Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Semasa di Kota Tua, the Memory of Colonial Era

It's such an impressive mind behind the name of the coffee shop, which for me was able to perfectly revealed the character to be exposed from itself, a vintage place that would bring out all those beautiful old memories from our beloved capital city. Not just that, I was also mesmerized by the fact that they sticked with using Bahasa Indonesia for the name, yet it could still be a very catchy one, even better than many cool ones stated in English. 

Located in Jakarta's old city area, to be precise right across One of Jakarta's busiest train station - Jakarta Kota, this coffee shop could be easily found when you're given direction beforehand. If you're first timer without any priorly given clues, you might get lost or found it troublesome to get to the spot as there's no visible signboard guiding you to find the venue. I was almost passing it when my sight luckily fell on a signboard with quite small letters standing in front of the building. It's not that easy to be spotted as the board wasn't even dedicated for Semasa, but being shared with other corners within the building itself, which also shared information there. 

Semasa cafe was located at the third level of the rustic old-fashioned building, which was mostly covered in white walls and red bricks. It already looked quite shivery, for which I wasn't surprised at all, since it's been standing there for over 100 years, being the house to an insurance company in the Dutch-colonial era called OLVEH. 

Entering the tall-standing wooden doors, you would be greet by the birds-replica hanging on the ceiling. Some gorgeous old paintings were displayed, decorating all the corners. I wasn't sure if it's free space or rented ones for showcasing those artsy creations, but I certainly knew they looked awesome! I could see some people well took the advantage to use the space for photo shoots. I wasn't only talking about those simple snaps with cellphones by the amateurs, but also the real serious ones with complete advanced equipment. 

Going upstairs, there was Semasa di Kota Tua, occupying perhaps only quarter-size of the whole third floor. It wasn't a fancy one with elegant furniture, yet it didn't fail at all to amuse me. The simplicity proved its ultimate sophistication as I saw it's not only me, but also abundant tourists stopped by and taking tons of pictures of the place. There were only two petite round tables and a long communal one were provided there for the guests who wanted to sit down for awhile, sipping their cups of drinks while enjoying the panoramic scenery of our forever-hectic old city. 

I heard from my friend who knew the owner in person, this man who's mostly there all-day long taking care of the cafe himself, was a tea specialist who has been sharpening his expertise in this field for years. He's also the owner of the currently happening Pantjoran Tea House, so no wonder people mostly came to give a try on their tea. 


Following the crowd, I picked their Japanese Matcha (IDR 35k), one of the selections under tea group that's claimed as the best-seller. When delivered on the table, the owner would pour the boiling water into the cup that's been pre-filled by the green tea powder, then mixed it with the traditional Japanese tea stirrer. The way to enjoy it was pretty unique as the sugar was served separately in a braided shape. The owner briefed us that you have to chew it before having the tea in order to get the sweet flavor as the tea was quite bitter. I was quite surprised with the unique way it's served and I was initially a bit worried it would be extremely bitter. Gladly, when the truth was revealed as I had my first sip, it's indeed bold yet the bitterness level was surely acceptable. The sugar which came as the balancer to the taste, was decent as well as the sweetness was just right.

Japanese Matcha (IDR 35k)
Japanese Matcha (IDR 35k)
Japanese Matcha (IDR 35k)
Japanese Matcha (IDR 35k)
While I was having tea, my friend opted for their Hot Cappuccino (IDR 35k) which turned out didn't have that fancy latte art as usual ones we met in other coffee shops. Taste wise, it seemed to be not suiting our palate well as it's slightly too bitter, having the flavor more into black coffee. 'Cheating' on the coffee, my friend then mixed it with brown sugar and it turned to be much better. So I guessed now the black coffee lover already got one more option for what they should go for when coming to Semasa ;). Good stuff (and perhaps unique as well), it was served on a tray accompanied by 3 petite different cookies which in my guesstimate were Chocolate, Pineapple (Nastar), and Butter. They were simply the traditional ones you might commonly met in any occasions like Christmas, New Year, or Eid. 

Hot Cappuccino (IDR 35k)
Feeling incomplete having drinks only, we had one of the two choices of light bites provided. Basically, the choices they provided as your beverage-pairing varied everyday but they were typically desserts. On my visit, they had Giant Soft Cookie and Brownie, for which I picked the latter one to match my drink. I would rather call it sponge cake covered in chocolate than brownie as you might see and judge yourself from the picture. Nonetheless, please don't get me wrong as I didn't say that this matcha-powder-topped cake wasn't nice. It was a middling one with light texture and beautiful balance of bittersweet flavor from the compilation of matcha and chocolate. 

Brownie with Matcha Powder
Brownie with Matcha Powder

Overall, it's a wonderful experience visiting this place and enjoying the ambiance of ancient Jakarta. Amusingly, this coffee shop seemed to be appealing not only for us the locals, but also foreign tourists who took their city tour strolling around Old City area. 

For your friends or relatives who might haven't gotten the chance to physically visit the venue by themselves, you could let them see the pictures of the place, while giving them extra happiness by buying some handmade gifts sold there as well. Clothes, tableware, kitchen utensils, stationary, and many more; all of which were coming in vintage and distinctive design, and most importantly quite affordable prices. Surely worth the visit when in Kota Tua!

Taste: 7/10
Place: 8/10
Service: 8.5/10
Price: 7.5/10

Thanks for reading! :)

Address: Gedung OLVEH, Jl. Jembatan Batu No. 50, Jakarta
Phone: (+62) 877 8622 5886
Operating Hours: Mon - Sun 11am - 5.30pm

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Inputs & comments: jessicagaby@ymail.com

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