When in a new city, I always like to drop by a few coffee shops just to get a feel of the locality’s people and culture. I find that coffee shops are a petri dish of a city’s working population; there you will see a lot of different people from all walks of life, all united by a beverage. Coffee is an equalizer. It doesn’t matter if you are an engineer, an office urchin, a creative, a poet or even a traveller: you need coffee to wake you up and to keep you going. I also love people watching, and cafés are the best place to spot locals doing their thing in a natural, comfortable setting.
It is only right that Indonesians are big coffee drinkers. Indonesia is a humongous archipelago, and some of its islands offer the most ideal growing conditions for the best coffee beans that make their way into the international market. Names such as Sulawesi, Toraja, Java, Sumatra and Kopi Bali are becoming more commonplace these days, especially with the spread of the third-wave and artisanal coffee culture. What I love about Indonesia’s coffee habit is that it gives as much, if not more, priority to local cafés over international coffee chains.
Here are some coffee shops and cafés that you can visit when you need a caffeine fix in Jakarta and Bandung:
1. A Bunch of Caffeine Dealers (ABCD)
“We are not a coffee shop”, says ABCD’s blog. It is, according to the owners, a playground, a workshop, a kiosk and a pop-up coffee bar. ABCD can be found among the cluster of trendy stores in Pasar Santa, an old public market that artsy locals have converted into an urban collective of bookstores, vintage shops, art galleries, boutiques and record stores. They announce pop-up schedules through their Instagram account, and when they do brew coffee, they only serve up the best beans sourced from around Indonesia and the surrounding regions.
Address: Pasar Santa, Jn. Cipaku, Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta
2. Café Batavia
If you are a fan of colonial architecture, old-world charm and history, Café Batavia is worth the trip to Jakarta’s old town. After seeing the ruins and old Dutch heritage buildings in Kota, Jakarta’s version of our very own Intramuros, drop by Café Batavia near the governor’s building and the town square for brunch and coffee. The interiors are jampacked with vintage photos and nostalgic memorabilia, lending it an Old Hollywood feel. The place also serves traditional Indonesian food with Western coffeehouse staples.
Address: Jalan Pintu Besar Utara no. 14, Jakarta Kota, West Jakarta
After a trendy hike through Kemang’s tasteful and hip bars, boutiques, art galleries and indie shops, you can retreat to Casa, which can be found above Aksara, a shop that offers everything from rare books and vinyl records to fixie bikes and trinkets.
Casa has great coffee, good food and a great selection of spirits, liquors and mixers to let you transition smoothly from coffee hour to happy hour. It doesn’t hurt that the place is achingly stylish too, with its collection of mismatched couches, hardwood floors and minimalist décor.
Address: Jalan Kemang Raya no. 8, Kemang, South Jakarta
Djournal is artisanal third-wave coffee at its finest. You never run out of options, as they offer different brewing methods such as the good old espresso, cold drip, syphon and pour over. They pride themselves with brewing the best beans from Sumatra, Sulawesi, and Bali, which are regarded as the best coffee plantations in the Asia Pacific. Djournal can get busy at times, but the well-trained baristas still take the time to explain their meticulous processes, making for a great coffee experience. Grab a seat by the pour over bar and watch the baristas as they deftly prepare cups of specialty coffee: it’s fun and educational at the same time.
Address: West Mall, Grand Indonesia, Thamrin, Central Jakarta
5. Kopi Legit
Malls are usually rife with chain coffee shops that offer predictable and boring coffee, but Kopi Legit, located at the ground floor of the busy Plaza Semanggi, is a breath of fresh air. They offer local coffee beans with a wide array of food and dessert options. You can sample staple Indonesian dishes with their coffee while enjoying the warm ambiance.
Address: Plaza Semanggi, Jenderal Soedirman, South Jakarta
Monolog feels like your traditional European coffee shop, with fresh bread and pastries taking equal turns in the limelight with expertly brewed coffee. Not that I have ever been to Europe, but I imagine that Monolog would be how it would feel like to grab a cuppa in an Italian or French coffee shop. The place is beautiful, with hand-written chalk signs, wood and brick interiors, and tall windows that allow you to watch passersby amble about. The pain au chocolat aux amandes is to die for.
Address: Palm Gate, Plaza Senayan, Jalan Asia Afrika, South Jakarta
7. Saudagar Kopi
This independent coffee joint is best enjoyed after a drunken romp in touristy Jalan Jaksa with its profusion of dive bars and pubs, or after a heavy dinner of nasi goreng, sate and bakso in Thamrin’s street food lane. Tucked in an unpretentious corner on Jalan Sabang, Saudagar Kopi offers a retreat from the chaos of Jakarta’s street food epicenter, where every night is a food fiesta of Indonesian classics. The staff is friendly and accommodating, and the interiors are cute and conducive to sipping lattes while winding down from a long night out around the heart of the city.
Address: Jalan Sabang, Thamrin, Central Jakarta
8. Starbucks Reserve
I think apart from the artistry and the meticulousness of the new coffee culture, it is important that coffee drinkers know where their coffee comes from. Starbucks has proven time and again that their roots are firmly planted in sourcing the best beans, and delivering the best crop from the estates to the cup. Their Reserve branch in Grand Indonesia Mall has wonderful salvaged wood interiors that are inspired by Indonesia’s rustic coffee roasting plants and plantations.
Address: West Mall, Grand Indonesia, Thamrin, Central Jakarta
9. Giggle Box
Bandung’s status as a hip and quaint university town has opened its doors to cutesy coffee shops and hangout spots where millenials can plop down with their books and laptops and work for several hours with friends over lattes and cakes. Giggle Box in Jalan Progo is a perfect spot for enjoying the young and eclectic creative energy of Bandung. Its al fresco seating area also lets you enjoy the crisp Bandung air, especially in the evenings when temperatures dip to chilly mountainous lows.
Address: Jalan Progo, Bandung
10. Two Cents
Bandung is one of Indonesia’s textile centers, and its main city streets are peppered with outlet stores selling export overruns from the nearby factories. After spending a few million rupiah on bargain clothes and shoes, drop by Two Cents at the end of Jalan Riau for a refreshing cup of meticulously prepared coffee. Two Cents caters to a young collegiate crowd, and the place is always full of students and young professionals. What’s not to love about a conducive coffee shop with fun interiors and a quirky tentacle erotica-inspired mural?
Address: Jalan Martadinata-Riau, Bandung