Interest and Respect – perhaps most accurately in that order – are the two basic dispositions humans need to prevail and progress individually, culturally, spiritually, and socially on planet earth. Settling on the moon would not change a thing.
Forget pride, forget intelligence, forget rights. Forget even equality, for the notion that we are equals, is a traitor. We are better off by firstly being interested and respecting even or especially unequals, irrelevant of what moves, inspires and makes us physically and spiritually secure. And unequal are the cultures we travel to indeed.
The little bit of traveling I have done so far has helped me acquire a taste for various things in varied ways. Is this not precisely what cultures are about? I opt for recognition of their wealth and beauty.
Once in Asia, the first take on cold coffee that I witnessed was on my visit to Essence Coffee in Shanghai, where a clear focus is the attention to their customer. Also an effort to abide by the rules and rituals that coffee shops are offering internationally when they grind, weigh, tamp or pour, plus their mindful eye to the shot – everything is clearly in play. After all, global championships for crema, latte, mixology, and even choreography, are making the barista a travelling artist, allowing us to see very similar coffee expressions in Tokyo, Seattle, Hamburg and Istanbul, as well as in the most remote towns on any given continent.
However, creativity knows no end, not in business concepts and not in individualistic one-barista temples. My takeaway here was the presentation embedded in the choice given to the customer of deciding how much of the served coffee to drink cold or hot. On a wooden tray there were a small carafe with hot coffee, a glass in which to pour it hot, and an additional glass tube placed in ice, in which to pour another portion and allow it to chill quickly. As a little extra, a small glass container contained unused ground coffee, allowing me to take a whiff of the coffee in its dry state.
The next day I woke up in Jakarta and immediately began investigating the most lively city I have ever witnessed. After a 20-minute ride between hundreds of mopeds passing us on the right and on the left, we entered Wisang Kopi (twitter, instagram). It felt like being in a tiny nightclub that has yet to open, and like being in the barista’s kitchen at the same time. He was busy preparing his coffee concentrate, and relaxed took the time to serve us. A very different world this was. Theirs is the undivided attention to essence and basics, to the point that they literally and in atmospheric approach scream: “DAMN MANUAL BREW!”
Before leaving New York, I was already familiar with the eighty-eight year old traditional Paperik Kopi Aroma of Bandung. While still sitting in the taxi, I was happy to recognize the Dutch colonial building from afar, and to queue behind some 30 locals, awaiting my turn to buy coffee at what is commonly known as Aroma Coffee. This coffee factory was opened by the Chinese Tan Houw Sian and is led since his passing in 1971 by his son, Widya (Widyaphratama). Mr. Sian learned the art of the trade from his Dutch boss towards the end of the colonial era and opened his own factory in 1930. Since 1936 the company operates with a German Probat ball-shaped roasting machine. The coffee grinders of the first years are still operating or in display – some dating back to the turn of the century.
Aroma Coffee is a factory, and that is not an overstatement. Behind the building is a terrace covered with coffee seeds; behind the tiny shop in the front entrance, there is a small room where five to seven young men, dressed in their coffee-brown uniforms, fill finely ground coffee into small bags – be it the 5-year aged Robusta or the 8-year aged Arabica. Housed between this packing station and the terrace, are sacks of aged organic coffee and the roasting machines that burn with the wood of rubber trees, in order to produce fire with red flames, as opposed to the blue ones obtained from fire generated by gas.
And these are just three of the many reasons I travel, while building the foundation for the Aristipposian Poet.