Mangarr is known as the city of 1,000 coffee shops. This made me very excited because I don’t just love coffee, I pretty much worship coffee. At home, I order exotic green coffee beans like Gesha from Guatemala, I roast it myself, and I brew it in a vacuum-method brewer. For me it is a process, an art, and the one thing I have honestly missed more than anything as I travel around in a coffee-filled country in which it is ironically hard to get a decent cup.
Well, here I am in Sumatra, and I can’t tell you how thrilled I was when my driver reassured me that, yes, the coffee we would be getting in Mangarr would be grown in Sumatra. (I can’t tell you how often I’ve ordered a cup of coffee here only to be presented with Nescafe’.)
Now, I wouldn’t say that Mangarr really has 1,000 coffee shops. (I only spotted five.) It would be nice if they turned some of those coffee shops into some real restaurants, but I digress. So, we arrived at the coffee shop and I ordered mine with milk like I usually do. I forgot that in Indonesia that they put sugar in everything including the milk. What I got in return was a cup of sugar with a little bit of milk and coffee in it. My mouth actually puckered from the sweetness, and I still have a headache from that one swallow. I actually felt cavities trying to form in my mouth, it was so sweet.
I was so disappointed because I couldn’t taste the coffee at all. Not only that, the coffee wasn’t served in a regular mug but a glass, and it was so hot that you couldn’t even pick the glass up to drink it. I was forced to drink it with a spoon, slurp by slurp. I was really bent on trying some Sumatran coffee in Sumatra, so I slurped a bit of it down, and then I had the idea that I would just have them add more coffee to cut the sweetness.
Mind you that no one on Belitung speaks English, so what happened next was one of the most awful “lost in translation” moments that I’ve ever had. I thought I was doing pretty good pantomiming that I wanted more coffee added to the glass and no more sugary milk. I showed them where the milk had been. I showed them where the coffee was, and sign languaged that I wanted some more coffee.
The coffee lady at the window nodded that she understood, and then managed to scoop a huge scoop of coffee grounds from the tin and put them right on top of my glass. So now, not only did I have the world’s sweetest cup of coffee, but now I had coffee sludge floating on the top. Things didn’t get any better when I asked to use the bathroom and was led down a dark hallway to the world’s dirtiest squat toilet with the biggest cockroach in the world sitting in it, just waiting for me to arrive.
I guess I’ll just have to wait another day for a decent cup of coffee. Meanwhile, I’m coffeeless in Sumatra and wishing for a Starbuck’s for the first time in my life.
You may also like reading my article about the food of Indonesia!