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Yoshua Tanu: A Tasteful Passion

For Yoshua Tanu the perfect cup of coffee has a nuanced blend of flavours resulting from a concise and measured process, beginning with the selected beans, the grind, the precise temperature of the water, and timing of the brew. Watching him prepare a cup of coffee is like equal parts science and art. And it is clear to me why he’s widely known as the best barista in Indonesia with two Indonesia Barista Championships (2014 and 2016) under his belt.

Interview by Emanuel Hayon, photography by Hendra Wiradi Wahab

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“We always make coffee at just the right drinking temperature to be enjoyed immediately, because if you leave it for too long, the flavour changes,” he says to me as we sit at Common Grounds, his popular café in Indonesia with locations in Jakarta, Bandung, and Surabaya.

He prepares two cups of full-bodied arabica from Toraja in Sulawesi for us to enjoy as we kick off our discussion of coffee. I was stunned – not only by the beautiful well-balanced profile of my coffee with lovely undertones of ripe fruit and dark chocolate – but also by the breadth and depth of Yoshua’s coffee knowledge.

Surprisingly, he wasn’t always passionate about coffee.

It wasn’t until after he completed his degree at UC Davis Graduate School of Management that Yoshua returned to Indonesia to open a café with three of his friends. Each time they wanted to add something new to the coffee menu, they would have to taste test it against 15 other alternatives to make sure they were selecting the best possible bean. Yoshua and his friends were hooked.

“Every variety of coffee has its own special qualities and individual flavour profile, but for me Indonesian coffee, in addition to its wonderful taste, has a unique complexity to it,” explains Yoshua.

In the last few years the business and lifestyle of coffee in Indonesia has begun trending, with more knowledgeable cafés opening up and even movies being produced about Indonesia’s coffee culture. Yoshua attributes this to a shift in the social and cultural attitude of Indonesians – particularly in Jakarta and the archipelago’s other main urban hubs – where we are seeing greater appreciation for quality and detail in food and drink, especially when it’s homegrown.

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High-quality premium and commercial grade coffees are the result of good processing, and Yoshua makes it a mission to further inform and educate consumers about the quality of locally grown coffee through his work.

Yoshua’s love for Indonesian coffee is what drives him to push his creative boundaries in exploring coffee and cupping creations from the Indonesian taste perspective. He was proud to represent Indonesia at the 2016 World Barista Championships in Dublin; even though he didn’t take the title, he was simply humbled to share Indonesian coffee with the world and be surrounded by true coffee lovers from every corner of the globe.

When brewing a cup for himself, Yoshua prefers beans from Toraja or Flores. He likes Toraja for its stability, consistency and natural, subtle sweetness. Flores tends to have mild but rich musty notes with a delicate nut- and fruit-toned character. But Yoshua doesn’t encourage people to simply take his word for it.

“When it comes to Indonesian beans, there’s much more to a cup of coffee than the initial flavour. Consider the aroma and acidity, the aftertaste and the balance. Is it spicy and pungent or almost winey and tart? The only way to find your favourite and develop your palate is to get out there and taste for yourself!”