These days, it’s becoming quite rare to find cafés that exist solely out of a shared love for coffee. So, stumbling upon a place like Tiger Cub Coffee comes as a real treat for coffee aficionados, as well as for those beginning to dip their toes into manual brew. Unassuming, warm, and tucked away in a quiet neighbourhood in Cilandak, at Tiger Cub, things are done in a way that makes the most sense for lovers of the caffeinated beverage.
Cubung Hanito is the coffee connoisseur pulling the entire operation together. With almost a decade of experience running his other coffee establishment Wisang Kopi in Panglima Polim, it’s safe to say that his guests are in good hands. For Cubung, five cups of coffee a day is adequate fuel to play the roles of barista, shopkeeper, and even occasional writer all at once. Because of his many responsibilities, he kept the design of the place more on the practical side, or as he described it, “with no specific aesthetic, just something that would ease the workflow”; hence the simple wooden furnishings and bare white walls, setting the stage for the only thing worth contemplation—the coffee.
The menu changes every now and then so that regulars may be pleasantly surprised by their next visit, yet black coffee is always the star of the show. A simple piece of white paper showcases a curated selection of beans, each one characterised by subtle notes only years of experience could identify. With his trained palate, Cubung beckons us to taste beyond bitter, traversing into sour, savoury, and at times, even bordering the sweetness of tropical fruits such as pineapple and tamarind as found in Frinsa, one of the many specialty beans on the menu.
But the absence of vanilla lattes shouldn’t deter anyone; Tiger Cub offers an array of homemade tea blends to appease the sweet tooth as well; the Apple Pie, technically a green tea, contains notes of pineapple, coconut, cinnamon, and apple, mixed together in a harmonious blend emulating the savour of the freshly-baked dessert. A chocolate chip cookie or slice of chiffon cake, made by Cubung’s wife, is also served in case one craves something sweeter to offset the intense flavours of the caffeinated drinks. Though these are the only food items on offer, what lacks in variety is made up for with the homey atmosphere.
A family man at heart, Cubung extends his friendship to everyone who walks through the front door, always trying his best to converse with them. Although some days permit it, other days the place would find an unexpected crowd that the most he can express is a genuine, “How’s your drink?”. On an ideal day, the conversation would continue, dipping in and out of talks of coffee, segueing into stories and laughs.
With concise offerings that don’t cater to what one would expect from coffee shops nowadays, Cubung understands that some may not find what they’re looking for at his shop (like the popular sweet latte es kopi susu, for one), and that’s okay. But for those who do stick around, he hopes that in time, they can look back fondly with good memories. Just like how Cubung likens Tiger Cub Coffee to a cat: “Not everyone likes them, but once they do, they really do.”