When was the last time you sat at a coffee shop and struck up a chat with a stranger next to you? Indeed, it’s not an easy thing to do, especially when the social environment at coffee shops nowadays dictates otherwise, from those glued to their screens to those who prefer to keep to themselves. At Toko Kopi Tjaraka, a coffee bar run by founder-slash-barista Apin Tjaraka, these walls became non-existent.
Lodged within the residential neighbourhood of Kejaksaan Agung in Pasar Minggu, the warung kopi, as Apin described it, would be easily missed if not for the slightly-opened front gate. With no signage that cues the shop’s existence, only faint instrumental tunes from the mini speaker and a clear peek into the front porch of Apin’s family home would reveal that there’s something going on inside: people in between conversations taking in their morning coffee with Apin manning the modest bar at the centre.
Here, Apin serves manually-brewed black coffee. It’s the only offering on deck, with a selection of curated Indonesian beans rotated every two weeks. One of them is Ciwidey, lightly roasted beans from Bandung with notes of orange and caramel; have it cold, the strong fruity aftertaste seeps through; have it hot, the tangy flavours become much more apparent. It’s this spectrum of flavours in coffee that Apin also likes to explore, one element of coffee brewing that still excites him to this day.
The only food pairing on offer is also equally straightforward. Wanting a traditional Indonesian snack that does not overpower the flavours of the coffee beans, Apin opts for the traditional kue kamir, a light-tasting round-shaped bread from the Pemalang Regency. As fate would have it, he found a kue kamir stall near his home to supply his daily needs.
“Curiously, most of our guests are out-of-towners coffee enthusiasts or newcomers who are settling into the city,” said Apin, who is also a part-time photographer. “Like these guys, they didn’t know each other before coming here. They just found out they’re from the same town in Padang,” said Apin as he pointed at the two men engulfed in a conversation. A natural storyteller himself, he would chime into the chat once in a while, acting as the middleman between his regulars and new guests.
Usually open from 7 am to 1 pm, with operating times still notified the day before on their social media account, Toko Kopi Tjaraka is not the kind of place that passersby would magically run into. A lot of people come already with intentions and expectations of what they want out of their visit, and in the case of Apin’s coffee shop, it’s the allure and excitement of tasting new beans and in the process, befriending Apin himself. It’s a novel aspect in the midst of curated experiences that follow many coffee shops nowadays, and in this regard, Toko Kopi Tjaraka reads like a breath of fresh air.