The World’s Seventh Brewer

When someone who is ranked 7th in the World Brewers Cup offered you a cup of coffee, you don’t say no!

Espresso or latte are interesting options, but that afternoon, a cup of V60 filter coffee would be obvious for me to understand why Harison Chandra, one of Ottoman’s owners, won the IBRC (Indonesian Brewers Cup) 2017 and managed to get the 7th seat in World Brewers Cup. In fact, this is the best achievement for Indonesia after having difficulties in getting to the world’s top 10 for any coffee categories, from barista, brewers, latte art, or cup taster. This is what leads us to Ottoman’s Coffee Brewers.

“What sort of bean would you like?” asked Harison. “I want something bright, with no bitterness,” I answered. At first, I was doubtful with the use of high temperature (98oC), after a sip, I realized my concern was pointless. The Ethiopia Kelloo bean from Smoking Barrels (roaster) tasted so bright with citrus, floral notes and sweet after taste. I didn’t even have to try too hard to figure what’s going on in the cup.

Fortunately, Harison share the similar taste preference as I do. “I like bright coffee, bitterness is a big no no for me! Most people only concerned about body and sweetness, that’s what I call one-dimensional coffee. For filter coffee, the first rule is it has to be clear, very clear and clean so we can quickly and easily gets the notes. It’s like when you’re drinking orange juice, you know right away that it’s orange, don’t you?” explained Harison.

Manual Brew

After that, Harison told us his affair with manual brew. “There’s so much art in manual brew, most of it involve hand movement, the choice of water, temperature, grind size, the ratio of water to coffee, the brewing method, etc. Meanwhile in (espresso) machine, you have less room to explore,” he said.

Harison stated that he has different treatments for each origin of coffee bean. For example, Indonesian coffee is mostly lower density bean as they are planted in relatively low altitude. Thus it requires much coarser grind size, lower brewing temperature, and shorter extraction time, around 1,5 – 2 minutes. Relatively short compared the other bean which has to be extracted for 2,5-3 minutes. “Actually, it is very easy to brew coffee, but to make a perfect cup for customer, there’s so much to learn. It’s about science and art, you have to understand the climate of the bean’s origin and the roast profile from the roaster,” he added.

“When I was preparing for World Brewers Cup 2017, I’ve done lot of research. I practiced from Monday to Saturday from 10.00am to 10.00-12.00 pm. It involved lot of thinking. I experimented with each parameter one by one to see the effect on the final cup.”

The Brunch Concept
Harison continued his story of living in Brisbane, Australia for 10 years. This makes him familiar with the brunch concept. “Usually on weekends, Australians woke up late, they started to go out on 9-10 am. Australian brunch has to be tasty, hearty, got generous portion, and enjoyed with coffee or tea. To me, you can’t separate brunch and coffee, they are one thing,” he explained.

In 2014, he returned to Indonesia without any plans to open a coffee shop because he thought that the market wasn’t ready yet. He visited a 2014 F&B exhibition where he met the people from Common Grounds Coffee who encouraged him to open up his own coffee shop. Finally in February 2016, Ottoman’s Coffee Brewers was officially opened.

“From the beginning, we wanted to specifically focus on coffee. We also provide 7-8 light bites menu, such as Egg Benedict and pasta. After running for 8 months, we weren’t happy with our performance and thinking to change the concept. For coffee, the concept stayed the same, however we added the food menu up to 30-40 items. Since then, our sales is steadily increasing 20% each month. From October 2016 until now, our sales has increased four times,” stated Harison.

One of the main focuses in Ottoman’s is the brand reliability, which was shown in the use of quality ingredients and presentation. All of the drinks in Ottoman’s Coffee, from coffee, juice, and smoothie, don’t use any of the syrups or artificial flavors, only fresh ingredients are allowed. “Many customers ask for menus like matcha latte, we don’t provide it because it affects our brand image. We want to drive the market, not driven by it,” he stated.

The second thing is about presentation. What you see in the menu, that’s what you’ll get on your table. “I always warn the kitchen staff. They have to the presentation in the menu photo, and when it came out of the kitchen it has to look exactly the same. Nothing is more disappointing than a product that came out not as good as the photo. To me, it is intolerable,” he said.

The highlight food menus in Ottoman’s are Smashed Avocado (fresh avocado, two poached eggs, feta cheese and pesto on sourdough) and Croque Madame (beef/pork ham, Swiss cheese, béchamel, tomato reduction, sourdough & house salad). Meanwhile, for healthy food, they have various Granola Smoothie Bowl and Overnight Oats.

Worrisome Trend
There’s so much factors in determining the quality of a coffee shop, form the concept of the drink, coffee to the interior. I asked Harison’s opinion on this matter. “Currently, to me the most important thing would be customer service. If someone is serious in running a coffee shop, he would put special efforts in this, it includes how to serve the guest, coffee knowledge, the bean selections, and cleanliness. Many baristas focus on creating the perfect cup, but they often make the guests felt ignored. If it comes to this, no matter how good your coffee, the guests will never be happy. We can fix the taste of the coffee, but it’s hard to fix the barista’s attitude.”

One of the most worrisome things about the coffee shop trend is the sustainability. Harison even felt that the growth is no longer healthy. “Many people come to a coffee shop just to try new place, they don’t necessarily return. Meanwhile people are racing to open up new places, it is no wonder that many of them are closing down due to the lack of knowledge on market, creating the perfect cup, but they dare to start the business,” he said.

“I used to think that the more we have coffee shops, the better it will be to create the hype. I have no problem with competition because I’m confident with my products, some even asked me on how to run the business; I’m always open about this. To me, competition is healthy, but the problem is our market is not that sustainable. It happened to the milk tea trend. Do you remember? 2 years ago we have many milk tea businesses opened, where are they now? You’d probably think that people would continue drinking milk tea, but that’s not the reality. The track record of coffee shop business is not yet proven because it’s only been a few years, we still have to wait and see.”

Despite all of his concerns, Harison didn’t feel any doubts on Ottoman’s because it’s not all about coffee. “I believe food is more interesting. If we rely solely on coffee, we’d probably have died by now, because no matter how much we love coffee, we also loce to do business. I see it this way; the food sales support the coffee. We can use delicious and expensive beans, but it won’t be sustainable if we don’t sell food.” To support this argument, Ottoman’s Coffee Brewers is even planning to open up new outlets in Surabaya on this November, and in Mega Kuningan, Jakarta on January 2018.

In other word, save the worries if you’re not planning to open any coffee shops in the meantime. Just sit back and enjoy the growing number of coffee shops, which offer great range of products, concepts, and interesting interior. However, if you want a coffee shop which combine the concept of coffee and brunch seamlessly, you’d be hard pressed to find other coffee shops which belong to the same class as Ottoman’s Coffee Brewers.