Gloria Alley – thriving and yet hidden from sight and currently facing the increasingly modernised surroundings. Yet, foodies don’t miss a beat when it comes to the heart of the alley where Kopi Es Tak Kie is located.
The coffee shop itself is timeless. As rustic as it may seem, the establishment is well-managed and frequented by many especially during lunchtime. Even though the operational hours are odd since Tak Kie only opens until 2pm, but people would visit from early morning for their daily caffeine intake and hearty meals.
Letting the coffee out of the equation for now, the alley conceals some of the most ingenious food from the Chinese residents who have been around for generations. Its duck curry noodles, chicken rice, nasi tim (steamed rice mixed with chicken and egg), gado-gado (vegetables salad with peanut sauce dressing), or the exotics like sekba (pork innards soup) and even pi oh (soft shell tur tle soup) are the main attractions since its beginnings.
Our host for that day, Mr Akwang, is the third generation co-owner. His grandfather, Mr Liong Tjoen, started this venture as a street side vendor in 1927 and offered only tea that time for the customers. In 1929, Mr Liong Tjoen settled down at this very venue and the legacy continues until now. The increasing popularity that Tak Kie has been enjoying since it was relocated permanently to Gloria Alley brought them in terms with what their customers want. “Thus the time began for us to switch into coffee. What defines us is always in line with the demands – including the food here”, says Mr Akwang.
Tak Kie’s decision to enter coffee was probably the best call ever. It has since known as one of few Jakarta’s prototypes of coffee shops. But judging from how it looks, it also cannot be compared directly with stereotypical kopitiams. Despite its Chinese influences, there’s a huge difference in the way Tak Kie brews its coffee and the types of food served there. “Since early morning, we have brewed our coffee and will reheat it upon order. For the iced coffee, we only need to add ice cubes and optionally milk”, continues Pak Akwang.
Despite this rather unorthodox method, it actually works well. Somehow Tak Kie manages to negate the conclusion that freshly brewed coffee should come from freshly ground beans. It works well this way and even for the discerning, the iced milk coffee goes extraordinarily well. As an exchange to what we would expect coming from the usual kopitiam with its soft-boiled eggs and kaya toast, Tak Kie serves its customers heavy meals – such as congee, nasi tim, and nasi campur. “People wanted something more fulfilling”, says Pak Akwang laughing.
That’s Kopi Tak Kie for you to visit. Jakarta owes it a lot to this humble coffee shop and it remains still in the hearts of both the older and younger generations. Even with so many modern coffee shops emerging lately, one would still go for a trip to Gloria Alley just to sip Tak Kie’s robusta brew, served sweet and milky.
KOPI TAK KIE
Not halal-friendly (meals contain pork)
Unsuitable for vegetarians
Jalan Pintu Besar Selatan III no. 4-6, Jakarta – Indonesia
Daily, 6.30am – 2pm
As featured in mise en place Vol. 13 (2015)