In the City of Coffee Shops

Aug 3, 2023 | | By Fatih Muftih

Photo: Fatih Muftih

Kedai Kopi Hawaii | 2,500 words

Translated from Bahasa Indonesia by Lise Isles

Most every city has its own nickname, sometimes officially-sanctioned, sometimes an underground joke. Tanjungpinang, the city where I’ve lived for the past 13 years, has a nickname not only official but famous, “Kota Gurindam Negeri Pantun”, which evokes its role as a center of poetry. There’s another nickname too, not as frequently uttered, but just as relevant, “The City of a Thousand Shophouses” – though that one should really make clear that most of those shophouses are coffee shops.

In Tanjungpinang, encountering shophouses that operate as coffee shops is an inevitability. It feels like there’s one on almost every roadside, whether major roads or back lanes – from simple unpretentious ones, aka “kopitiams”, to modern cafes with modish aesthetics that are good for gawking at. So it’s no wonder there’s a saying in Tanjungpinang: “No matter how far you go, it’s at a coffee shop that I will meet you again.”

I can’t count the hours I’ve spent in coffee shops. Whether for writing, daydreaming, reading, discussing, conducting meetings, or just sitting silently without doing a single thing. These activities I almost always conduct in the one coffee shop, called Kedai Kopi Hawaii.

Don’t imagine that this coffee shop – located on the ground floor of a shophouse right next to the mouth of the Lembah Purnama Alleyway – has won my heart because it’s one of those trendy spaces favored by cool kids. Or because the Wi-Fi signal is super-fast so that it allows me to watch my favorite films. You’d also be wrong if you think Kedai Kopi Hawaii entices me because its owner or employees are easy on the eye.

A major reason I’ve given my heart to Kedai Kopi Hawaii is the coffee itself. It’s very strong, with unfiltered grounds, and yet its aroma wafts into the nostrils like a gentle breeze. Coffee here is served in a ceramic cup that is heated first by pouring boiling water over it. Supposedly this technique is effective at keeping the coffee hot for longer. My advice to someone who has come to Kedai Kopi Hawaii for the first time is: don’t pick up the cup right after it’s placed on the table. Let it sit a minute. Enjoy the smell. Stir it some. After that, take a small sip, which will inevitably give you an immediate kick, and obliterate any tiredness. This sort of coffee makes me feel right at home.

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© Fatih Muftih

English translation © Lise Isles

Commissioning editor: Wahyu Nur Cahyo

About The Author

Fatih Muftih

Fatih Muftih is a writer born in Banyuwangi who now lives in Tanjungpinang. His personal essays have been published in the book Mengapa Mario Menghidupkan Raja Ali Haji (2021). He writes at night because he spends every morning and afternoon taking care of his adorable cats. Do connect with him over anything at all at his Instagram account, @fatihmuftih.

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