You can put “coffee lover” or “coffee addict” on each of your social media profile — which is actually quite common today — but not everyone really understands what good coffee is and how it is planted, processed and brewed. In Bali, I was fortunate to have had the chance to meet a true aficionado and practitioner in coffee production, I Made Indra Bangsawan, 43.
With knowledge inherited from generations, Pak Rai, as he is affectionately known, is never reluctant to get involved with the local community.
Since 2006, he has been working to persuade the people of Pupuan, Kintamani and Bedugul to manage their lands and produce their own coffee. Now there are more than 20 farmers’ groups under his direction.
“Until today big companies always cover up their ways of processing coffee. It is actually an important matter to inform consumers about,” says Pak Rai, explaining his motivation.
“Sometimes I get called stupid because I’m a coffee businessman but I’m teaching people to make coffee. Well, I just want more people to be able to produce good coffee, which is not detrimental to the health.”
Before talking further, Pak Rai starts preparing to show me the correct coffee brewing process, just as he promised when we first met.
“Coffee is a cheap antioxidant, so it would be a shame if it were not processed correctly,” he says, beginning his explanation.
He says that good coffee comes out of good farming. He and the farmers only pick the coffee beans during the harvest season. When it is considered time for harvest, then all beans, both red and green, will be reaped. This can save time and energy, but it also has an effect on the quality of the coffee.
The young green beans contain sugar, which if roasted can turn into carcinogenic substance that poses a health risk. The red beans yields better quality, but it need more time.
To more seriously help the community, three years ago Pak Rai established the brand Bali Exotic Bean.
“This is not pure business; it’s 50 percent social. I use the profit from the sales to provide the community with free workshops until they are capable of doing their own production,” he says.
Bali Exotic Bean offers several kinds of coffee, including robusta, arabica, peaberry, luwak, luwak blend and espresso.
With prices ranging from Rp 60,000 to Rp 3 million ($4.90 to $246) per kilogram, Pak Rai prioritizes the sales to cafes and hotels in Bali.
“Buyers from outside must talk to me first so that they don’t sell it too expensively, because if their selling price is too high our message won’t come across. A little profit is OK as long as we can control the business,” he says.
The message he wishes to convey is that good coffee is not expensive coffee, but rather, coffee that is processed correctly.
One does not have to spend hundreds of millions of rupiah to buy a machine to brew good coffee. With simple tools we can make the same product, provided we know how. For a moment my eyes are fixed on the coffee maker working slowly in front of Pak Rai.
Water is boiling in a round glass pot. On top of it is another glass pot containing ground coffee. It takes a few minutes before the boiling water rises slowly, reaching the top of the pot. Not long after that, Pak Rai puts out the small fire below, then stirs the coffee gently. The coffee in the pot can already be drunk at this stage but there are still dregs.
After the lower pot has cooled down sufficiently, the water in the upper pot goes down too. The dregs stay at the top, and the coffee is ready.
Pak Rai picks up the small glass containing the coffee, letting the light shine through it. It’s black, with a tint of red on the surface. It looks so good that I can barely wait to have a taste.
Pak Rai explains to me that one should avoid overheating. Coffee should not be brewed at boiling temperature. It’s best at between 80 and 87 degrees Celsius. To obtain this temperature, boil the water until tiny bubbles appear. Another trick is to take out the dregs after brewing the coffee for four to five minutes. After five minutes, the dregs will produce bad cholesterol.
Holding the glass in my hand, I follow Pak Rai’s instruction on how to enjoy the coffee.
“Sip a little, exhale through your nose, then feel the sensation on your tongue,” he says.
I try it, and frown. I’m not used to drinking sugarless coffee.
“Coffee is personal. Everyone has a different tastes,” Pak Rai says.
Using Pak Rai’s drinking method, I can taste a thin sweetness after the strong bitterness. And as I add sugar and try again, I get a different sensation. Sucrose apparently strengthens the fruity aroma in the coffee. The sweet taste and aroma of caramel is perceivable, without eliminating the thick, characteristic coffee flavor. It’s like dark chocolate, my favorite.
Having satisfied myself savoring the various kinds of coffee, I begin to look at the beauty products displayed on the front desk. It turns out that Bali Exotic Bean produces not just coffee for drinking.
From his beans, Pak Rai has managed to develop body butter, scrubs, lotions, lip balms and other cosmetics.
“I want to offer a way to live healthily, especially for young people,” he says.
Pak Rai says he believes that environmental destruction starts from the household, from our body care products.
Everything we use on our body will go to waste after we take a bath. So according to him, the objective of using organic products is to take care of ourselves as well as the Earth.
“All we use will go back to water, to the Earth. Before talking about an oil tanker leaking in the sea, we should start with our bathroom first,” he says.
One of his ways to reach young people is by creating a pomade brand, “Slick Boy Deluxe,” in conjunction with the Rumble Clothing Store (RMBL), owned by Adi Hydrant and Jrx SID.
RMBL is a popular brand among Balinese hipsters. Unlike other pomades, Slick Boy Deluxe does not contain petroleum grease, which can coat the scalp and prevent toxins from getting out of the body.
Slick Boy Deluxe’s basic ingredients include castor, almond, virgin coconut oil, bee oil, olive oil and vanilla oil. Styling aside, this pomade can also serve as a hair treatment product. It can help with hair fall and dandruff problems, protect hair from the bad effects of too much exposure to sunlight, and smooth and restore the hair’s original color.
Pak Rai gives me a tip as I go back home to Yogyakarta: “Spread it on your scalp, cover your head with a warm towel, wash it after 15-20 minutes.”
It feels wonderful. It feels like I’ve just had a hair spa treatment at a salon.
The texture is waxy and smooth.
“So that the user can use it efficiently,” says Pak Rai.
It seemed as if this man never stops thinking about other people’s well-being. His philosophy is nothing but noble: “It’s not about what I want, but what your body and nature need.” Get in Touch
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