Jakarta, Caffeinated: Grace’s Review of Cafes in the Big Durian

20170506_143821I never really became a café person until moving to Indonesia.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I love those quirky hipster cafes with mismatched furniture, drinks in mason jars, and local art on the walls as much as everyone.  But prior to coming to here, if I needed wifi or a space to work outside of my own home, I always preferred the library, whether that was a college/university library or a public library.

But libraries, especially public ones, are not very common in Indonesia.  And so, as an ETA, I often found myself lesson planning, blogging, or sending messages home to friends at cafés instead.  As the Researcher/Coordinator of the ETA Program, I took some time off from work so that I could write my research report, and again found myself working in cafés.

To spice things up, I decided to go to a different café every day, based on lists of cafes that I found online, and recommendations from friends.  Jakarta does have a number of great cafes, so this was a really fun adventure for me.  What follows is my own personal guide to cafés in Jakarta.  It is of course limited by the fact that I did not find the time to visit all of the cafes that ended up on my list, but I did get to visit a fair few[1]!

NB: I’m not actually a dedicated coffee drinker, so my assessment of a café’s drinks is based entirely off of my actually being a tea-drinker, and being very, very fond of sweet drinks, especially those that involve chocolate.  When I go to a café, I am there for the wifi and the table to work at, and the coffee is there to keep me awake for a long time.


There are several Anomoli locations around Jakarta, and I visited the Steiabudi location.  It had a fun, hipster-y feel to it, and all of the seating was very conducive to working.  The staff was lovely, and the food and coffee really quite tasty. It was also very accessible via the TransJakarta (the bus system in Jakarta), my favorite form of transportation in Jakarta, which does influence how I feel about a café (if you are hard to reach, you really need to be worth the trip).  I only visited this café once, but had I spent a little longer in Jakarta, I would have most definitely have visited again.


This café is located in one of the fancier malls of Jakarta, in which I always felt a bit out of place, so I expected to feel the same way about the café.  But Monolog quickly became another favorite of mine, mostly because everything on the menu was delicious (they had the best yogurt smoothies I tried anywhere in Jakarta).  I do have to fault them a little, because when I ordered a simple tea it came simply as a tea bag in a cup of hot water (and I had to put the tea bag in myself), but anything else I tried there was incredible.  There weren’t quite enough outlets to make it a sensible space to work in for an extended period of time, but it was a great space to hang out with friends.


Common Grounds

This café was a mere ten-minute walk from my apartment, which was very fortunate for me.  The coffee and desserts were all delicious.  It was not necessarily the best place to work at, as it was in a mall and things tended to get really loud, but my housemate and I would often go there to get ourselves out of the apartment on the weekend.  The actual food is really hit and miss: some of it was incredible, and some of it left me disappointed.  But the drinks are enough to make it worth a visit, at least once.

20170501_174134Komunal 88

As a tea drinker, I loved this café.  They had teas from all over the world, and served them all in pots, which in my eyes is the only correct way to serve tea.  The mocha I had was also pleasant, and the food was delicious, if the portions a bit small for the price.  There was plenty of space to work, but not quite enough outlets for my taste.   The staff was amongst the sweetest I came across during my café tour.  I only went to Kommunal 88 once because it was a little out of the way and not really accessible via the Trans, but had I lived in Jakarta longer, I’m sure I would have found myself there again.


Dia.lo.gue was most definitely the coolest café that I visited during my coffee explorations.  The entire café doubles as an art gallery, and I was very much into the exhibit that was on display when I visited.  There is even a quirky gift shop attached to the café.  With indoor and outdoor seating, there are lots of options, though the café does quickly fill up on the weekends.  The food and coffee was good, but not thrilling, and there weren’t really quite enough outlets to make it a good café to work in.  But as a fun place to meet friends for brunch, I would definitely recommend it.

17881180_1237534322966986_4185108947465666560_nReading Room

I wanted to like this place.  I really did.  The atmosphere of the place truly seemed made for a book-loving nerd like myself: chock-full of English language books of all genres, it had the feel of an old bookstore.    But I found the drinks mediocre, and the whole place smelled strongly of cigarette smoke, which I found distracting as I was trying to work.  As a quirky place to visit with friends, I could see myself going again, so long as we sat near a window.  As a place to work, it just didn’t really cut it.


I went here with friends, and was impressed by the atmosphere of the place.  It had a selection of seating options (tables for those there to work, tables for groups there to socialize, comfy chairs for those there to read), and a good number of outlets.  I tried their Nutella frappe, and it was quite tasty.  If I had one complaint regarding Cremetology, it was that it wasn’t conveniently accessible via the trans, which was my favorite form of transportation in Jakarta.  Probably because of this, I only went the one time, but I wouldn’t have minded going back again.

20170420_111904Tana Mera

This quickly became one of my favorite cafes in Jakarta.   The food and the drinks were all amazing.  There is plenty of seating both indoors and outdoors, and I never had trouble finding a place to plug in my laptop when I went there to work.   The staff were all genuinely lovely (or really great actors), and they had this simply wonderful tradition of shouting “Pagi!” (“Good morning!”) to everyone as they walked through the door, regardless of the time of day, explaining that they felt this was more optimistic (if it is always morning, you always have the whole day ahead of you).  Tana Mera is located right next to Thamrin City, one of the main shopping centers in Jakarta, and I would stop in for a red mocha (think red velvet cake in latte form) anytime errands brought me to the area.


This café had a great atmosphere: very sleek and modern, with a lot of potted plants around.  I was really excited when I walked in, but I was fairly apathetic by the time I left.  It was difficult to find a seat near an outlet, and there really weren’t that many, and the staff seemed to lack the friendliness I have become accustomed to experiencing in Indonesia.  The food and drink I ordered was okay, but nothing to write home about.  There did seem to be an impressive number of coffees from all over the world on the menu, which could definitely be exciting for true coffee enthusiasts, but I didn’t fully take advantage of that option.  I do know several people who do like the café, but as it really isn’t accessible by trans and wasn’t a great work environment, I never returned to it.

20170504_161945Sophie Authentique

Sweet is the best way to describe this café.  The décor is adorable, with wicker swing seats and pastels everywhere, and while the more savory foods were not quite as wonderful as I wanted them to be, any of the sweet food was absolutely incredible (I was rather fond of their crepes and their macaroons).  I do have to note that I always had a little trouble with their wifi each time I went, but I nonetheless found it a cozy place to work.



I met a friend for brunch at Antipodean shortly before leaving Jakarta, and absolutely loved it and wished I had discovered it sooner.  The food was incredible, the staff was adorable, and the place itself was cozy.  It was a bit small, and not really accessible via trans, so I don’t know that I would have ever made it a regular work café, but I would have happily visited again if I had had the time.





This was one of my favorite cafes in Jakarta.  It wasn’t too far from a TransJakarta stop, it had plenty of options for work spaces, and the food and coffee was delicious (and it served proper tea in a pot!).  Their breakfasts were especially pleasing, and the food was all really reasonably priced, especially for the amount that they gave you.  Trafique has a lot of natural lighting, and it was quirky without being overwhelming, which made it a really productive place for me, though I also enjoyed visiting it with friends on the weekend.


I was only able to visit this café once, as it was a little far from where I lived, and not really accessible via the TransJakarta.  But I was really into my experience.  Rubiaceae is a female-run café, which is awesome.  It had a great vibe, and was one of the only cafes I went to that served a chai latte, my favorite drink (and it was good, too!).  Had I lived closer, I definitely would have visited Rubiaceae again.


[1] There was one café in particular that I really wished I had gotten to visit, and wasn’t able to: Giyanti.  Anyone I knew who had been there raved about it.  However, the schedule is a little tricky to work around, so I was never able to find a time to go.


Navigating Volcanoes, Drinking Coffee, Playing Futsal, and Being Bule: Orientation Part Two

As orientation progresses, we have had more opportunities to engage in more authentic experiences in this amazing country in which we have found ourselves.

As part of our Bahasa training, we went to a pasar (market).  ITC, the market we explored, was not a traditional market, as it was an indoor space where vendors could rent space, but it was an opportunity to utilize our Bahasa in a real setting.  Though I stumbled over every sentence I attempted to utter, I did manage to communicate with the vendors to complete my purchases, as I expanded my ever-more-colorful teaching wardrobe.


Going to the market was also my first proper experience as a bule (a foreigner, usually Caucasian).  The word was whispered or, more often, called out, by almost every vender we passed.  Many even asked to have their pictures taken with us.  Sometimes, the reaction of those we passed was to simply yell “Beautiful!”

As bule, it seems we have attained a sort of celebrity status, a position I find baffling and more than slightly uncomfortable.  Though my privilege as a white American is something of which I am aware, I have never felt the need to be mindful of it more than here, where camera flashes are a constant reminder that I wear a face that mirrors those who colonized these islands for more than two hundred years.  Since most of my time has been spent in the bubble of the hotel with my fellow ETAs, I have not yet had an excess of experience navigating the bule phenomenon, but will continue to reflect upon it throughout my grant, and hopefully have open conversations about it at my site.


On our free day during orientation, I and many of the ETAs visited tangupan perahu, a volcano outside of Bandung.  The name means “up-turned boat” in Sudanese, in reference to the shape the volcano seems to have when viewed from the city.


In the crater of the volcano, there are natural hot springs, at which you can receive a sort of mud massage is you so choose.  Looking around, breathing in the distinct smell of sulfur, I was overwhelmed by the idea that I was standing in a place where the land had once breathed fire, even as recently as 1983.  The waves of heat coming from the springs seemed to me to be Mother Nature’s reminder that she will always hold unfathomable power beneath my feet.


As incredible as the volcano was, I believe the hike to and from the crater was my favorite part of the trek.  There was something reminiscent of home in walking through the forest and hearing the calls of birds and chirping of crickets that remained carefully out of sight.  And yet, it was also very different.  The trees and other flora are entirely unfamiliar to me, coming from a temperate climate; even the green here is one I have never quite seen before.  Unfamiliar though it may be, it is undeniably beautiful.


Following the hike at the volcano, our bus driver—ever patient with his American passengers, most of whom speak very little Bahasa—took us to what he claimed was a traditional Sudanese restaurant, and which turned out to be so much more.  Tucked away in a smaller town outside of Bandung, down narrow streets filled with chickens and children, this restaurant was famous for serving kopi luwat, or civet coffee, a specialty coffee made in the digestive tract of the civet, a cat-like creature native to Southeast Asia.  The civets themselves seemed to have free range of the restaurant, and weaved in and out of our feet while we ate our meal.


The owner of the restaurant very kindly showed us around his facilities and explained the process of making kopi luwat.  The civets are fed a special diet of papaya, banana, honey, milk, eggs, and coffee fruits.  The feces of the civet is then collected, and as the coffee beans are not digested by the animal and therefore retain their shape and inner coating, they are then washed and sorted for quality.  I am no coffee connoisseur, but I found that the coffee itself did not have the bitter aftertaste that other coffees seem to, though I was not able to taste any other significant differences.  I must say I personally preferred playing with the civet to drinking the coffee it helped produce.


Recently, we also had an opportunity to play futsal (indoor soccer) against the hotel staff.  The satisfaction of being completely owned by those who have waited on me hand and foot is indescribable.  It was also simply wonderful to step onto an indoor soccer field—something I have not done since high school—and kick around a ball with my fellow ETAs.


Though I am excited to finally go to my site and meet my co-teacher, students, and community members, I will miss being surrounded by my cohort.  Already, it feels like a sort of family unit, one I wish I could take with me on the next part of this adventure.