Coffee Talk with Aji DariusCulinary Talk
There’s nothing better than a refreshing, cold drink on a hot sunny afternoon. Upon entering Djule Kofi in South Jakarta, there was no secret as to what we desperately wanted.
“Let me get you some Iced Cappuccino,” said Aji Darius, co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Djule Kofi, also an experienced, award-winning barista and a passionate coffee connoisseur. It was as if he could read our minds. Rightly so, the man could tell the kind of coffee one loves just by reading the person’s facial expression – a talent that has won him praises. As always, he hit the right spot.
We had gotten to know Djule Kofi for a year now, having fallen in love with its great coffee and warm ambiance. The café’s large windows allow warm, natural lighting to an interior decorated with wooden furniture, creating a homey feeling for its customers.
In some ways, the café has benefited from the blooming coffee culture in Indonesia. What makes it different though, is the unrivaled passion poured into the art of coffee by its founders and team members. We talked to Darius about his life as a barista and a businessman in a thriving industry.
Congratulations on Djule Kofi’s first anniversary this month! How’s business?
Thanks, everything is good so far. Everyone at Djule is having fun and we have many loyal customers now. I think more and more people these days are encouraged to get to know and learn more about coffee, which is great for our business.
Tell us more about Djule Kofi
Djule Kofi is the second establishment of Ombe Kofie Group. We have three cafés now. The first one is Ombe Kofie in North Jakarta, the second one is Djule Kofi, and we’ve just opened our newest establishment called Maarkeze at Grand Indonesia a couple of months ago. At Djule, we serve various specialty coffees from different regions and countries, because we want to introduce to our customers a wide range of coffee beans and the uniqueness of each bean. Our coffee beans come from Africa, Brazil, Honduras, and of course, Indonesia, among other places of origin. Our mission here is to educate people about the goodness of premium coffee and to inspire them to enjoy coffee in its finest form – pure, clean coffee without additional sweeteners so that customers can distinguish the flavour of one coffee from another.
How did you get into the coffee business?
It all started right after I graduated college in 2009. I went to a university in Bandung and I have always been a coffee lover. My fondness of coffee then motivated me to learn how to make good coffee through short courses, which were not that popular back then. Me and several friends bought a semi-professional coffee machine and practiced in our dorm room. We’d share the coffee with friends for free. It turned out that many people liked it. We then ventured into the coffee business by opening a small café in collaboration with an independent bookstore in Bandung, which received many positive feedbacks. It was a good start, so I decided to enter a coffee competition in West Java. I won first place, and as the prize, I was sent on a trip to a coffee factory in Italy. The experience inspired me to enter another competition the year after, where I secured the second place. After that I moved to Jakarta and decided to fully dedicate myself to the coffee business. I opened Ombe Kofie with my partner Jason Leo in 2015.
What is your secret to success?
I think, in this business, we have to keep learning, not only about what makes coffee special, but also about how to manage the business, train the people, how to deliver a perfect cup of coffee to customers and so on. I’m not saying that I’m an expert. I’m still learning about a lot of stuff. I have to keep up with the latest developments in the industry and transfer the knowledge to everyone here so we can grow together as a team. I want people come to Djule because they know that we have a characteristic that distinguishes us from other establishments.
How do you see the competition in the coffee business nowadays?
The competition is tight. As you know, many cafés have opened up and are opening in every corner of the city. But I think as long as we know exactly about our market and if we can form a strong identity, it wouldn’t be a big problem. Of course we have to consistently present the best quality of coffee and the best service, as well as set the most comfortable café atmosphere in order to maintain our clientele. Although coffee consumption in Indonesia is not as big as in Australia or America, the number of coffee enthusiasts is growing and demand boosting. I’m seeing that more people are now interested in what they’re drinking and that there’s a sense of pride to be a part of the coffee culture, which is beneficial for us who work in the industry. I’m a strong believer in healthy competitions and I believe every establishment has its own market. I have many friends who are café owners and we endorse each other. This creates a strong community within the coffee industry. So I think healthy competitions are necessary to motivate us to always do better.
What is it that you like the best about what you do?
In the first months of Djule Kofi, our customers tended to be the serious type. They’d come in for coffee and leave without any smile whatsoever. But now that many of them have become our loyal customers and come here on a daily basis, we’ve found that we can actually engage in conversations and have a good laugh together. So, for me, the most rewarding thing of being a barista is that I can make many friends here. We at Djule Kofi believe that interactions with our customers are very important. They should feel comfortable to ask any question related to our coffee and our establishment. To see them enjoy our coffee and feel at home here is what makes me happy at work.
If you could invite a famous figure to Djule, who would it be and what would you talk about?
I would love to have Pak Ahok here. I think he’s been through a lot lately and he looks tired. So, you know, I just want to serve him a great cup of coffee to ease his fatigue a bit.
Lastly, what are your plans in near future?
We will open two more coffee houses under Ombe Group this year. I can’t tell you the details yet but they will have different names and carry a different concept, so keep an eye out for us (laughing).