Coffee. They offer
coffee that’s brewed using Rok Presso or Vietnam drip, and the food is Indomie, it’s selling very well. Sometimes, we just want to hangout at night without thinking too much about the origin of the coffee, the roast profile, tasting notes. That’s the perception of the majority, except coffee enthusiasts who have deeper curiosity, there are not too many, but the number is gradually increasing.

What’s your best coffee experience?

I had the best coffee with coffee farmers in mountain with 1500 m altitude, in Bondowoso, very nice! The view was spectacular, it’s 15o C, we were having coffee in coffee farm and had nice talk after the difficult trip. Because as we know, coffee plantations usually have steep terrain, you need to
use motorcycle.

What’s the coffee farmer’s favorite brewing method?

Not all farmers consume their own product. When I visit a coffee farm in Pengalengan, I brewed them coffee with V60, they felt different sensation. “Is it really coffee from my farm? I never know it tasted like this, very nice? It’s the first time we have our own coffee!” they said proudly. They don’t have
any idea that coffee can taste like that, much different from their experience
of having instant coffee for years. Ironic.

The trending issue now is, many coffee communities is arguing about what’s wrong and what’s right.

I see it this way, coffee is just a drink, just have fun, don’t be too serious. There’s no magic number in coffee, that’s my hypothesis, be it in roasting, brewing, anything. If we have, some sort of polarization, it’s because people want to boast their identity, no problem. However, there will never be an exact answer for things like coffee, because the trend is continuously growing.

If until now I brew coffee with 1:15 ratio, it’s merely because the number is easy to remember. We just discussed about brewing ratio, let alone grind size. For more hardcore barista, they will discuss the pouring method, water temperature, water composition, there are so many variables. It’s better if we be humble to respect others without forcing our opinion to to them, we’re talking about something that is very volatile.