First Edition: Pannikids, Where are they now? with Tess and Josh
One of our favorite baristas recently made the move down to Australia, where she has been exploring with our former Aussie barista Josh. Josh worked at the Pannikin last summer while he was here on a work visa. We welcomed him with open arms and quickly grew to love his sarcasm and sassy attitude. Tess and Josh have been working as servers at his families local restaurant in Melbourne, Victoria. The two made a trip to Sumatra together a couple months ago. Here is a snippet of their journey so eloquently told by Tess herself.
"Due to visa stipulations and a desire for a change in scenery, Joshua Burke and I (both former baristas at the Pannikin) found ourselves in Palembang, Sumatra, Indonesia. Palembang specifically because I had spent a solid half-day on Kayak.com and determined that Palembang, Sumatra was just about the cheapest place you could fly from Melbourne, Australia.
Feeling as though I had really worked the system, we proceeded to purchase the tickets and after a nail-biting Expedia.com glitch, Josh and I pranced around the kitchen announcing to the world that after a sufficient amount of procrastination we were headed to Sumatra within the month.
A month later, and after an illegal, sweat-filled transfer, and a night spent sleeping on the tempurpedic hard plastic chairs of the Jakarta airport, we found ourselves in Palembang.
Not a great city, it turns out. Which I suppose possibly explains the cheapness of the tickets …
But before we fled for the west coast the next day, we were determined to make the most of Palembang. So throwing caution to the wind, Josh used a few daring seconds of roaming data to find a cafe in walking distance, and we went out into the buzzing streets of Palembang in search of it.
Walking, it turns out, is highly unusual in Palembang. And white people walking in Palembang is a bit like seeing an adult make his daily commute while wearing diapers and crawling. As we pranced like ibexes from one forgotten bit of sidewalk to the next and trusted a higher power as we tiptoed across a corroded piece of metal that was stretched over a gaping hole in the street, we fielded questions distorted by the theory of relativity:
‘Helloooo misterrrrrr! How arreee youuuuuuuu? What is you naaaaaammme?’
Questions cheerily thrown in our direction by Sumatrans scooting by at 50ks an hour.
As if we were naked and covered in lava, peoples’ eyes bugged as we walked past. While our sudden popularity was flattering, it quickly became overwhelming and often uncomfortable as at times it almost took the form of hero worship. ‘Will you shake my son’s hand?’
We forged on, single-file, along the tentative sidewalk, which disappeared periodically to seemingly abandoned construction projects. I peered in windows trying to get a feel for this city as swarms of scooters buzzed past in a flurry of honks, hello misters, and what is your names.
After a few more minutes, Josh pulled up outside a quiet glass storefront. Kopi Pulang.
We shyly opened the door and entered an oasis of pleasantness. Low modest wood tables, woven rugs, a bookshelf of coffee accessories, books, and knick knacks, and the most charming and meticulously cared-for coffee bar. All of the barista’s instruments were laid out along the bar with the utmost care, like a surgeon’s operating tray, with none of the gory connotations.
We ordered two lattes and as the barista took our order, she made us feel like normal humans again, not like crawling lava monsters, and we exhaled as we melted into seats in the back corner of the cafe.
From our corner we watched surreptitiously as the barista began the process of making our lattes. There was no espresso machine on the premises, so we were both very curious as to how these lattes were to be crafted. Given the price of an espresso machine and the power it requires, we would find they were often an unreasonable investment for cafe owners in Sumatra.
The latte process began and it was a beautiful thing to behold. As we watched, it became clear the Kopi Pulang baristas did everything by hand. Using a camping stove they boiled water that they then pulled through the espresso grounds, using what we would later learn was a manual espresso maker. Then using the camping stove again they precisely heated the milk. Once heated they then used a french press to froth the milk. Once frothed, they then poured the milk over and through (not sure what prepositions are being used these days) the espresso like the best of the Brooklyn barista hipsters. And just to ensure that Josh and I felt like our souls were being tickled by fairies, they served these labors of love on a wooden coaster in a hand-made-in-Jakarta ceramic mug that I truly believe both Sam Schafer and Joe Skoby would have approved of.
Perhaps obvious, but still important to say, the lattes were stunning.
I should probably back up and mention that one of the main reasons Josh and I chose to go to Sumatra was for the coffee. The Sumatran beans were always my favorite at Pannikin and with some exhaustive research, aka a few minutes skimming a Wikipedia article, Josh discovered that Sumatra was the third region in the world to propagate coffee. Well you had us at ‘pagi,’ we were excited to drink some coffee.
Sure enough, Sumatran coffee was delicious … when you could taste it. It turns out a very traditional way to make coffee in Sumatra is to ensure that there is healthy inch of sugar added, which forms a hearty cement foundation for the stirring spoon to remain stoically propped within the cup.
That being said, they were also many craft cafes, such as Kopi Pulang, that served elegantly naked coffees made from beans grown on the side of the volcano looming outside the window under a tin roof pummelled by jungle rain.
Kopi Pulang became our haven of sorts. We returned the next day and drank soul-warming coffees as we waited for our taxi to carry us to the airport and away from the chaotic, scooter swarmed streets of Palembang. And as I had blindly bought a return trip through Palembang, that the budget airline Scoot (an airline that refuses to serve water for a 7 hour flight) would not change, we were forced to return to Palembang to fly home. As we booked a Palembang hotel for our final night we made sure we were in walking distance from Kopi Pulang, so that we might spend our final Sumatran morning within its sancturous walls.