coffee stall kopi joss widescreen

Cultural Insights: Kopi Joss

Kopi Joss: What is it?

Kopi Joss is a delicacy attributed to Yogyakarta, a town in Java affectionately shortened to ‘Jogja’. This part of Indonesia has long been associated with the coffee plant and has been a centre for coffee exports for centuries.

Along the streets of Jogja, especially near train stations, street vendors called Angkringan can be found selling snacks and a variety of coffees, including kopi joss. Getting a coffee from these street vendors is very much a part of the Jogja culture, and many locals will factor in a stop at their favourite vendor as part of their daily routine.

kopi Joss
Kopi Joss

The city’s residents have claimed they have found a solution to coffee’s often unpleasant side-effects related to its acidity and high caffeine content.

 They dump a hot piece of charcoal into a sweetened brew and claim that this will nullify its acidic edge and bring its caffeine levels right down – so much so that Kopi Joss vendors open up of an evening to serve up the beverage.

The name kopi joss actually comes from the sound of the drink. The word ‘kopi’ means coffee. As the piping hot charcoal is dropped into the coffee, it makes a hissing sound as the drink boils over, hence the ‘joss’. So, the name ‘kopi joss’ essentially means hissing coffee. The charcoal burning in the coffee gives the drink a hint of caramel as the sugar burns, and this burned flavouring seems to divide tasters.

However, first-timers are always impressed and delighted by the theatrical nature of the beverage. The coffee resembles a bubbling potion, served in a glass, as the piping hot charcoal is dropped in.

Kopi joss steaming cup
Photo credit:
"Not only is it exciting and new for many people, but it’s also an invaluable insight into Indonesian life."
Local travel expert

Insight on kopi joss from our expert, Dimas:

“I’m actually not a big fan, to be honest! However, coffee-lovers always enjoy this experience. Not only is it exciting and new for many people, but it’s also an invaluable insight into Indonesian life.  I like to take clients to Kopi Klothok – a favourite place of mine to showcase youth culture. Indonesian youngsters come here to hangout, chill, relax with their friends and drink coffee or tea.

“Kopi Klothok at the north of Malioboro Street is one of the best places to see this – a great place to witness and feel the vibe of the Indonesian youngsters that may be quite different to where they are from.”

Malioboro sign
Malioboro street is a great place to catch some kopi joss vendors

Those looking for intriguing coffee twists are spoilt for choice in Indonesia. Besides kopi joss, there are other coffee variations to try. There’s kopi jahe, ginger coffee that comes with a kick, mixed with palm sugar, and is believed to be good for alleviating flu symptoms.

There’s also kopi bumbu, another spiced coffee flavoured with cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves. Finally, kopi sereh makes use of an ingredient favoured in many Indonesian dishes – lemongrass. Lemongrass coffee is said to bring a sense of freshness and vigour to the body.

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