There’s always a lot to learn from the coffee industry, especially nowadays. The one we’re sitting with today is Mira Yudhawati, among the most esteemed personas in Indonesian coffee world. She shares us a story about her life as a world competition judge and as someone who sets her hope high for Indonesian coffee.
How’s your story with Caswell’s at the beginning?
I started to work for the company in 2008. Back then, Caswell’s was already known as Indonesia’s first specialty coffee business. Even back when coffee has not yet reached the level of appreciation like today, Caswell’s had already sent its people all over the globe for symposiums and competitions. We have our first Indonesian barista from here competing in WBC, or even judges for international competitions. The company’s reputation was among the main reasons I joined here at the first place.
How’s the transition so far after the acquisition for you?
As of now, I am still entrusted by the company as the General Manager. Since the takeover by BonCafe, we’re still pretty much the same as family – only bigger. Instead of focusing only for coffee like we did since 1998, Caswell’s is now a one-stop hub beverage company.
So, other than managing only specialty coffee beans, machines, and classes; we are taking care of other products such as smoothies, juices, tea, and many more – especially for wholesales. Currently I am still adjusting to a new culture, which is both challenging and very exciting.
Can you explain a bit about the Q Grader certification and how people often relate it to you?
Q Grader certification was first held in Indonesia back in 2009 and yes, I was among the first Indonesians who received the title. But I was actually not the pioneering Indonesian woman who got the certification. Perhaps people mistook that with me being the first Indonesian woman appointed as an international WBC (World Barista Championship) judge.
As a Q grader, we are certified for certain technicalities in coffee business. However that does not automatically makes us qualified to be an international judge. Even so, being a Q grader, you have privileges while being tested as an international judge. For example, we get to skip certain questions that are reserved only for those who have not yet attained their Q grader certification.
Can you share us some of your stories being an international judge?
Well, I have just recently returned from a competition in Haikou, China. As an international judge, there will be invitation from time to time and I am very grateful for these opportunities.
I think the most exciting part from the competitions is when meeting other judges from around the world and to share with them anything new about coffee. Even myself as a judge, I always started with a clean slate whenever I’m on duty testing baristas from all over the world with their skills and presentation.
You get to learn so much from barista – what kind of coffee they bring, how they brew it, new techniques, and their presentation skills. It’s an amazing feeling to taste great coffee in accord with their presentations. World class baristas are playing for keeps. They prepare for everything months ahead the competition and that’s what makes them champions.
What about the local competitions?
I am actually among the co-founders of BGI (Barista Guild of Indonesia). We collaborate with traders and many parties to help nurture the quality of the baristas through competitions. Usually we are entrusted to organize local competitions and I would usually help as the head judge.
It’s great to see the quality of our competitions and the baristas nowadays. Back then, everybody started from scratch so we had to learn through trial-and-error. I remember the time when baristas actually presented their coffee by mixing it with raw eggs, curry powders, and even rose petals!
Now we are happy to see that the standards are there and competitions are held in many places with contestants coming even from rural towns. I do think we have a bright future ahead.
Speaking of which, with the rise of es kopi susu trend, even I observe that Indonesian market share is still so huge that everyone could actually get their share in it. It’s going to be interesting to see what will happen next with our coffee world here.