Matter of Design: Mineral Cafe

by Runi Cholid
21st September 2021
A Matter of Design is an article series by Manual Jakarta where we call attention to memorable branding and design of lifestyle establishments in the city. On this occasion, we dive into the timeless and organic visual identity of Mineral Cafe, an amalgamation of different personalities where nature becomes a cherished presence as part of their sustainability-driven vision.

Too often, nature and remnants of our past are treated as enemies of progress. Green jungles are cut down to make space for concrete ones, while aged constructions are replaced with newer renditions. Such is not the case at Mineral Cafe’s 50-plus-year-old abode, into which nature’s touch is wholly embraced as who they are. 

The story of Mineral Cafe started with three women’s venture into Jakarta’s saturated coffee scene. “When you’re building a café, you need to create something that other cafés don’t have,” says co-founder Noi Hasibuan. For Mineral, they distinguish themselves with lofty goals of pushing sustainability not only for the environment, but also for the local economy through a curated marketplace of small rising brands. 

Before the dream could start, they needed a place to execute it, and they found their home in an old residential building situated at Gandaria Tengah. An architectural fragment, it has gone through several identities—from private dwelling, to car showroom and even boarding house. With the help of architect Muhammad Kamil and designer Io Woo from local design agency Studio Woork, Mineral Cafe establishes its own identity within the address’ story-rich confines.

Natural, organic, timeless, effortless, and humble; those are the words that mold the persona of Mineral Cafe. Beneath them all, the contrasting personalities of every actor in its creation come together in congruence—similar in fashion with the formation process of the rock substance that becomes its namesake—as portrayed in the shapes, typography, and colours that engender the coffee place. 

From its exterior, one may mistake Mineral Cafe’s no-frills and bright white façade as just another house in the neighbourhood, if not for the sign that boasts its signature three rocks logo. Each rock denotes a concept the establishment is built on: coffee, market, and space, while also representing the three friends behind it. Organically created from image tracings of small rocks, the three come together to form the café’s initial, ‘M’. And like all other signages within the premises, this placard is crafted using upcycled residual building materials sourced from the house. Touches of moss and rust enhance their charm, true to Mineral’s philosophy on nature.

The upcycling practice is continued within. Patrons enjoy their menu of choice on square tables repurposed from ceiling and door frames. They are not the only ones getting their fill at Mineral Cafe, as plants grow inside its bounds thanks to modifications made to allow sufficient access to natural light and air. Beyond that, very little is changed from the original blueprint. Exposed bricks and undone concrete are left intact as signifiers of the founders’ dedication to organic design.

“We believe that the approach to nature will give a familiar and welcoming feeling that will make visitors feel at home with the design and also the brand itself,” tells Io Woo. This same outlook makes its way into Mineral Cafe’s collaterals and packaging, all of which display the café’s three rocks logo as ever-present reminders of its identity. The three friends strive to use eco-friendly materials as much as possible, however the use of plastic remains unavoidable for takeaway bottles. They overcome this by opting for biodegradable plastic and educating their customers on how to repurpose their empties.

Indeed, in keeping up with the highly saturated café market in Jakarta, one must find its own spark to organically gather and maintain the public’s interest. In the case of Mineral Cafe, their drive for sustainability, shown in their approach to nature and the things that came before, becomes their best friend.