“Most Indonesians prefer it sweet and milky, but if they start drinking great-tasting coffee without sugar and black, they will fall in love with it that way,” promises entrepreneur Manoj Bharwani, who has brought gourmet capsule coffee to the archipelago. Chris Hanrahan reports.
Many of us worry that we might be drinking too much coffee. The good news, according to Manoj Bharwani, is that savouring the delicious beverage is not only a healthy thing to do but might be even more beneficial for us than we think. Bharwani, co-founder and Managing Director of Kanmo Group, happily downs three to five cups a day.
“Coffee is good for you,” he smiles as he savours a full and balanced Roma espresso at his corner office in Jl. Senen Raya, Jakarta. “It keeps your heart pumping and it’s a natural fat burner. It’s best when you drink it without milk or sugar. Most Indonesians prefer it milky and sweet, but I tell them that if they start drinking great-tasting coffee black and without sugar, they will develop a taste for it and even fall in love with it prepared that way.”
Bharwani points out that a coffee’s quality is determined by its intensity. This has nothing to do with how much caffeine it contains. Intensity is defined by a coffee’s body, bitterness and degree of roasting (and thus the development of roasted notes). An espresso is designed to deliver a short burst of intensity, while a lungo serves as a long-cup companion.
A superior coffee has a rich and generous hazelnut-coloured foam, called the “crema”. This helps liberate aromas from the cup just after extraction. Then, once stabilised, it creates a “lid” over the coffee that keeps flavours in.
It wasn’t until 15 years or so ago, when he began travelling all over the world to grow his company, that Bharwani developed a true appreciation of coffee – especially when dropping into some of Italy’s renowned cafes and trying their incomparable single-shot espressos, which came as a revelation to him. “I used to be a very simple eater,” he says. “Travelling all over the world and trying different foods has made a big difference for me.”
After building a luxury brand portfolio that began with children’s apparel and toys (Mothercare, ELC) and later moved into fashion (Coach, Kate Spade, Karen Millen), he diversified into F&B last year by forming a partnership with Nespresso.
“It all began years ago with my love of coffee,” Bharwani says. “As I began to understand it better I began to appreciate it more and more, and eventually the time came for me to knock on Nespresso’s door and tell the people there about the incredible opportunities Indonesia presents as a market for premium coffee.”
The most visible manifestation of this relationship today is the gleaming new Nespresso boutique that opened in Plaza Indonesia on January 24, where visitors can obtain an instant coffee education, including free tastings. “There’s a lot of learning for the customers about the culture behind coffee,” Bharwani says of the store. “We have scent jars to help them choose the blends they like. I myself am developing a taste for Indonesian coffee, but I have set my heart on Roma (a blend of Central and South American Arabicas combined with Robusta) because it’s a bit sweeter, and I don’t take sugar.”
““I used to be a very simple eater. Travelling has made a big difference for me””
Best known for its famous brand ambassador George Clooney, the brand is a Lausanne, Switzerland-based Nestlé Group company that created a new niche market in the 1980s: premium price capsule or pod coffee. Familiar to travellers who stay in five-star hotels, but also suitable for home use, Nespresso’s machines brew espresso and lungo coffee from capsules, a type of pre-apportioned single-use container of ground coffee beans. Once inserted into a machine, the capsule is pierced and processed. Water is then forced against a heating element at high pressure, meaning that only the quantity for a single cup is warmed.
All Nespresso coffee is ground, roasted and encapsulated in factories in Switzerland. Bharwani is proud to say that that a good percentage of this good stuff is grown in Indonesia, which is the world’s fourth-largest coffee-growing country after Brazil, Vietnam and Colombia.
More than 90 percent of Indonesia’s coffee is grown by smallholders on farms averaging around one hectare in size. Life can be tough for these hardworking people and their families, but more than 3,000 coffee farmers in northern Sumatra are currently benefiting from a sustainability programme, set up in collaboration with the Rainforest Alliance. If they invest to produce high-quality beans, the farmers are guaranteed higher remuneration than the market price dictates.
The farmers in Sumatra produce a rich and woody 100 percent Arabica coffee for the brand’s Master Origin range of brews. Owing to the high humidity, they hull the beans while they are still wet, creating what Nespresso describes as “a wildly aromatic cup with a rich velvety texture and indulging notes of cured tobacco leaves and greenwood”. Bharwani calls it “a nice blend with a tobacco-like balance. If you like thick, velvety coffee this is the one you should have. It has fantastic aromas.”
“The idea of the programme in Sumatra is to source great coffee while protecting the environment, improving the livelihoods of farmers and supporting their communities,” Bharwani goes on. “Nespresso is working with local farmers to bring Indonesia onto the world stage of coffee. The company trains the farmers to harvest the beans so they produce the best flavour.
“Apart from enjoying a good cup of coffee, one of the reasons why George Clooney associates himself with Nespresso is his admiration for the company’s sustainability policies and the good work it does with tens of thousands of farmers in coffee-producing countries. The brand has a fantastic quality culture.”
Since 2009, the company has reduced the carbon footprint of each cup of Nespresso by more than 20 percent, and aims to cut it further. The company plants trees to compensate for its residual operational footprint. Meanwhile, its capsules are made of recyclable aluminium, not plastics. The brand has created the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative in order to source the metal more responsibly.
“By 2020, we will have 100 percent sustainably sourced aluminium,” Nespresso promises coffee lovers. At the boutique in Plaza Indonesia, which will soon be complemented by pop-up outlets in other luxury malls in Jakarta and other cities, Bharwani says, the staff are happy to accept customers’ returned used capsules for recycling. “It’s all part of the service,” he goes on. “As well as buying machines and capsules at boutiques and pop-ups, customers can also buy their machines and capsules online and have their purchases delivered to their doorstep within a couple of days.”
Why does Nespresso use capsules at all? The answer is to ensure a combination of freshness and taste. “Ground coffee can lose up to one third of its flavour within two days of coming into contact with air,” Bharwani explains. “But the capsule completely seals the coffee off from the air until it’s served. An unopened capsule lasts a long time. It can be stored for a year or more.”
The conversation turns to travel, and Bharwani notes that he enjoys travelling for pleasure as well as on business, and taking his family (he and wife have three children aged between 6 and 14) to see and experience beautiful places around the world. “My only regret,” he says, “is that we have not yet explored Indonesia enough. We have been all over the world, yet we have spent little time getting to know this lovely country. I know it’s the same for many Indonesians.” He aims to start rectifying this omission soon by taking his children to the Borobudur Temple.
Further afield, Bharwani says he’s endlessly fascinated by Japan and its unique culture and food, “although I’m not too adventurous with the sashimi yet – I just play safe with the basic selections”. One of the things his family loves to do together is to go skiing in Sapporo. “My wife learned to ski when she was in boarding school in Aiglon (in Switzerland), and it’s as easy for her as cycling is for me,” Bharwani grins. “As for me, I don’t ski. While my wife and kids are out on the slopes, you’ll find me sitting in the café. I’ll be enjoying the weather – and a nice cup of coffee.”