The main area in the hill town of Ubud, Bali, has no more than 2 or 3 large roads. Strangely most tourists bound themselves here. A turn to the narrow streets off the main roads quickly escapes the bustle. It’s on such a quiet pathway that I find something novel—a cafe devoted to one coffee variety from one village.
The shop name, Juria House, takes after the variety. Mind you, the place is small. It only fits a row of sofas and low chairs. The owner, a Japanese transplant named Ryuichi Hirakawa, operates the space almost like his living room. He’d welcome you as you take your shoes off, sit down, and hear the story behind the coffee.
Juria House’s customer space, taking up 2/3 of the shop.
Juria derives from Typica seeds that a Flores native brought home from Sulawesi in 1950. The first trees still thrive today in Colol village, East Manggarai regency. Growing untrimmed to 4 or 5 m, they require a climb during harvest.
Shop mural showing Colol’s location in the island of Flores, eastern Indonesia.
Ryu discovered Juria when he obtained a sample from Colol while visiting Manggarai. His interest in old Indonesian Typicas grew then. It created an impetus to seek the trees at origin, and, over time, open the shop in 2014. Knowing Ryu’s love for old Typicas helps me understand why a man with no professional coffee resume—or tattoo or beard—would open a unique tiny shop after finding an obscure bean.
Before Juria House, Ryu had a long tenure directing Japanese TV programs on Indonesia—a “tropical theater,” as he calls it. His career took him all over, from Sumatra in the west to Irian Jaya in the east. Following retirement, he left Tokyo 5 years ago and has since called Ubud home.
Given the shop size, the work area is certainly tight. A beat-up home grinder sits on a fridge just behind the brew bar. A sign bearing the shop name stands higher than the bar so that it slightly blocks the brewing gear. This setup may not be deliberate. Yet it bucks the trend of making pourovers a spectacle. Ryu offers hand brewing simply because it’s an economical way to prepare coffee.
Juria House owner Ryuichi Hirakawa, smiling after tasting a brew he’ll serve.
Over our chat, Ryu made me two brews with a plastic cone. Each measured no more than 120 mL. The first was the Juria, of course. A common Typica, the brew was balanced and not highly acidic—more milk chocolate with citrus in the background. The second one, a Yellow Caturra variety from the same village, gave lovely fruit and floral notes—jackfruit, peach, and vanilla came to me and my wife as we sipped.
What struck me most about both cups were their creaminess and cleanness, devoid of earthy or woody Indo notes. This is not an accident. To improve on the crops he bought before, this year Ryu insisted that his processor adopt stricter controls. Measures included triple sorting—“one machine, two by hand”—and never letting the seeds touch the ground during processing. These called for more work, but Ryu also paid more for the crop.
Juria House’s spotlight on Colol mirrors Flores’ growing acclaim as coffee origin. For long, Manggarai producers suffered under a loan shark culture. This trapped them in a vortex of poor crops and low prices. A change began in 2010 when the farmers formed Asosiasi Petani Kopi Manggarai (Manggarai Coffee Farmers Association). They worked with banks and non-profits to create another funding model, improve their crops, and gain better prices.
In a few years, Flores coffee production—both from Manggarai and neighboring Bajawa— rose profoundly, winning awards and record prices at auctions. My wife and I ourselves have been wowed by different Flores beans we tried the past few months in Indonesia.
Given Manggarai’s increasing fame, Juria House is hardly the only roaster sourcing from the area. His, however, remains one that focuses mostly on the village. Ryu even sets aside 5% of profits for the farmers to fund their kids’ schooling.
I’ve since returned to Juria House often as a regular. Revisiting the space feels like lingering on a sentence in a prose of Ubud shop signs. Coffee remains the main pull. The other draw owes to candor in the homey, humble air. A proprietor serves something black, then sits next to you to talk about its source. In Juria House, the core of a specialty shop cannot be more plainly stated.
Jalan Sugriwa no. 3