Constant buzz and erratic jams are only a few reasons why we often find Jakarta’s Old Town (Kota Tua) impossible to endure. However, once you cast your focus away from the traffic, finding solace in the Old Town is a fun challenge, given that the area is gifted with lots of nooks and crannies; and Semasa Café + Shop is one of those places.
Semasa Café + Shop is the offspring of Semasa di Kota Tua, an initiative to enliven the Old Town through creative market, workshop and tours, started by duo Hutomo Joe and Gunawan Lo. The market, which is regularly held since 2015, takes place in the near-century-old Olveh Building – the same establishment where Semasa Café + Shop resides.
Located on the third floor of the building, the entrance to the café gives way to a compact space with only a few tables and chairs for patrons. On one side, a communal table is set into a recess, a favourite spot among solo visitors to sip their tea, with a window view that overlooks the daily scene in front of Stasiun Kota.
When it comes to menu, Semasa keeps the options concise except its assortments of tea. Other than the customary ones (Oolong, Jasmine, Earl Grey), there are several tea blends which Joe, a tea specialist, would happily walk you through, and if you got extra time on hands, he would readily perform a simple tea ceremony upon request.
As the name suggests, the café shares its space with the shop, which acts as an extension to Semasa market. That’s why, if you happen to miss the market, feel free to browse the shop for local goods (such as ceramics, tote bag, notebook, bath essentials) from various vendors that are being rotated periodically.
Despite how little Semasa Café + Shop is offering, one always ends up staying longer than planned at this establishment. It could be the yesteryear ambience of the space that suggests the feeling of being somewhere far away from the modern city of Jakarta. But, if you need a quick reality check, just cast your gaze outside the window towards the chaotic jumble of the streets.