The original article was published in Indonesia Expat .com. Read HERE.
Writer: Indonesia Expat
Perhaps it’s just me, but I’m craving to sit at a new café with a picturesque ambiance while losing myself in a decadent meal.
Regardless of whether I’m alone or with a company, I wish to have a meal anywhere but home. Not exactly new, Kawisari Café & Eatery fulfilled my craving on a rare sunny Friday afternoon.
Since January 22, 2020, Kawisari has been serving residents of Central Jakarta and its surrounding areas with coffee beverages from one of the oldest plantations in East Java, the luscious 850 hectares of emerald-green slopes Kawisari Coffee Plantation in Wlingi, Blitar.
Legend says that Javanese state authorities and the Prince of Blitar from the Lembu Suro kingdom used this plantation area as a holy place before embarking on a mission to reach the peak of Mount Kawi for purification purposes. The Dutch Colonial Government in 1870 later founded and managed this plantation, which has been producing the finest Java Robusta coffee for over a century, as well as some more recent Arabica coffee and the famed wild civet cat Luwak coffee.
Locals have been manually picking only the ripest red coffee fruits in the most traditional way to obtain a specific aroma during the modern roasting process using a full-washed method, then dividing into dry and wet coffees. Immature coffee beans will float and be combined with green coffee and processed dry.
Traveling to Blitar might not be up to your pace, but this East Java-inspired eatery has managed to bring traditional, contemporary food and beverage recipes driven by centuries-old Javanese culture and a love for simple and unpretentious good food from the villagers of Kawisari to metropolitan Jakarta. It’s all thanks to Tugu Hotels & Restaurants’ desire to revive the atmosphere of fertile lands with its forests, waterfalls, and crystal-clear rivers at its fifth outlet in Indonesia.
Kawisari Café & Eatery is in a white two-story, preserved Dutch colonial building situated amongst government offices and other prominent restaurants on Jl. Kebon Sirih. Accents of the Kawisari coffee plantation in Blitar are personified through the wooden chairs layered with pastel cushions, rustic wooden tables, and giant paintings narrating the life of Kawasari’s coffee farmers. The light, open-air dining space is completely different from common cafés in the capital – a sought-out ambiance during COVID-19.
Nearby the Thamrin area, 80 people can fit both the lower and top floors of Kawisari. Two private rooms, Mahesa for 15 people and Tigris for 30 people, accommodate any purpose of meetings. Diners spotted here include government officials, business executives to cyclists having a snack with a cup of coffee mostly on weekdays. Weekends still see diners for a pick-me-up.
Interestingly, the menu is written in Indonesian, English, and Javanese. A mini-dictionary section in the menu teaches basic Javanese terms as well.
Coffee advocates are in for a treat. Kawisari offers mild and strong coffee beans whipped into ice-cold, hot, or blended variants with ice cream, milk, and even alcohol. Classic coffee and hyped coffee drinks such as affogato; iced coffee plantation madu, produced when the bees pollinate the flowers of the coffee trees; kopi doger, an Indonesian dessert; kopi klepon, another dessert; and more.
Kawisari’s coffee won the “Coffees Locally Roasted in the Country” award at the AVPA International Gourmet 2019 for their finest Javanese Robusta coffee in the categories strong, powerful, and bitter. Indeed, Indonesian coffees are worth global attention. Diners can purchase coffee beans and powdered coffee from the café, all Tugu Hotels & Restaurants properties, and via e-commerce platforms.
The simple practice inspired by the plantation workers in the Dutch colonial era has been adopted. They enjoyed a cup of coffee alongside traditional Javanese snacks. Hence, serabi mak-mak or Javanese pancakes, lapis jongkong which is a traditional green and black layer cake from “burnt” padi stalk, and pohong merekah made from fried or steamed cassava, are some snacks worth a try during your coffee break. The lapis jongkong isn’t too sweet – perfectly paired with sweet coffee variants, and the fried pohong merekah is crispy on the outside yet velvety on the inside.
Coffee is a centuries-old humble Javanese culture, with deep roots like Kawisari’s oldest coffee trees. It’s a way of showing love and celebrating life, and a daily reminder of how life is a gift.
Kawisari isn’t merely a coffee shop. Coffee might cause harm to some people’s digestive systems. Special concoctions of teas, ice-blended drinks, cocktails, mocktails, beer, and wine are available to your liking. Cascara tea, for instance, is highly recommended. This beverage uses dried skins of coffee fruits, brewed into a type of herbal tea. All parts of coffee beans are processed into drinks, suitable for coffee and tea connoisseurs alike.
Javanese cuisine has a burst of bona fide flavors like other regional Indonesian cuisines do. Nasi tompoh jagung – Indonesian corn rice – uses a bamboo handcrafted container as a plate. Inside, corn rice is accompanied by urapan sayur which is vegetables with shredded coconut; ayam goreng khas Kawisari or Javanese fried chicken; ikan asin bulu ayam, otherwise called salty fish, and sambal tempe; with a side of sayur lodeh campur, or vegetable curry, in a banana leaf-shaped like a small bowl. Sounds a lot but the corn rice helps to rest easy. Besides, you can get six different flavors: sweet, bitter, salty, savory, meaty, and spicy within a meal!
Other sought-out mains include bebek goreng lengkuas which is deep-fried duck with dried galangal; ayam goreng goela merah, or Blitar-style of crispy sweet chicken; and the specialty ayam goreng kremes Kawisari which is crunchy Javanese style fried chicken. It’s not exactly like your typical fried chicken, what makes the ayam goreng kremes special is due to the 12-hour long cooking process, done in such a way that the chicken meat’s texture is softer.
You can opt for the chef’s favorite, the newly included kepala salmon garang asem or sweet and sour fish-head soup, cooked with tamarind and blimbing woeloeh. This is a different take to the typical garang asem dish served with beef. Moreover, plant-based eaters are recommended to try the pecel Blitar, an authentic salad containing wild organic vegetables such as kecipir, papaya leaves, kembang turi, perkedel telo, and peanut peyek.
Eat like a Kawisari villager by spending Rp25,000++ to Rp108,000++ on foods and Rp28,000++ to Rp550,000++ on beverages. If you’re up for an adventure, Tugu Kawisari Coffee Plantation Eco Tour from Hotel Tugu Blitar is the perfect opportunity to gather your family or friends to learn more about the coffee plantation and the process within it, accompanied by home-cooked local delights.
The Kawisari way of life inspired by the Kawisari Plantation and the villagers’ very authentic Javanese kindness awaits you.
KAWISARI CAFÉ & EATERY
Jl. Kebon Sirih No. 77, Kebon Sirih, Menteng, Central Jakarta
Operating Hours: Monday-Sunday 10 am-9 pm (including takeaway and orders via GoFood and Grab Food)