I suppose Aussies are partly to thank/blame for opening the gates of hell of tourism here in Bali. Surfers have been coming here and enjoying the killer waves and friendly animist/Hindu smiles since the 1970s, and lately, you can’t throw a coconut without hitting an Australian surf shop or fashion startup. It’s a different world today from the horse-drawn carts and rice-field-serenity that those early surfers would have discovered—now it’s frenetic, jammed with scooter traffic, and development is rapid-fire. The island is a good spot for those seeking tasty food and drinks, and depending on your preference, you can pull up to a warung and eat street food and drink $2 beers, or you can eat at world-class restaurants followed by cocktails made by some of the best bartenders around. And whilst the kopi has been flowing since 1711 when the Dutch introduced Arabica plants—finding a delicious, sweet brew with any form of acidity has been hard here, where the humidity is always 90 plus, but the coffee not so much, until recently.
So let’s get into it. Next time you’re on the island of the gods, you’re getting out of the infinity pool in your villa, you’ve had your papaya, your hair is looking good in those braids you got down at Kuta beach—wack on your Bintang singlet, hop in a Bluebird taxi and go drink coffee here!
Owned by the Australian sculptor Rodney Glick, Seinman Coffee is the spot to drink coffee in the hills in Ubud, which has become a vegan/raw food/yoga mecca of late. Seniman has fast expanded from one shop on Jalan Sriwedari into a training and education studio downstairs and a roasting headquarters across the road. Seniman means “artist” in Bahasa, and the name isn’t just an ego stroke from the owner—they do artfully prepare their drinks amongst the colorful vibe and hubbub of the place. They are brewing espresso on a La Marzocco Linea PB and they offer a choice of mostly (though they do have one or two imports) Indonesian hand-brewed filter coffee—you can choose or defer to them on what gadget you want your coffee brewed; I had a Hario V60. Cafes in Bali have lots of staff (wages are affordable, let’s put it that way) so places like this have a hive of buzzing young workers all super keen. This is helping to foster and develop a new coffee culture very quickly and it also means that hand-brewed coffee is the norm which was a nice change—there is a romance to watching your coffee being prepared by a focused barista as opposed to being squeezed out of an airpot.
Hungry Bird Coffee Roaster
The area of Canggu on the west coast of the island is currently the hip spot. You’ve got nice little bars and great restaurants nestled in between rice fields, the waves are less crowded and less polluted—there are, however, a lot of cranes looming and developments are going up fast—so don’t sleep on visiting if you’re in Bali. Hungry Bird Coffee Roaster was once the sole purview of owner Prawira “Edo” Adhiguna pulling shots on a single-group machine, but it's now expanded into a light-filled new shop and roastery with full kitchen and a 15-kilogram Probat that just arrived a week before I visited. The barista manning the Synesso Hydra was intent and extremely focused and was busting out good-looking tulips. Yes, one of the signs of a developing coffee culture is the fact that they are still super psyched on latte art—but it is a gateway drug. The food is tasty and affordable and the coffee was excellent, I had a great filter prepared with a coffee from Toraja in Sulawesi, and a leathery but sweet espresso made with coffee from Kintamani in Bali. They were kind enough to bag a few things for retail for me that were just roasted and gave me some tips on other spots to hit as well, so definitely have a chat.
Expat Roasters is so new you can smell it. The tiny espresso bar is all concrete and glass, and you could be in a downtown cafe in San Francisco or Potts Point if it weren’t for the plethora of motorbikes outside and the nice Balinese staff. Expat is next door to Sisterfields and Bo$$man—all three places are owned by Aussie Adam McAsey. McCasey set up Expat with Sydney barista Shae Macnamara, who won the Australian Coffee in Good Spirits contest in 2016 and works for Grinders Coffee. It’s not exactly vibe central here—it kind of feels like a holding bay for their two eateries—but they are making top notch coffees on a pimped out La Marzocco Linea PB (which has individual boilers and scales in the drip tray) and the location works well for a quick coffee before lunch or shopping for wooden penis bottle openers.
L/S Coffee Studio (Buro Concept Store)
OK, I was a little confused as to what this joint is called. It’s officially L/S Coffee Studio, it is a part of the Buro Concept Store and it’s above Livingstone Bakery… still with me? I think they may have taken the concept store idea a little far, but the Wi-Fi and air conditioning are good and they are smashing out tasty espresso. L/S was one of the only multi-roaster setups I found, running coffees from some of the best Indo roasters such as Common Grounds and Curious People as well as internationals like Melbourne’s Sensory Lab and Sydney roasters Artificer Coffee and Sample Coffee Roasters on occasion. The concept store extends nicely into hosting regular public cuppings and coffee classes (including regular workshops with St Ali’s Ben Morrow). L/S has a short menu of your usual cafe fare and a tight menu of “other coffee drinks” akin to the G&B Coffee stable—I had a cashew milk and espresso shake which was equal parts punchy and provided me much needed refreshment.
Sensa Koffie’s full name is Sensa Kueh Pia & Koffie Bali and it’s split into two shops. Downstairs it sells traditional Javanese snacks like kripuk—crispy fried things (delicious, get some), and kueh, which are sweets. The coffee zone upstairs is really lovely: it’s an open and airy space with a big balcony, a perfect spot to ruminate over a hand-brewed V60 or an espresso. Vito Adi is the owner and head roaster, he has a pretty serious coffee pedigree and is very involved in the competition and training scene in Indonesia—he is a certified competition judge and was the 2014 Cup Tasters champion in Indonesia. They serve a bunch of single origins from all over the archipelago amongst a menu of other drinks and traditional Indo food.
As were all of the staff at the cafes I visited, the barista at Sensa was friendly as hell and asked for feedback on the pour-over he made me as well as chatting about all the places I’d drunk coffee at. It’s easy to see why the coffee scene is growing so fast as the baristas are all really engaged, humble, and thirsty for information, they were all happy to discuss the other cafes they like to visit and it seems there’s a nice little community establishing itself. I’m looking forward to the brews on my next visit. Enjoy your coffees, selamat jalan.
Jai Pyne is a coffee professional, recording artist, and journalist based in Sydney, who has written for The Thousands, Good Sport, and Lost at E Minor. Read more Jai Pyne on Sprudge.