Head into Denpasar for coffee on Bali

When we finally got to Denpasar (via that snail-paced ferry from Java, and the tortuous bus route along the island’s windy roads) we found ourselves in the middle of Bali’s capital in a resort hotel frequented mainly by Indonesians, and well away from the touristy parts like Kuta or Seminyak.

There are countless coffee shops – probably run by Aussies and New Zealanders – over by the beaches, but we were treated to some quality local coffee culture within a short walk of our hotel in the centre of Denpasar.

Playboy's coffee house in Denpasar

First up, we found the rather dubiously named Playboy’s Coffee House, its image of the bunny rabbit’s head making us wonder what sort of joint we were entering.

The Nuova Simonella coffee machine reassured us, though, as did the house blend advertised, which married some local Aceh and Flores beans with a Yirgacheffe from Ethiopia. So some thought had gone into the coffee, and it showed with the resulting cappuccino, a delightful start to our day in Denpasar.

Good coffee in Denpasar at Playboy's Coffee House

It was quite a late start, mind you. At 10.15am, we were the café’s first customers (they open at 10am) so don’t dash along here for a crack-of-dawn cuppa. But if you are on the beach and fancy a coffee in Denpasar itself, Playboy’s could be the place for you.

You couldn’t find a friendlier pair than Steve and Eky, who run the show, either. The decor and fittings all look pristine and sparklingly clean, as if the place only opened a few days before, and there’s a nice touch, with Eky’s badminton championship medal from 1997 standing on the counter by the wall, showing there’s more to life than coffee…or at least there was all those years ago.

Playboy's Coffee house in Denpasar

There’s good air-conditioning here, or a terrace out the front if you prefer to bathe in the warm air, and a room at the side which is covered by a roof but otherwise open to the front. So, lots of options, and I’m guessing they are more of a nocturnal venue than early morning…

Outside Playboy's coffee shop in Denpasar

Which brings me back to that name: I asked the owners why they had chosen the name Playboy’s. ‘For fun’, they said, and to create a concept for the menu, which does indeed include lots of interesting innuendoes, though we didn’t try the Nutty Naughty, the One Night Stand or the First Fruit.

We stuck to their basic coffee and cake, and were very happy with that for our morning cuppa in Denpasar.

As we walked back towards our hotel, happy to have found good coffee on Bali, we passed by another coffee shop, which drew us in with its announcement that they roast their own coffee.

Golden Honey coffee shop in Denpasar

Golden Honey is an ‘artisan coffee roastery’ but also specialises in pizza! Again, we were the only customers in there at 11am, and with pizza not really on our minds, we decided to stick to the coffee, but wondered again if this was more of an evening venue, where people come for dinner and then finish their day with a quality coffee.

Coffee from Bali at Golden Honey coffee shop in Denpasar

As you’d expect from a place that roasts their own, the coffee was good, all Indonesian this time, which we also like to see, though I personally preferred the brew they gave us round the corner at Playboy’s (the thing is, it’s always hard when a venue is the second coffee shop to be visited in a short time frame – the joy of having the first caffeine of the day means the 2nd cup has to be extraordinarily special to gain the same effect on the senses…).

Coffee from Bali at Golden Honey coffee roastery in Denpasar

I loved the concept, though: locally roasted, using Indonesian beans – our coffee made even from a Bali crop – and selling bags of the best on the counter. Once again, I couldn’t resist, and we came away with yet another bag of beans, this time from Bali of course.

So, that was our last coffee on the road on an odyssey that began with Loustic in Paris and ended with Golden Honey in Denpasar. Our next coffee would be at Adelaide Airport, when we arrived the next day into Australia.

Good coffee in Denpasar

But there was still tea to come in Bali. More on that tomorrow…

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Taking tea in Jakarta: Indonesian tea, where possible

One of the great things about social media is that it allows you to connect with people you’d never otherwise know, and then if you happen to be travelling through their home town, it gives you the chance to meet for real. That’s what happened with Ratna Somantri, the head of promotion at Indonesia’s Tea Board.

Ratna’s enthusiasm for tea is so infectious that she has built up a 600-strong network of Indonesian tea lovers, many of whom meet up monthly just to discuss (and drink, of course) tea.

We arranged to meet Ratna on our last day in the Indonesian capital, not knowing that she had arranged a get-together of half a dozen others from Indonesia’s tea industry, so we had the pleasure of afternoon tea in Jakarta with tea growers and tea distributors from all over Java. Now, that made for a surprise tea party, making us want to return for one of their monthly big meet-ups next time we’re over.

Ratna is a great champion of Indonesian tea, but is far from her goal of seeing Indonesian grown tea on the menu in cafés and tea rooms all over the country and premium quality tea brought to everybody’s palate in her own country.

In fact, she reckons the TWG tea room in a trendy shopping mall in Jakarta is one of the few places you can actually order a pot of Indonesian tea. And that’s why she arranged our meeting for tea time at the the glitzy TWG Tea at Pacific Place. There’s a fantastic range of teas on offer there, more than 500 types, but only two Indonesian teas on the menu, so we got to taste both of them…

Indonesian tea at TWG tea room in Jakarta

We also tried the afternoon tea itself, with the classic tiered tray, delicate sandwiches, pastries and little cakes, all of which had a tea theme or tea as one of their ingredients.

Afternoon tea in Jakarta at TWG tea room

This is a really good place for afternoon tea in Jakarta, though it’s got a fairly exclusive glamorous look to it, and it’s not the cheapest place in town for a cuppa.

What made it extra special for us was the company. There was Alexander, the organic tea grower, who invited us back to visit his plantation next time we’re in the country; Retna, who plied us with samples of her wonderful teas, also grown on Java; and others whose names I didn’t note down (much to my shame – sorry, because we had some great conversations with all of them!).

Tea lovers of Indonesia

The good news for tea lovers planning a visit to Jakarta in 2015 is that there will soon be a new tea room opening soon. Gaia Tea & Cakes is the brainchild of Ratna herself, and it should be a wonderful platform from which to showcase more Indonesian teas than are available anywhere else at the moment.

Our other afternoon tea experience in Jakarta came at the rather splendid Hermitage Hotel in the Cikini district.

This is a new hotel in a recently renovated 1920s building; a really stylish place for taking tea. Sadly, as Ratna pointed out, their very good afternoon tea does not offer any chance to taste tea grown in Indonesia, even though you can choose from a number of other teas supplied by the same TWG company whose tea room we visited in Jakarta.

An eastern afternoon tea at Hermitage Hotel in Jakarta

What we liked most about the afternoon tea at the Hermitage was the option to choose an eastern afternoon tea with spring rolls, curry puffs, a delicious moist sponge cake and some gooey green stuff with coconut, which we couldn’t identify but tasted wonderful. as an alternative to the western style tea, with sandwiches, quiche, mini eclairs and macaroons (but no scones!).

Afternoon tea in Jakarta at the Hermitage Hotel

Tea at the Hermitage is only served between 3pm and 5.30pm but it’s well worth it, though we wondered if their price of about £7 (GBP) was just an introductory offer to draw people in. If not, it’s tremendously good value too.

It’s just a shame that they’ve gone for big corporate suppliers (even if they’re good ones like Illy for coffee and TWG for tea) when there are fantastic local suppliers who could make this a real showcase for all things Indonesian.

Still, for a country that is so associated worldwide with coffee, Indonesia is looking like it’s going places for tea. If we revisit in five years’ time, I like to think tea will be much more widely available and drunk in many more venues than now.

In the meantime, we are still trying the tea samples our Indonesian tea friends gave us, and very good they are so far, the red tea being our favourite at this stage…

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Coffee in Jakarta: quality, history, branding and something Swedish

Once we’d decided to cut Sumatra out of our itinerary, we actually had a few days to spare in Jakarta. We made the most of them with some fantastic coffee finds, bringing together all sorts of reasons for liking a coffee shop.

Most people in the west will have come across Java coffee or Sumatran, but once you’re in Indonesia, expect to be hit with the subtleties of coffees from East or West Java, from South or North Sumatra (Aceh being a popular coffee source tragically associated in my mind with the tsunami 10 years ago, but not usually thought of as a coffee region on the northern tip of Sumatra), and then the wonderfully exotic Papua, Flores, Bali or Sulawesi.

We may only have gone to Java and Bali on this journey, but our appetite has been whetted for future trips to other islands, for the tea as well as the coffee. Indonesia, we’ll be back!

Our first experience of coffee in Jakarta was actually our favourite. Tanamera Coffee has everything I look for in a coffee shop: friendly, welcoming staff, coffee roasted on-site, a good vibe and buzz from happy customers, not to mention good air con to escape the Jakarta heat and excellent wifi.

Tanamera coffee shop in Jakarta

Oh, and the coffee, was exceptionally good, too.

Good coffee in Jakarta at Tanamera

Tanamera Coffee was not that easy to find, mind you. If you’re not local to Jakarta, you may not realise that Thamrin City Office Park is not the same as Thamrin Plaza shopping mall or Thamrin City Hotel. And our taxi driver gave up pretty quickly, forcing us to ask about five people before someone had heard of the coffee shop…

Once you find Thamrin City Office Park, you can’t miss Tanamera. And if it’s anything like the day we were there, you’ll see a crowd of people outside sipping their coffee. It’s a mixed crowd, by the way, with as many westerners as locals, so word has got around the community clearly without the need for bloggers like us!

Outside Tanamera coffee in Jakarta

All the coffee on offer was sourced direct from the farmers, all over Indonesia and roasted at the back of the premises here. You could choose between a single origin or a blend for the espresso machine.

Great coffee in Jakarta at Tanamera

We loved this place and lingered for much longer than we would normally (partly due to the torrential rain that began to fall shortly after we arrived, forcing us to order a second coffee).

Tanamera Coffee in Jakarta

A really good coffee shop in Jakarta. Thanks to Aga for making us welcome (and thanks to Aidan the Aussie from WA who we didn’t get to meet, but who had the idea of setting this place up in 2013.

Bakoel coffee shop doesn’t appear in most people’s ‘top coffee shops in Jakarta’ lists, but we loved the place just for its sense of history.

Founder of Bakoel Coffee in Jakarta

It was founded in 1878 by a guy called Tek Sun Ho, whose portrait still stands proudly on the wall of their branch in the leafy district of Cikini. It has a Dutch name (Bakoel Koffie) and makes the most of its Dutch colonial past, with photos of the coffee shop from 1920 and 1938.

Inside Bakoel Coffee in Jakarta

The building still has a colonial feel, with ceiling fans rather than air conditioning, a leafy garden at the back and lots of old coffee making equipment around the place.

Bakoel coffee shop in Jakarta

There’s a choice of three blends on offer for your coffee: Black Mist, Heritage 1969 and Brown Cow, using blends of Sumatran, Java and Sulawesi beans. Yet another rain storm forced us to stay here for a second coffee, too, doubling our usual daily caffeine intake, but this is a great coffee shop for feeling a connection to history…

Dutch poster in Bakoel coffee in Jakarta

We don’t usually review coffee shops that are chains, preferring the individuality of the small business run by its owner or at most a place with two branches. But in Jakarta, there are several local chains, and we came across Anomali Coffee because we needed an early start one morning and these guys open their doors by 7am.

Anomali Coffee in Jakarta

The coffee was good, the atmosphere perhaps a little too big and urban for my liking, but I did love their branding. These guys have the best designers for the packaging of their coffees, so good that we bought a small pack of their Aceh beans to bring home with us.

Coffee from Aceh at Anomali Coffee in Jakarta

And it’s at Anomali Coffee that we realised the variety of Indonesian coffee you can get. They had probably the widest range of coffee for sale from a fantastic list of Indonesian islands, enough for a European visitor’s mind to boggle, especially as I’d never even heard of Flores or Toraja and had no idea that Papua was a place for coffee…

Indonesian coffee map

On our last afternoon in Jakarta, and on our way to afternoon tea (but more on that on the tea in Jakarta blog tomorrow), we stopped by Crematology in Jalan Suryo.

Map of Stockholm on wall of Crematology coffee in Jakarta

The coffee here too was excellent, the venue spacious and relaxing, but my curiosity drew me to the wallpaper over by the bar, which appeared to be a map of Stockholm, all in Swedish.

As I was paying, I casually asked why they had a map of Stockholm on their wall, and the barista suggested I ask the owner, who was sitting just by the wall.

Good coffee shop in Jakarta

20 minutes later (and by now running late for that afternoon tea…) I was still chatting with Elliot Davernas, the Swedish guy who set up the Crematology concept.

If you like an ethical approach to your coffee, Crematology has to be the choice for coffee in Jakarta.

Elliot has a hands-on approach to managing this coffee shop, and prides himself on prioritising home-made rather than factory produced, even for the furniture that fills the coffee shop. In fact, one week from the opening of this place, he told us, they didn’t even have a bar to work from because Elliot wanted all hands on deck to MAKE the bar from the solid block of wood he had acquired – all part of the team-building spirit that makes this one of the most egalitarian places to work in Jakarta, with jobs rotated regularly and everyone able to do anything to keep the place running.

Elliot’s passion is not only contagious, it’s addictive. I reckon even I would have joined in with the furniture making if I’d been on his team, though I’m not sure they’d have had such a smooth surface if I’d put the finishing touches to it.

It’s a shame I didn’t have  time to try more of the coffees and cakes on offer here at Crematology. But I’m really glad I asked why they had that map of Stockholm on the wall. After all, I always liked a coffee shop with a good story to tell. And Elliot can certainly tell a few of those.

But it did make us late for tea. And that was an even more special occasion, about which more to come in tomorrow’s blog entry…

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