Nino Fernandez asks Prestige to meet him at a small coffee shop in Cipete, South Jakarta, rather than at his own five-month old business, Kopi Kecil. It seems strange, but the handsome actor and entrepreneur has a good explanation.
“This is my favourite coffee shop in Jakarta. I used to come here often, before it became flooded with Go-Jek drivers picking up orders to deliver to customers in their homes and offices. This place has a soul. Soul is something that a good coffee shop must have. That’s what I’m trying to do with Kopi Kecil.”
Because the place turns out to be too crowded, we walk to another coffee shop nearby. Fernandez orders an espresso. “Just like its name, Kopi Kecil is a small coffee shop of about 20 sqm. It’s humble and very Indonesian,” he begins. “We use Indonesian coffee beans only, because our mission is to promote our nation’s coffee. What I’m trying to do with Kopi Kecil is, I want to show people that a good cup of coffee really doesn’t have to be so expensive.”
Kopi Kecil is located on Jl. Kayu Putih, East Jakarta. It has red brick walls and black and white tiles with various motifs. The menu is written on a black chalkboard. Its highlighted coffees are Kopi Kampung, made of arabica, and Kopi Kota, a robusta. “We also have snacks, such as cakes and cookies. They’re all homemade,” he says. “I designed the place myself. I wanted to create a homey, non-intimidating atmosphere. I would say that Kopi Kecil is a reflection of myself.”
Fernandez might well-known as an actor, but his track record with F&B industry has been around for years. It was started when he was 14-year old as a part timer at a restaurant in Germany until he was 22-year old managing an Italian restaurant. “I once declined a job offer from Hyatt in Germany. What arrogance,” he laughs. “I always knew that I had to have my own business someday. I chose coffee because I had a passion for it. It is some sort of a fulfilment of my long-time curiosity. When I was in the F&B industry, I never had the chance to be a barista.” Fernandez then travelled around Indonesia to taste coffee beans from all regions. “My favourites are from Bali, Ciwidey and Malang from Mount Ijen,” he adds. Having a business management background and years of experience in the F&B industry, Fernandez knows how to balance passion with business sense. He already has a big vision to build his own “coffee shop empire”.
“I shall open a new coffee shop in Gandaria City Mall in April. It has the same concept with Kopi Kecil, called Di Bawah Tangga because it placed right under a stair. It is also small only 40sqm and we also serving Indonesian snacks,” says Fernandez. “My plan is to establish my own brand, Lenyö. This brand will bring “humble and affordable” coffee shops to many different places with different names, but all have the same concept. The first one art is Kopi Kecil and Di Bawah Tangga and many more. Let’s hope!”
Having a small coffee shop in a mall and have a plan to build a sort of coffee shop-chain, how Fernandez manage to compete with mega-chains like Starbucks? “Starbucks have change their concept to include third-wave coffee. They have started selling manual brews. That means they feel threaten by the present of specialty coffee shops,” he explains. The third wave of coffee is a movement to produce high-quality coffee, and consider coffee as an artisanal foodstuff rather than a commodity. This is what speciality coffee shops do.
“It’s already started in America and has not yet arrive to Indonesia. I think 10 years from now our competitor is no longer specialty coffee shops but chains like Starbucks,” he continues. “I’m not afraid of the competition. The good thing is that the specialty coffee industry in Indonesia is very friendly. We’re not competitive, instead helping each other. That’s what I like most doing this business.”
How does Fernandez about the rapid growth of coffee shops in Jakarta? “To make a coffee shop, money is not enough. It must has a soul, which comes from the owner’s passion and ambition. This is important for sustainability. And as time goes by, people are getting wiser about choosing what kind of coffee they want to drink. Yes, there are a lot of specialty coffee shops opening in Jakarta, but have you ever wondered how many have closed?”
The full feature has been published in Prestige March 2017, The Food Issue. Click here to purchase.
Outfit: Louis Vuitton
Photography: Zaky Akbar
Styling: Gabriela Batti