Edy and Rachmat, the 3-in-1 Coffee Guys

For Edy and his son Rachmat, coffee is a family affair. This father and son duo have been brewing coffee, dishing out mie ayam, and doling out the occasional roadside pijat session since the Suharto days. Back behind the hustle and bustle of Sudirman, tucked away in the shade of Senopati, sits Edy and Rachmat’s coffee stand kaki lima.

Business is good. Edy and Rachmat serve everyone from taxi drivers and construction workers to doctors and office workers sneaking away for a quick cigarette and a cup of Kapal Api.

While Rachmat, 29, may be too young to remember the early days of his father’s business venture, Edy swiftly recalls them with zeal.

“I’ve had this cart since the 70s,” he says over a random car horn, the occasional jackhammer and the smell of sweet instant coffee. “I can’t remember not having this cart. This cart has put food on the table for Rachmat and his brothers and sisters for more than 40 years.”

But the years have been taking a toll on Edy. Last year he had a stroke, so Rachmat took over the heavy lifting and coordination, storing the cart each night after midnight when the two decide to call it a night.

“We get here around 2pm, when the taxi drivers show up to take a break in the shade,” explains Rachmat. “We live down close to Ragunan, by Gus Dur’s house. We don’t get home until the first prayer some nights. We close at midnight, but we have to change buses a few times and some of the buses are not on time. Most nights we get to bed around Maghrib.”

While some people might look hours like that and wonder why Edy and his son would come all the way from Ragunan to Senopati just to sell coffee, the father-son duo quickly dishes out a little small business 101 advice.

“This is the best location in the city,” says Edy craning his neck to look up at the cranes and blooming skyscrapers along Jalan Senopati. “It’s a great location for foot traffic. We have all the taxi drivers who stop by to relax and grab a cup of coffee. Then across the street we have our friends selling gorengan (deep fried snacks). And next to them there is a guy that fixes flat tires. And then just down the road there is a school and a hospital. There’s nothing like this in Ragunan. And if there was, we would have to fight a bunch of other people for the spot. I’m Betawi. I don’t want to have to push and shove for a place to sell coffee.”

And why should he?

Jakarta has always been a city of opportunities. If the market share doesn’t look appealing in one part of town, then just pick up and move down the street. And if that doesn’t work you move a little further down the street. That’s the beauty of a chaotic city of 20 million—as long as you have passion and drive, there’s a spot for you in the Big Durian. There’s a spot for everybody.

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Hush Petersen is currently on sabbatical from the hero's journey. He loves sipping Budweisers, doing the crossword and judging people outside Ranch Market in Mega Kuningan. You should join him some time.