Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
I think I like this place a little more than I should. For various reasons. It’s about ‘Toko Buku Djawa’ bookshop and my one-time experience having coffee there. One time? That’s it? And I’m making a review? Like everyone else?
Ruby of Wanderbites once said, it’s not fair to make a food review of a place that you only visited once, for various reasons. The chef might just be having a bad day, something wrong just happens to be happening in the kitchen, or maybe you aren’t in the same mood as you usually are. I recall, he said, it’ll take probably about 3 visits before you can pass judgment. Tough love for food bloggers, I guess. Tougher love for travel bloggers!
I visited Toko Buku Djawa coffee place because it was suggested by Shasya (@pashatama) of surgamakan.com (translated to ‘a website of food heaven’). We were up for a friendly meet up. I had never really officially sat long enough to talk to Shasya. I had only known her much from Twitter and online chats, but never really talked face to face for long, nor privately. I knew her as a Indonesian food blogger to start with, one that really liked to taste the food first, and think about pictures later. With her consistency and reputation, I had also once asked her about her recommended eatery in Bali. It was a small seafood restaurant in Jimbaran and it was delicious! Since then, I have trusted her food reviews.
So that day, out of all the people, I decided to sit with her and have a cup of coffee. She posted a photo on Whatsapp and showed me the picture of the place; Toko Buku Djawa. Toko Buku means bookshop, but I didn’t see any books in the picture. Wishful thinking, I grew excited because it would be lovely to see a bookshop serving good coffee, especially when located on Braga, one of the oldest streets in Bandung filled with rustic vintage buildings. I was also looking forward to a carefree talk, one I needed especially from somebody new. Fresh air!
The Toko Buku Djawa was a bookshop in the past. Built in 1955 around about the time of the Asia Africa Conference in Bandung, it was once the home of a Dutch man, and then turned into a bookshop in the 1960s. Just recently, the bookshop ran out of business and has been replaced by a coffee shop. The owner of the coffee shop is the child of the building owner that rented the space to the bookshop. They also decided to keep the name. Unfortunately, there were no books inside. It wasn’t a big surprise either to find a Frankie magazine on the table. It’s a pseudo-hipster place. But in the coffee shop’s defense, Shasya said some people commented that it was such a shame for the bookshop to shut down and been replaced by a mere coffee shop. She went on bitterly saying something along the way of ‘as if that person bought any books there in the past 2-3 years. Comment doesn’t pay the rent.’ I have to give it to Shasya, she got that right!
Oh, yes! The coffee.
I didn’t expect much about the coffee considering there has been a craze about cold lattes with palm sugar in the major cities such as Jakarta and Bandung lately. I was more in for the chat. I also didn’t have the urge to drink something cold on my first day back in Bandung. So, I ordered a cappuccino. Sasha had their signature coffee Es Kopi Susu Toko Djawa or cold slightly-sweet latte.
You know a good coffee at your first sip.
Now I’ve heard and tried of many good coffees in Bandung lately, but none gave me that deep impression as Toko Buku Djawa. Having said that, coffee at Toko Buku Djawa is really good, arguably as good as the best coffee I’ve tasted so far. The cappuccino immediately reminded me of the coffee in Giyanti, my favorite coffee in Jakarta. It also had a consistency like ‘magic’ at Noah’s Barn on Garuda Street, Bandung, an all time favorite. After stirring and left alone, the surface had bubbles happening on its foam. Thick and the right amount of bitter. Of course, I had mine with one sachet of palm sugar. I had a sip of the ice latte and it was as also delicious, if not better, than Tuku coffee in Jakarta, an all time favorite and drug of choice. It was thick and rich, the kind that I like. If you have the same reference to coffee as I do, then you probably would like this coffee.
Vira did remind me that these references might be familiar to coffee drinkers in Jakarta and Bandung only. She said I should compare it to something more familiar to an international audience. She has a point. When it comes to coffee, most people like Starbucks and you can find it all around the world. For me, I’m not a fan. Never have been, till proven wrong. Starbucks coffee is way too thin and doesn’t have that strong kick of coffee taste. Now, my tongue might be partially dead due to the many chili paste that I consume, but I guess you’d just have to take my reference or not.
The coffee, relatively affordable of less than USD 3 / cup, was a good portion for a chat.
I enjoyed my cup along with a nice chat with Shasya. We sat at one of the long chairs, backed on to the front glass window. There were no tables, but they provided wooden boxes on the chairs as small a table. I think there were a couple of pairing chairs and tables in the back, possibly only fitting about 8-10 people. The rest were long chairs and stools. It was a small shop and it wasn’t the kind to open your laptop and work. It was still possible for a long chat, if you can get a seat. I guess their coffee was mainly to go.
The interior stayed true to the coffee scene of ‘now’, being Instagramable, whatever that actually means. It’s a nice ambiance to take pictures in with yellow lighting, especially since they had nice Indonesian cloth decorating the place and a few plants to green up the vibe.
For almost about 2 hours, I spent time talking with Shasya about nothing in specific. In relation to coffee, I observed that we are currently experiencing the result of a barista craze about 2 years back. Back then, there were so many people that wanted to be baristas and so many barista schools were established. It was such a thing, up there with wearing pomade and and wearing monochromatic clothes. Oops! Greyscale as corrected by Vira. Now I see, all these ‘students’ have opened up their own coffee shops, as there are so many new small cafes in Indonesia. Yep! Not only in Bandung or Jakarta, but the whole country. Even in Ambon, as I have discovered Workshop Coffee. Coffee not as good, but I applaud the effort and it’s a nice place to hangout.
We talked about stuff happening in the travel industry, the next generation of bloggers, and of course, about food. Not to mention a little bit about work. My life is about work lately and actually I love it. But breaking free for a couple of hours was really what I needed and it was da bomb with a scrumptious cup of coffee. Yes! Scrumptious. Add to that, the weather in Bandung was a bit gloomy, perfect for a nice day under a roof.
Shasya mentioned that the girl attending behind the register had studied pastry in Australia. Considering the effort, the pastry is worth a go. Shasya’s not a pastry eater herself but her son loves it. Long story short, I also trust her son’s taste even though he’s still in primary school. I bought home the recommended almond croissant and it was not disappointing. In fact, it could be the perfect match with the coffee, if you have a sweet tooth. It had a nice amount of almond sprinkled on top with the caster sugar, and the croissant was far from bland. They also had brownies and cheese croissants on the table that day.
I was so not ready to review the place that I didn’t bring a camera with me. Hence, pictures were just from my phone. I also didn’t ask much to the owner as I was on vacation.
To end this ramble, I must repeat that I really like Toko Buku Djawa a little more than I should. If you’ve made it this far in this post and if I haven’t rambled too much, hopefully you can understand why. I loved the combination of good coffee, perfect weather, nice setting in my favorite city, a great chat, and just that time off from work. It’s like having a pinacolada on the beach compared to the mountains. For me, it would have more delicious at the beach just because of the ambiance.
Would I recommend Toko Buku Djawa coffee to you? Hell, yeah! I would even recommend it to myself as I would love to be back there again and have a sip. And a brownie.