Interview Session: Crematology Coffee

(Business Lounge Journal – Special Report)

Specialty coffee phenomenon in Indonesia is not something that is new anymore. Since what the Jakarta Post 2014 describe as “Third Wave Coffee Wave” hits Indonesia, Indonesian, especially those who lives in the city is facing a culture shift in terms of consuming coffee. In Indonesia, coffee used to be associated with extreme bitterness… Not anymore.

What is widely acknowledge as “specialty coffee” gain popularity in fast pace, specialty coffee shop seems to in a same racing lane with other big international coffee chains. And the business potential of having a specialty coffee shop slowly become more attractive.

Elliot Davernas, a native Sweden work at some of the world’s famous company such as Skype after graduated from the famous Harvard Business School. In Sweden, coffee is considered a big culture, the word “fika” means more than just a simple coffee break. For a Swede, coffee is culture. Coming to Indonesia to work in a english education company, Elliot meets Alexis Jessica Purnama who is a graphic designer from Indonesia. Working in a PR company in Jakarta after graduating from Tarumanegara School of Art.

After a while, both of them discover that they have the same passion for coffee and they’re doing what only few employee, who’s in a stable condition dare to do. They quit their job and then they establish Crematology. A specialty coffee culture that introduce the nascent costumers who’s still awe-strucked by the specialty coffee wave and wish to give it a try.

Starting from one shop in Senopati, now they expand to another big outlet in Puri and another one in Kuningan business area. This is their story…

BL: Business Lounge
ED: Elliot Davernas
AJ: Alexis Jessica Purnama

Indonesian – Swedish Coffee Shop

BL: All right, so what’s your definition of proper coffee shop?

ED: I am Swedish, right? So in Sweden, coffee is very critical to pretty much everyone in such a core part of the way of socializing, the way we’re working, of how companies run and it’s always been there. Like the average Swedish drinks 4 cups a day. So it’s always been an idea, that would be nice to do something like this. And something that I kind of felt was missing in Indonesia is like proper coffee shop where you can sit down and relax, and just enjoy your time.

AJ: For me and Elliot, we’re always working on the shop, we’re always study in coffee shop before. And then every time that we go to coffee shop, we always find several issues. One of it is like WiFi or output power plugs, or if the coffee shop is spacious enough for you to sit down and relax, to talk to friends, to do your thesis, or whatever it is. And sometimes that we go to coffee shop, the coffee is awesome but the food is or they don’t serve food. Or when the food is awesome they don’t have proper coffee, coffee is poor, and coffee is not really good. Something like that. So the proper coffee shop is the way that we see it is the one that can be fixed all of the issues that we got in other places basically.

ED: And it’s also place with more creative atmosphere. Like my old team in my old company here. We’ll tell something like, I would not want to have company meeting in the office because it’s, it sort of constructed, not very creative atmosphere to be in. So coffee shop is always been this, like creative outlet for at least I would enjoy this coming, having, you know, sit down for an hour or two, I can do some sketching or some brainstorming or studying or whatever the reason maybe.

BL: So what I am getting in here, you just don’t enter in niche market at usually, specialty the coffee market aims but you’re trying to also aim the bigger market in the area?

ED: For sure, I mean we, we to be honest we started off with the very …

AJ: Make sure that everyone can try. Like, you know, like specialty coffee but not limited as a niche product only. So to make sure everyone can try from the people that used to drink instant coffee, three in one, then they go to Starbucks, Coffee Bean, and JCo and the other. Probably they will try if our prices are not the highest, right? So it’s opportunity to grab more people to buy, basically.

ED: But also to be fair, we started off with the very elaborate target market, written down on paper. We think to do so the demographic research, the media habit, these are the type of the social media they used, like the way they lived, what they work with, like very detail. And reality is not like that. Like the specialty coffee initiation brace by very sort of abstract group of people, there’s not necessarily that easy to pinpoint. Anything from youngster that want to hang out in the place that “hip” to the people who really passion about their coffee and very sort of loyal to one or two shops. And the bigger, bigger group that basically want to try something that they heard is a nice place to go to, and, you know… So, it has a wider appeal without necessarily being hard core coffee addict.

BL: And you have this culture in Sweden called fika right? Could you explain a bit more about it and trying to incorporate it here?

ED: The story basically goes towards — this is like hundreds years ago, when people started to think that coffee is a good social lubricant of sort. So people used to drink alcohol and then alcohol was banned, this is hundred years ago, and then coffee came around. And it was brought back by one of the old kings of Sweden who traveled from Turkey and brought with him this like mocha part, and coffee is from Turkey. And he was seen it some sort of like hipster at the time, you know… Like this is hundred years ago but he was still seen as a cool guy. People think, oh coffee, what’s that? That’s interesting. And then people start to embracing the coffee as replacement for alcohol. So it’s started become a way to socialize and hang out, and people would find out that if you drink coffee you get more socially outgoing, you get more energy, and a happier chap basically. So people started drinking coffee in coffee houses and that sort of been, sort of core component to Swedish culture ever since. To the point where it’s now it is actually in the labor laws lots of Sweden that you will, you are not require, but you allow to have two or three coffee breaks per day.

BL: Still going on?

ED: One can always hope. No but if you go for French and the Swedish embassy here in Indonesia, they will have that, you do see other signs, I mean like fika is not just in office, it happens in school, every school has a fika room. It happens when people are go on a date, it’s most common way to have your first date. Because it’s less, less dangerous to to go for a fika than for go for dinner. And it sort of like informal way to hang out. So it’s easy thing to go, we go for fika, yeah sure. It’s not like, would you go out to a dinner with me? That’s like a higher risk maneuver, you know… So coffee is kind of safe. It’s something everybody does and it’s kind of simple right. You do see similar things here. People go out for days, they have a coffee, they go for coffee for a movie or date, or hang out in large group. Just hanging out. So it does has similar, similar element already here and I think that can definitely go. I don’t think it’s gonna be, you know, institutionalized in the company anytime soon, but one can always hope.


Indonesia’s Entrepreneurial Phenomenon

BL: What can you guys tell me about your background?

ED: I did my master in management in Sweden, Stockholm School of economics and then I’ve been busy doing minor in finance at Harvard. And also some major courses in Hong Kong. So I didn’t study for this at all like no, no redline anywhere. Was thinking to do investment banking like everybody else from my schools. Until I can realize that it was not at all what I want to do. And that Ied me to do general management for other multi nationals side work with Skype and after that with EF. I thought this was something that I had lot more interesting doing.

Every time we, we have any interview and everybody ask me what was my background, without a fault everybody is like, so you did finance in Harvard, you had a fantastic job with large multi nationals so why this? Did you lose your job, like no. So why? And the point is not, you know, there’s… there’s a lot of other things you can do that is sort of safe career on what not, what not. At the end of the day you need to do something that you believe in. Because if you start a business and it’s not going well, because there’s always gonna be days where it’s not going well, no matter what you do. You still like what you’re doing, so you’re still wanna go up and do it tomorrow. You know, you don’t wanna packed up and just go home, because you had a bad day right. And at least personally I was feeling like I had too many bad days in my old careers, and I think I don’t enjoy what I am doing particularly. So what would I stand what I am doing this, instead doing something that I like. So numbers wise, is it financially logical to leave my old career and do this instead doing investment banking or stuff like that? No, no at all. Not yet. But does it make me feel good about what I do on daily basis, do I enjoy what I do, yes. And, you know, if you look at all the sort of good example of entrepreneurial from say Sweden for instance right, it’s all sense of people have done things that they wanna to fix.


BL: So you find the environment here is quite well compete to your product?

ED: Yeah, it’s been going surprisingly well to be honest. I mean like we say we don’t have the background to do this. I don’t think you need to as long as you passionate of what you’re doing, you love what you do. And you always wanna make what you do better. You know, like people always asked why do you do furnish like this, why did the interior like this, like why the product like this, and it’s like everybody expecting answers, oh because the market analysis said bla bla bla. And we didn’t do that either. We said, what kind of coffee do we like, what kind of interiors do we like, and we did it based on that, and if people like it, good. If they don’t, that’s fine too.

Luckily it turns that people like and that’s fantastic. But I believe whenever you do anything that business wise, you need to find something that you believe in, you can stick by and, you know, whatever people say about it, even have negative comments, you can still, you know, say, you know, we did it because of this. Because that’s the way we wanna do it, that’s how we believe in. If you don’t like it, that’s fine, that’s okay, not everybody needs to agree. So yeah, I think. That’s the key why it still, you know, it make sense from our sort of point of view without saying too much like a hippie. But you need somehow find something you can do and basically you enjoy doing.

ED: Like a lot of entrepreneurial sort of initiative that you see in Indonesia for long, for big majority I think, is people somehow want to– No, the perception of it entrepreneurial effort in Indonesia is aim toward making money. It’s like, if you making money, you’re awesome, if you’re famous you’re awesome, if you’re special you’re awesome. It’s not toward like why do you run your business, what’s the hard of it, what’s like what’s the value you find, why you do it the way you do, why you treat yourself the way you do, why do you– So I think that’s sort of the difference with like, so many people start things because it makes them look cool, makes them look successful, even if the business is perhaps not successful, they pump enough money into make it look like it successful. And that sort of like underlying phenomena that I’ve never seen anywhere else where everybody so eager to polish their side if you will. So it’s not, oh I am so passionate about coffee, I am gonna start a coffee shop. It’s like okay, my dad runs oil plantation or like, you know, palm oil or coal mining or, you know, manufacture industry and to any other things. And coffee looks like it could be any other business that we can make money on. But bring it up in a nice way, it’s a bit tricky. To be fair. I mean to be, to be entirely honest, I mean like it’s also not, it’s also not a business, let start a business and really focus on getting the business in the proper way. Because at the end of the day, we set out to create a small family, of people that want to do something new, that wanna do something that is not what they’ve done before.

BL: What is your opinion about entrepreneurial phenomenon in Indonesia that we have lately?

ED: Honestly speaking, I think also another problem with Indonesia entrepreneurship is that everybody is going for it, not everyone. I am generalizing a bit here. But I think there’s this lack of interest of actually running a business. But it’s more toward owning the business. Everybody wants to be an owner, everybody want to be perceive as — because it kinds of hip at the moment to be entrepreneur in Indonesia. But when it comes to the daily chores like mopping the floor, making sure the stock is capped, making sure that, you know, those kind of things. Nobody really that interested. Like even, even in Sweden for the first year, every weekend I was standing and doing the dishes. And all the customers was always ask like, well who’s the bule? Oh he’s the owner. Why is he doing the dishes, and it will be so remarkable to people to see why —

AJ: And I almost, I think in the cashier, you know (laugh).

ED: And that would be, that’s make more sense, we’re full house, we’re having a bit of delay on ours because we can’t catch up. To me that’s absolutely clear that it has to be that way. But then our team told that in their previous job, they even never seen the owner. You know, he’s the guy that sent his driver to pick up the money. But he never actually seen him in the shop. And that to me make absolutely no sense unless you do the ground work, how you gonna know what your customers are like, what do they enjoy about your shop, what do the staff feel, what is wrong with your staff, why the customer service not as good as she should be. Like there’s so many issues in this machine that you need to understand, otherwise you cannot run your business.

Barista Management 101 by Crematology

ED: The way we work with our staff I think is quite significant to different from what everybody else is doing. We don’t have any contracts that will tie them down, they’re free to leave if they want to. Whatever we do in terms of menu creation and everything, training, education, all done collectively. No menu goes out unless everybody think it is good menu, we do food testing in a team, we do drink test in a team. No hiring has done unless the team agrees that it’s a good hire. I think most people would run their business thinking, I am the boss. You know, this is what it is just do it. Just expect your team to just execute. Where for us, we’re small team, we’re small family, its functions like that. So if a new person comes in, he’s be like sort of part of the machinery that has to work. So we will, we will let them to come in for few days and do trial. Then we will ask the guys, what do you think. And it’s like, literally hands up for who wants to bring this person in. And if somebody brought in to the team, it’s everybody job to sort of, you know, mentor them make sure they get along and they fit in.

ED: Yeah I mean like it’s, it’s– We don’t have any, you know, timestamp for people to check in, we don’t have any of that. So it’s quite sort of freedom and their responsibility like there’s a lot of leeway–

BL: That’s depend on the company culture. And it works?

ED: Yeah and it works, and it works. I mean I think the guys enjoy working here. Majority of our new hire since we open the first shop actually all been our recommendation from their current team. So we sort of grow organically. We never usually hire people because we put an ad out. It’s quite rare actually. We have one or twice but it actually never work out very well. So yes, basically just friends from the current team that they feel is gonna be a good fit. So yeah, I think–

AJ: They will recommend another friend.

ED: Yeah, I mean that’s quite nice because it’s– because it’s valuable too because then everybody is not here for the money. Not every is here for the fame. Because when we started nobody knew who we were. We were literally nothing, we were, you know, talking to malls and stuff, and they were like, sorry who you are again, okay yes send your proposal, we’ll look at it. Like very nonchalant like they didn’t even want to talk about it.

AJ: That’s, that’s why the first branch of Crematology open is not in mall because we got treated like that.

ED: So we never hire on, on experience or background, we always on the hire on personality. That’s one thing we really care about it because the mechanic of how to make proper coffee, the way to learn, I like, it’s quite straightforward. And the end of the day, people want to make it look like it but it’s not rocket science, it just isn’t. And if somebody really want to learn, yeah they can learn.

AJ: Put Kevin as an example.

ED: Yeah Kevin is a nice example

AJ: He’s a shop leader right in Crematology Puri and he’s background is what, cook. He was a cook, he was a chef. And that was that, imagine that. And it’s like in couple of months, he learns how to make coffee, he learns how to make taart, and he became a team leader now.

Kevin - Crematology

BL: So what kind of background does your baristas have, like– the one who cook or about the others, do have any like various background?

AJ: Very, very various background, like some of these kids still, they’re still studying in schools. Some of them are still in school, some of them like cook background, some of them from other coffee shops as well as server before.

BL: So you taught them how to make a better coffee?

AJ: Better coffee and also to cook in the kitchen and things like that.

ED: We ask all of our guys to learn a lot of things they perhaps not common to it, so they are pleased to work in the kitchen and they keep to work in the formula.

AJ: So they can help each other in one of the busy days, you know.

ED: Yeah we’re yeah we asked our guys to learn a lot of things they’re perhaps not common to. So they are pleased to work in the kitchen, all the people in kitchen are actually train to work in.

AJ: They can help each other in one of the busy days, you know, like yeah.

ED: Like, like Boas, he’s background is a bird guy. Birding guy. So bird watcher, he takes them out on tour. Yeah, and he has no other job background at all. So it’s interesting. But, you know, eager to learn, always happy to talk to people, outgoing, it’s yeah, and always keen to help other team. I think that’s, that’s really is enough.

BL: How do you keep the quality in order?

ED: We’re always pair somebody who is junior with somebody who is senior, shop leader in senior rises. Yeah a mentor. We do regularly we do training with very experienced people. Yeah which is important, we do quality controls especially on the coffee side. Regularly on the coffee level. They guys all learn how to evaluate coffee, how to make sure it is already properly coffee grind in the morning.

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