Hubert Burda Media

Coffee Culture: Irvan Helmi

Irvan Helmi of Anomali Coffee on why Indonesian coffee needs to be a "king" in its own country

“We want to be on top of everyone’s mind when it comes to Indonesian
coffee specialities,” says Irvan Helmi, the co-founder and Coffee Chief at Anomali Coffee, one of the most popular local coffee-shop chains in Jakarta and Bali with a total of seven branches. He and his partner Muhammad Abgari (Agam) founded the business in 2007. Their mission is to serve highquality Indonesian coffee to their customers.

“We believe that Indonesian coffee should be the king in the country,” says Helmi. “For example, foreign tourists are often not trying Indonesian coffee when they come here. They drink the same coffee they get back in their own country. But I believe they will want to taste our arabica selections, like Sumatra Mandailing, Aceh Gayo or Bali Kintamani, if they get the opportunity. Anomali caters to that experience.”

Helmi recalls how he first took a serious personal interest in coffee. “I was a programmer before and I would stay up all night working. So it was a habit for me to drink coffee every day – lots of coffee. But it got boring sometimes always having the same stuff. So I began experimenting with different coffees. It was the same story for Agam. He was an engineer and he had the same work habits as me. We have been best friends since high school and we had always wanted to start a business together. Since we had the same interest in coffee, we decided to pursue this field seriously.

“We know that we have to be different to stand out. Because there was no coffee shop back then that had a vision to promote Indonesian-only coffee, we saw that as an opportunity to fill a niche market. That’s the story behind Anomali. All along, we have only served Indonesian arabica coffee in our cafes.”

Besides Anomali coffee shops, there are two other business entities in the company. The first one is a trading company that supply and import Indonesian coffee beans as well as coffee machine and tools, while the latter is Indonesia Coffee Academy (ICA) that educates and trains professional and non-professional about coffee.

“We set ourselves as the coffee curator and because of that we need to have a strong radar towards Indonesian coffee. If we as a curator fail to curate good coffee only, it will not attract the market. So, besides the café, ICA is one of our tool to promote Indonesian coffee through its class.

“For 2017, we will finally open our brand for franchise. We want Anomali to be an accessible brand because coffee is a generic thing. We know that franchise business is all about being transferable and repeatable, but for making coffee is a different story, it’s related to personal skill and we already have our own formula for that because we do have ICA to train the future franchisee staffs. We want them to work consistently to make good quality coffee with short amount of time,” he says.

Having been the industry for nine years, Helmi has his own thoughts about the
coffee culture here in Indonesia. “The world’s consumption of coffee increased 5 percent in 2016, while in Indonesia the increase was 8 percent. I think there’s been an improvement in Indonesian coffee consumption because people realise that we do have a lot of high-quality coffee beans in this country. It makes the supply chain efficient and the coffee less expensive. That’s what makes our growth so high.

“Besides, we know that Indonesia has a lot of population. It is by nature that coffee is a strategic product to be improved in Indonesia. We can use a lot of workers because coffee plantations have an extensive labour system.”

What are Helmi’s thoughts about the sharp rise in the number of coffee shops that has taken place here recently? “I never worry about such competition,” he replies. “We can all be winners on our own terms. Without competition, there will be
no innovation. Together, we became stronger to promote the Indonesian coffee market.”

What is Helmi’s biggest dream for Anomali Coffee? “It’s just a simple matter,” he muses. “We make Indonesian speciality coffee accessible in the market. It has been our core business, and with that we would like to give back to the nation.”


The full feature has been published in Prestige March 2017, The Food Issue. Click here to purchase.

Outfit: Hermès

PhotographyZaky Akbar

StylingGabriela Batti