All in the Family
    Category: Entrepreneurs By : Melody Kim Read : 1840 Date : Tuesday, August 06, 2013 - 06:14:11

    Ahmad Zamroni / Forbes Indonesia

    In a black and white photo on the wall, a cluster of Indonesians are standing in front of a store underneath a festive banner reading “Happy 60th anniversary - welcome guests.” Rudy Widjaja, 71, raises a finger and points to a man wearing a white suit and a bowtie. “This is my grandfather,” says Rudy. The photo was taken in 1938, four years before Rudy was born.

    With that photo, the antique weighing scale in the back and a coffee fragrance in the air so thick you can practically taste it, you can't help but feel the history at Warung Tinggi Coffee, Indonesia's oldest coffee company, founded in 1878. In July, the family celebrated 135 years of coffee production. The parent company, PT Warung Tinggi Coffee, has been owned by the family for five generations, making it easily one of the country's oldest continuously operated businesses (and still under the same owners).

    Now the family is embarking on what is possibly the most ambitious expansion in its long history. This month, Warung Tinggi plans to open its first café in Grand Indonesia mall and is aiming for at least one or two more by the end of the year. Once the cafes are complete, the family hopes to sell franchises and begin expanding internationally, building on its existing client base in South Korea, Japan, the U.S. and elsewhere. The move to expand actually got its first start about a decade ago, when General Manager Angel Widjaja, 31, took over active management of the business from her father Rudy and launched a wholesale business. “In the future, I hope that more people will know the Warung Tinggi brand,” says Angel, who leads the fifth generation of the family business.

    Café openings, wholesaling and franchising are leaps and bounds ahead of the coffee shop's simple 1878 beginnings. According to legend, Liauw Tek Siong, Rudy's great-grandfather, opened a small shop on Jalan Hayam Wuruk where customers would often linger and enjoy a cup of coffee after a meal at the shop. In those days, women walked by with baskets on their heads full of coffee beans to sell to Warung Tinggi every morning. To roast the beans, the family used an enormous iron wok where handfuls of sand mixed in with the beans helped distribute the heat more evenly. The original Warung Tinggi store sold one blend of coffee, packaged in simple brown paper.

    Today, Warung Tinggi sells more than a dozen different blends and creates many more custom blends for private clients. The iron wok has been replaced by two industrial roasters in a 1,500 square meter factory in Tangerang. The image of the women peddlers has been immortalized on the Warung Tinggi logo which is emblazoned on all of its cups, saucers and coffee products—and will also be featured prominently in the new cafe.

    One thing that hasn't changed, however, is the family's commitment to coffee. The most treasured blends use secret recipes that have been passed down through the family line over the years. “Many people who come here are surprised that Warung Tinggi has such good coffee; they think we are too old and traditional. But when they try our coffee, they realize that it is as equally good as retail coffee or French coffee,” says Angel. According to her, Rudy has researched more than 200 types of coffee in order to find the perfect combinations for Warung Tinggi. For example, Rudy knows exactly which beans and blends are best suited for an espresso versus a black coffee, or which variations taste better when mixed with milk. “Most people have a library of books. Rudy has a library of coffee,” says Angel with a smile. When coffee growers submit beans to the company, Rudy likes to open the sample bags, first smelling the beans, then examining them and finally rolling them in his hands to feel for the texture, weight and moisture.