Originally from the UK, David O’Sullivan had a dynamic career in advertising and marketing, working in cities as diverse as London, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Sydney and Geneva, before he decided to make a major life-change. Inspired by coffee cultures in different parts of the world, he is now co-owner of the Seniman Coffee Studio in Ubud.
Seniman sells what’s known as “third wave” coffee. What does “third wave” actually mean?
The first wave was mass production of coffee made accessible to the general population. It was instant coffee, in the 20s, 30s and 40s: really low-quality, cheap coffee that you could buy for the home.
The second wave followed the lead of the Italians. They invented the espresso, which was about a fast-moving lifestyle. That’s now evolved into the proliferation of high street coffee chains like Starbucks. The second wave woke everyone up to the world of coffee. A need was created that wasn’t there before. But the quality has definitely suffered because of the mainstream franchise approach.
Third wave is really about celebrating the relationship with the coffee-growers, the origin of the bean, and all of the different coffee-growing regions. Just as there is a counter-culture to factory-style, poor-quality food, that movement has also come to coffee. The source, the roast, and then the brew: these are the three pillars of third wave coffee culture.
How do the beans vary in different parts of Indonesia?
There are probably about twelve different variables: climate, the weather during the harvest, the amount of crop that was grown, how ripe it was when it was picked, the soil, the altitude, the age of the plant, the origins of the plant, what it’s growing near, the actual type of Arabica, how the bean is washed and dried. These all influence the flavor.
Seniman specializes in “light roasts”. How do these differ from darker roasts?
We’re possibly the only coffee shop in Indonesia that’s doing this. Lighter roasting has come from Asian cultures, particularly Japan and Taiwan, stemming from their artisan approach to tea consumption.
I think this will be the next big trend in coffee. Lighter roasts will be the future. They’re not lighter in caffeine or taste, just lighter in colour. This is a really exciting style of coffee – aromatic, much more floral and fruity. Think of Earl Grey and Lapsong Souchong teas with their strange bouquets.
How do different brewing methods affect the quality of a cup of coffee?
The siphon brewing style is the best way to extract the subtle flavours of coffee. The siphon gives the most manual control, offering the opportunity to laser-hit the optimum flavour from the bean.
With the pour-over style, you’re controlling the amount of water, to extract the optimal amount of flavor from the bean without making it bitter. This style creates more body; it releases more oils from the grind than the siphon style.
Our philosophy is manual: don’t use machines. Even the espresso machine we use has a hand-pull instead of a steam-pressure device. Again it’s allowing greater creativity according to our own preference. We can design the flavor that we want to create, rather than produce what the machine tells us we can.
Not everyone is a connoisseur. Do you hope to help people understand and appreciate coffee in a new way?
We have a full curriculum in place that will invite people on a “journey of coffee”, giving them a full welcome to the world of artisan coffee. We’ll talk about the history of coffee, the growing of coffee, and we’ll organize a trip to a farm in Kintamani. We’ll pick green beans, come here and roast them. Then we’ll do tastings and take people through the different methods of brewing.
It’s very hard to describe something if you don’t have the vocabulary for it, so we’ll quickly train people to identify the different flavours – sweet, bitter, sour and so on – helping them connect the vocabulary with what their palette is telling them. We’ve built a demonstration area in the café for this purpose.
You’ve married science with art in your design concept for the café.
My partner Rodney and I have the DNA of design in us. It’s not just about the coffee, it’s down to the music, the ambience, the seating, the presentation, the glassware, the table you’re sitting at, the chair, the staff wearing Charlie Chaplin hats. The details culminate in an experience that is unique. That excites me and helps me to get up in the morning.
Presumably coffee helps you get up in the morning too! Do you ever tire of the taste of coffee?