Josh Estey is a long time friend. Back in the days when I was still working as an editor in a magazine, Josh was one of the contributing photographers. He’s an accomplished photographer with brag-worthy clients such as Oprah Winfrey, Meg Ryan, and Christy Turlington. Yet, he remains the one behind the camera, living in Jakarta with his kickass wife Dian (oh, take it as a mighty compliment, lady!), and three kids – Diva, Xenia, and Nic.
Josh and I bumped with each other every now and then since we were practically neighbours. And, two or three months ago he specially sat down with me in Pandava Coffee, telling his newfound passion of brewing. He told me how he wanted to do a pop-up coffee bike, and to set it up on Sunday mornings in Jakarta’s principal street during the car-free hours. He has built the bike with his own hands, and he has all equipments ready. He was just trying to find the perfect timing to start it up amidst his shooting gigs in Kenya, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, India, and other exotic parts of the world.
Finally, Bear&Co was launched in front of the old building that used to be the French Embassy in Jalan MH Thamrin, Central Jakarta, on January 5, 2014. Josh calls his children “bears”, and the initial plan was to make the three of them helping him to work on the streets, but, “There’s child labour issue there,” he said. So, the plan was simply held in the brand only.
That first day saw Bear&Co selling out everything Josh carried. He manually ground one kilogram of beans the night before to make cold pressed coffee. He also brought freshly brewed beans from Morph Coffee – the local, boutique roastery – to serve hot cups of cone-dripped coffee. They were beans from Bali, West Java, and North Sumatera. Each hot cup took around five minutes to make. Wondering customers – the joggers, the cyclists, and the passers-by who are not familiar with third-wave coffee movement – always asked why does it take so long just to make a cup of coffee.
“Because I prepared everything manually. I ground the beans right here for you so it’s in perfect condition to brew. I use the pourover method. And, basically, I have had enough with everything that’s instant in Indonesia. This coffee takes time, yes, but you will taste the big difference with instant coffee.” That will be Josh’s typical answer that he never gets tired of repeating over and over again.
Josh let customers smell the fresh ground coffee before he started brewing. He is more than happy if customers ask a lot more about the process, and he even lets them helping him a bit. He serves the coffee in a paper cup hand-stamped with Bear&Co logo. There’s a big box of Khong Guan biscuits for those who want some bites to go along with the coffee.
Slapped at Rp25,000 for either a hot cup or cold pressed, Bear&Co‘s coffee seemed to make everybody’s morning brighter on that first day. There were some murmurs of how it was “the same price like Starbucks”, but people enjoy seeing and Instagram-ing the ritual of manual brewing. The show and experience that is usually found behind a hipster coffee place is now brought to the street.
Manual brew has found its own way to the new audience; those who don’t usually hang out in the cool 1/15 Coffee, or Tanamera, or Giyanti. In my point of view, this is truly a good thing. A real effort to introduce proper drinking of coffee, and Indonesian beans.
“I want to feature Indonesian beans from different roasters every time I pop up the bike,” said Josh. The second day of Bear&Co – that was this morning, February 2, 2014 – saw Josh serving cold pressed using Gayo Natural beans from Tanamera.
“Are you doing this every week? Are you going to pop up regularly? Are you going to open a permanent cafe?” Customers question.
“I have a day job. I am a photographer. I do this for fun. I don’t know when will I do this again. You have to follow @BearandCoffee on Twitter. I’ll announce the next date and location there,” says Josh with a smile while handing the freshly brewed coffee to his customers.