My boyfriend found out that I have sinned. He watched me in mild horror as I disgracefully sipped my well-deserved cup of cappuccino, after attacking some slices of Quattro Formaggi for dinner. An Italian, he knows and adheres the commandments of Italian coffee culture by heart: that cappuccino, as well as other ‘milky’ coffee, can only be consumed in the morning, and never after a meal.
OK, so I have sinned. And from then on, I have sinned continuously by repeatedly breaking the commandments. What can I say? I just enjoy drinking coffee.
For some reasons, coffee has never had that huge of an impact on me.
I never felt my heart beating faster after gulping down an espresso. I don’t feel suddenly awakened or energised after consuming it. I can drink coffee before bed and sleep soundly for the next 8 hours.
Maybe I am dysfunctional—or somehow, have developed an inherited immunity towards caffeine.
My parents are heavy coffee (kopi) drinkers. My memories of a good morning is to wake up to the heavy and acidic smell of kopi tubruk for my Father (tinted with cloves and tobacco from his kretek cigarette) and the sweet and milky kopi susu for my Mother.
It has become a signature morning smell I’ve grown up with. Something to let me know that everything is okay.
The smell of coffee in the morning means it’s a good morning: where I can find my parents in the kitchen, sitting together, talking over their hot cup of coffee—not fighting, or arguing, or a kid’s scariest nightmare: disappearing. Thirty years later, I still find it comforting to wake up to the smell of hot coffee in the morning.
The smell brightens up my day.
When I drank my first coffee, it was love at the first sip.
I have always asked Mother for coffee since I was probably 6 years old.
Every week, we would go to a coffee-smelling stall in Pasar Anyar local market where she bought a pack of freshly ground coffee wrapped in brown paper. It could be one of my favourite stalls in the market—apart from the stall where they sell the latest Japanese comics about ballerinas and the one selling MSG-loaded chips.
But every time I asked for coffee, Mother always said no.
“It’s not for children. It’s for adults. If children drink it, they become stupid,” she said, while sipping hers.
I had no idea why Mother suddenly decided to let me drink half of her kopi susu when I was 13. Either she thought I was already an adult by simply being 13, or she didn’t mind if from this point forward I would be stupid.
However, I am forever thankful for the chance, the long awaited opportunity: my first encounter with adulthood.
I still remember the sweet and slightly bitter taste of it, the combination of my hometown’s most famous Liong Bulan coffee and condensed milk: the way it glided so smoothly on my palate, so thick and heavy yet smooth and creamy.
It was a bliss.
And I have never stopped drinking coffee ever since.
I drank more coffee during the times when I religiously watched Gilmore Girls series aired on TV, never missed an episode.
The way mother and daughter started their morning with coffee and went about their days with more sounded like a heartwarming concept.
Plus, I have always rooted to be the straight-A bookworm daughter in the series: I wanted to be Rory. To be like her, I study (carrying my pen & binders everywhere), read books, and drink coffee.
You may have concluded by now that my teenage years was anything but rebellious.
Indonesia may be most well-known for what people dubbed as the most expensive coffee in the world, Kopi Luwak or Luwak coffee.
The ripest coffee cherries are eaten by an animal called Luwak (a civet/palm cat), and the undigested coffee seeds that comes out from the Luwak’s faeces are collected to be made into your steaming cup of Kopi Luwak.
However, if you’d like to try it, please take the time to find out the source of your Luwak coffee beans, or get certified ones. Due to the high demand of this expensive coffee beans, sadly, there have been many practices of people capturing civets for coffee farming under cruel caged conditions.
As I grow up and the chance to travel around Indonesia occurs, I have the opportunity to taste many kinds of Indonesian local coffee mix.
When visiting a remote village, stopping halfway for some rest in an unknown part of a town, or simply needing a down-time after a long journey, spending some time in a warung kopi—traditional coffee stall—is always a good idea.
Here, sitting on a bench from wooden planks or a set of colourful plastic chairs, you can always have a nice cup of hot coffee with snacks like sticky rice, steamed cassava, sponge cakes, and sweet or savoury fries; while eavesdropping the locals talking about politics and latest celebrity news.
If you enjoy drinking coffee (kopi), here are some Indonesian local coffee mix you may want to try:
Coarse coffee grounds are mixed with sugar (sometimes palm sugar) and boiled water is poured over it. You’ll need to wait for the hot water to ‘cook’ the coffee. It is ready to drink when the floating coffee grounds have all settled to the bottom of the cup.
Kopi Susu (milk).
Kopi tubruk with condensed milk instead of sugar.
Kopi Jahe (ginger).
Adding hot ginger water to your coffee instead of plain water. You can also find some with crushed ginger (sometimes lightly grilled) dropped into the coffee.
Kopi Ijo (green).
In Tulungagung, you can find a greenish coffee with a smooth texture. The greenish coffee beans are roasted over firewood.
Kopi Talua or kopi telur (egg).
Well-known in West Sumatera, it’s a mix of coffee, sweet condensed milk, egg yolk, honey, vanilla, and cinnamon to be shaken until it’s foamy. There will be 3 layers on your cup: the custardy mix at the bottom, the coffee itself in the middle, and the foam at the top.
Kopi Joss or kopi arang (charcoal).
You can find this one along the railway station of Tugu in Yogyakarta. It starts with coffee powder and sugar as usual, hot water being poured over it, then a red-hot piece of burning charcoal from the stove’s fire will follow suit. For Indonesians, the sizzling sound of the burning charcoal hitting the coffee would resemble something like: “Josssssss!” Hence, the name of the coffee.
Either you like it or hate it: a piece of meat from durian fruit is mixed and stirred in a cup of hot coffee, resulting in a sweet, thick, and creamy coffee drink. Can be found in Bengkulu, but you may want to skip it if you have high blood pressure!
Popular in the small towns along the north coast of Java like Rembang, Blora, Pati, and Cepu, to name a few. The coffee beans are roasted with shredded coconut. Then, coffee powder and sugar is boiled together with water.
Indonesia produces between 650,000 to 750,000 tons of coffee beans a year, and is the fourth-largest coffee producer after Brazil, Vietnam and Colombia. Italy, the world’s largest coffee consumer, has become the main export destination for our coffee growers.
Do you come from a country with a strong coffee culture? Are there any local or special coffee mix in your area I need to try? Or some commandments I need to know before my visit?
I still start my morning with a cup of coffee.
These days, it has become more of a ritual rather than a necessity. It just seems like the right smell to wake up to, the one that reminds me of good days, somewhere far away in my tightly-kept memories.
I choose coffee shops over tea parlours every time, stacking a dozen of Torabika Susu instant coffee powder when I travel, and—despite the disapproving look from my boyfriend—still order cappuccino in late afternoon, after a late meal.
When I am lost or stranded in a strange country, in an unfamiliar city, in an uncomfortable situation, I let myself to be comforted by a smell of coffee: it could be black and strong, sweet and milky, light and chocolatey, and it doesn’t matter. I will follow it with my nose diligently, tracing the air for a sign of that earthy smell: a smell that keeps me rooted to the ground.
I know that I will always be in a safe territory the moment I step into a coffee shop, a coffee stall.
I know what to expect, what to smell, what to see, what to hear, and what to order. I know the cups—whether it’s plastic, carton, or ceramic—will snuggle perfectly inside my resting palms. I know that I wouldn’t need an extra sugar. I know the coffee won’t burn my tongue if I let it sit for 2.5 minutes.
As its thick bittersweetness and slightly creamy texture bursts in my mouth, I sometimes wonder how drinking coffee makes me really feel—only to keep coming back to the same conclusion: that it makes me feel like an adult.
It can’t be so bad, being an adult, I tell myself, if it can actually taste this good.