Great Coffee in Common: Arca Ulian

Posted by Sarah Rouse on

A very special GCIC we are excited to be able to share with you, from a recent trip to Bali where we visited the lovely team at Arca Ulian Mill. 

Country: Bali

Region: Ulian, Kintamani

Mill: Arca Ulian

Farm land: 6 hectares

Translator: Iwayan Arca



Interviewees: Iwayan Arca, Nyoman Sudani, Komang Widi, Wayan Risten, Nyoman Rongkai (Iwayan’s mother)

Interviewers: Shaughan Dunne of Five Senses Coffee/Common Man Coffee Roasters, Pablo HWB of Common Man Coffee Roasters 




Shaughan: So we’re at Ulian Murni, it’s a small village. 45 minutes from Ubud, about 30km. It is a farming community of 970 people, and about 150 hectares in size. It’s quite an organized and closed community/village. Coffee growing is one of the big industries here. Orange is the biggest source of income; coffee would sit just behind that. One of the things that we’re trying to show, people in coffee consuming countries really have no idea what goes on in coffee producing countries.

We’d really love to get a snapshot of a day in the life of these ladies. How being a coffee farmer or coffee producer or worker of industry affects them.

First question is, have they seen a lot of changes since they first started interacting with western or Australian coffee companies. What changes have they seen in the village and everyday lives?

Iwayan: What she said is the ladies can have job every day but there are simple mind they have, maybe all they want is to buy rice for the family so they don’t have big…like they want to buy anything big like bracelet or necklace. They just want to support the family for the day.

Shaughan: One of the big things that we see, and you can see in the body language here. The ladies are the power house of the coffee industry and they do a lot of work. But typically they don’t get spoken to a lot, as you can see they’re pretty shy. For them having links to outside coffee companies, has that improved the village, have things changed for them?

Iwayan: They start to have money so they can start to go to the city because they have their own money. So probably they can go to salon maybe 3 months once for ceremony, to colour their hair cause it’s grey.

It brings back the culture that in Bali it is the woman who work, and the man is the driver. All the money go to the man and man organize all the money. They are the car and the man is the one to drive. Car is just making power and the driver is the key.

Shaughan: So do you want to go around to each of the ladies and just ask how much property they have and how much coffee trees they would have?

Iwayan: She (Nyoman Sudani) has 30 ara, that’s 30 square meters and they can grow about 300 coffee trees.

Wayan Risten has half a hectare.

And don’t ask her (Nyoman Rangki), she has like 6 hectares. My mother has 6 hectares.

Shaughan: And so over the years, have coffee become more important to the villge as you’ve developed relationships. Is coffee now a bigger part of a bigger percentage of income for the village?

Iwayan: Now I think that orange is unpredictable. Can make very big money, but then some time people will come buying the orange but they don’t pay. But at least with the coffee, I organize all the selling outside. At least I’m 100% sure that their money is going back to them, because orange they sell on their own. But the coffee all comes to one place and everything is managed in one place. The good thing is we can pay them cash, every coffee they bring. I think in the future when the orange is not around and a lot of this is for rents too.



Shaughan: And a lot more chemicals?

Iwayan: It make money on orange (for example) can be say 100 million IRP, then you gonna spend 50 million IRP just for chemical, fertilizer, labour and you have to spray them every two weeks. But on coffee you probably make 50 million IRP in say in one hectare, but you just claim money. You just need buy fertilizer that’s worth like 10 million IRP.

Shaughan: For the ladies, is there anything they’d love to see change in the village? Or improve? Like what would they like to see happen here?

Iwayan: Maybe these ladies, there’s not much they ask for. When I tell them the truth how much I sell the coffee, every time I sell more the coffee for I will can them extra on the sorting part. The sorting is hard for them.

Shaughan: And in terms of the education of their children, the welfare of their families, all those sort of things, is there anything they’d like to see change here?

Iwayan:  From the first grade on junior high school, that’s when the coffee start and she start to work for us here. She couldn’t put her daughter into school, plus she got one grandchildren and she doesn’t have a husband. And without the coffee, she couldn’t put the grandson into school. So basically yeah, everything is improved.

Pablo: A more generic question, from the moment you came back and you started to bring back coffee or put more focus on coffee growing in Ulian, how big has it grown? From like number of families or number of people that want to grow coffee too. How much did it grow from when you started 6 years ago? 

Iwayan: 3 years ago I start from zero, my dad only had one type of varietal, the Cobra (Colombian and Brazilian mix). Probably like 100 trees at the time, but he kept them because I said ‘please keep this one’. Basically they all start from zero. 

Pablo: How many people in Ulian started growing coffee since 3 years ago?

Iwayan: Last year (2017) everyone started growing coffee again, during the peak season I can prove to them that the price is worth it. It was from 3000 IRP per kg red cherry, last year I can prove to them it reached 9500 IRP on the peak season.

Pablo: How many farmers do you have bring their coffee to you?

Iwayan: Almost like 200 people. In Ulian mostly they bring it to 2 other mills, but in the end when they dried the coffee it will come to me. There are 3 mills in Ulian. They are small and maybe produce 500kg a day. They don’t have the proper drying beds or the drying house, so they can’t process but they still want to make some money because they’ve been in coffee so long and just want to do it.

Shaughan: Are any of the ladies planting more coffee?

Iwayan: They start again, we give them some tip if they want they can take from our one. We have some extra coffee trees.

Shaughan: So most of the kids once they get through high school, most of the children will leave Ulian?

Iwayan: Most, but some stay. Most of them will go out for work, for 3 or 4 years and they might realize that there’s more money at the village than in the city. Well actually there’s less money to earn here, but much less cost.

Shaughan: How do the ladies feel about all the kids leaving the village?

Iwayan: Basically they want their kid to go out of the village as soon as they can, they don’t want to see their kids wandering around the street and doing nothing. That’s what most kids do at the village because they don’t want to work on the farm, instead of doing that it’s better if they go out to the city. Maybe they’ll feel how hard the life can be there and they choose to come back.

Shaughan: There’s not really many job opportunities here for young adults? So if someone is less schooled, there’s not many work opportunities here?

Iwayan: There is a lot! But the dirty job, they need to work in the farm doing the coffee all day so there is no clean job in the village. There is clean job like a teacher but they need to pay for certificate to become a teacher. So if they don’t mind to get dirty, they can make money. Most of the kids want to look clean and tidy.

Pablo: Other than coffee, what do the ladies plant and grow? Just name it out!

Ladies: Coffee, orange, flowers, kidney beans, vegetables, chili, ginger, pumpkin, corn, lemongrass, bananas, durian, sweet potato, spices and more.

Shaughan: I imagine they do all the cooking at home right? Does all their food come from the village?

Iwayan: Mostly rice. They would buy fish or chicken outside, but the rest of it will come from the village. And all the spices come fresh.

Shaughan: Is life getting better/easier in the village? Or is it getting harder in the village? Just in general. 

Iwayan: A lot better. Now they eat rice, all they used to eat is sweet potato. That’s it. So now they can eat rice. They are the same age and now they check each other because they’re same age and they’re talking about how hard it was.

When they were very young, they worked together at the farm. They were collecting – they didn’t even have a stove – they were collecting wood to make a fire. And they were collecting all the sweet potato and they cook. And they eat only that one, that’s it. It was hard to get their own food.  But before the community is always on one side, like if my mother have a job or work to do then everyone will come to her. If another lady have work then everybody will go to her, they don’t get paid, they don’t work for money. But they work like helping each other. My mother have work to do so all the ladies come to help her. And the next day maybe to another farm, since none of them have money to pay each other. So they work paying with their energy.

Shaughan: What about, is it easier to educate their children now? Because schooling is expensive in Indonesia.

Iwayan: It is easier now because they make more money now, but they spend more to pay for the school. Before a lot of them didn’t go to school. The kids will come back on a Saturday and leave on Sunday, so the ladies will give them money for the following week. They’ll come to the mill to work and will be paid 60,000 IRP a day, so 420,000 IRP for the week.

Shaughan: So most of the kids for high school, have to leave Ulian. And they would board there, stay there, and come back. 

Shaughan: When I bring all the ‘bule’ (foreigner) back for a big origin trip, what should we bring the ladies for presents?

Iwayan: They make a joke, maybe just boil some sweet potato!

Iwayan: The most that make them happy is jackets, or t-shirts. If you give them money, you don’t see their face changing. But once you give them t-shirts. This is for you, present. Then you can see the changes on their face. Or some woman jacket, no need brand but simple.




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Great Coffee in Common: Carlos Tidow Gothong

Posted by Lucky Salvador on

Carlos Tidow Gothong
Owner of Fujinoya Philippines

How did you get started in the coffee business?
It was during my 2nd year in college, I was undertaking entrepreneurship as my major and I needed to produce a business that I could use as my thesis. I had a good background in baking and I wanted to pair it with coffee as well, I needed to learn all about coffee and at that time I thought the best coffee came from Starbucks so I applied for a job there, thankfully I wasn't accepted. I ended up working in a local coffee chain, very lax standard which allowed my to sort of figure out that coffee wasn't so one dimensional.

The first thing I learned was that you could actually make bad coffee, at the start I thought all coffee just tasted the same, the only difference being which one was stronger or fresher.

What recommendations do you have about coffee equipment?
Definitely work with your budget and market, doesn't make much sense to invest in best machines when you're only expecting 20 people a day, a typical direct 9 bar espresso machine can take care of that for you, even a single group one. The grinder is a more important investment too, no matter how great your machine is, it can't change the composition of your grind size, plus it might help you save on costs.  

What do you think about competitors? Do you treat them as one?
Cebu is still starting out in the specialty coffee scene so there's not much of a competition specialty coffee wise, I'd rather see commercial coffee as the hump to overcome and get people more used to specialty coffee!

How do you decide who will be a good baristas?
Good IQ and good EQ and definitely good work ethics. Passion plays an important role as well.

When and where did you have your first coffee-piphany?
I visited a barista in Singapore that used to work in the same local coffee shop chain that i worked for in Cebu, he made a name for himself to all the baristas in Cebu and I thought of just visiting his cafe where he was working in Singapore, there he gave me the best coffee I've ever tried at that time, and that got me hooked!

Who influenced/inspired you on your coffee journey?
Lucky Salvador and Markniel Madrelejos

Best ever coffee?
I think this is a trick question haha. But I did especially enjoy one brew recently, it was a duromina roasted by Gardelli but I think what made the flavours come out so spectacularly was the brewing process, a mixture of splitting and bypass on an Aeropress.

Describe the perfect setting to enjoy a coffee?
It depends, sometimes it's enough to drink by myself, losing my thoughts on the taste of the cup, the aroma, the finish. But it's fun to drink with a friend talking about coffee too; one of the best ways is to let the barista talk about the coffee you're drinking, no one knows more about the coffee you drink more than the guy who made it!

What is your favourite bean?
Hmmm maybe a floral El Salvador.. 

What's your relationship with Coffee?
It has it’s up and downs, sometimes you wanna give it your all and other times, it just doesn't seem worth it, especially since specialty is such a new idea here in Cebu and a lot of people either wanna bring you down or criticize you because you aren't doing it their way.

What has coffee taught you?
Passion and perseverance, a reverence to what nature can bring us and gratitude to the hard work of so many people.

What opportunities has coffee given you?
I think, if anything, it’s a place where I belong, something about making coffee, appreciating coffee and sourcing coffee, is just so enjoyable that I can't imagine life without it.

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Great Coffee in Common: Pop - Up Event!

Posted by Sarah Rouse on


Great Coffee in Common

A week-long specialty coffee exhibition café, hosted by Common Man Coffee Roasters. It is free for all to attend and there is no need for registrations. There will be coffee to taste, equipment to explore, information shared and good times to be had.


Date: Monday the 23rd of April – Friday the 27th of April
Time: 10am – 8pm Daily
Location: 161 Lavender St, #01-12
What is it all about:
At Common Man Coffee Roasters we aim to provide delicious, quality coffee, in a way that celebrated the relationships formed during the journey between bean and cup; from the farmers and millers to baristas and drinkers. This is why we started our #GreatCoffeeinCommon series, where we’ve had the opportunity to share stories and insights from the specialty coffee community.
We believe in great coffee and good people, and want what we do to reflect these values.


We are excited to have the opportunity to take #GreatCoffeeinCommon from the digital realm into real life at a week long pop-up event focusing on what we see as being key to great coffee – an excellent product, cutting edge equipment, expert knowledge and enough approachability to make things fun! 


How will this translate to our pop-up?

  • The Singapore launch of Synesso’s newest Espresso Machine, the S200
  • Showcasing Marco brewing and boiler technology
  • Showcasing our beautiful range of Loveramics ceramic-ware
  • A GCIC exhibition sharing the interviews we’ve gathered over the last 12 months.
  • We’ll be hosting some workshops and discussions, covering topics such as sensory skills & coffee knowledge, a guide to setting up your own café, up close with the Synesso S200, fundamentals of coffee roasting and refractometry for baristas,
  • We’re opening up a filter bar for to other local coffee roasters to share some of their delicious brews and contribute to a collaborative industry
  • We plan to end things on a high note with a closing party and Cup-Tasters competition on Friday night! (Registration details to come)
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Great Coffee in Common: Byron Lim

Posted by Joshua Liew on

Great Coffee in Common: Byron Lim, The Tiny Roaster 

When and how did your Roasting journey start?

It grew out of the necessity and sustainability for the café, and there was an opportunity to learn and grow inward/in-house. I wanted to know even more in-dept. about coffee, even more than my role as a barista. One natural question I had for myself all the time was, “How does a roaster influence the coffee and customer’s experience?”.

As a roaster now, I get to define the flavour and story of the coffee, it gives me greater influence and impact in every batch of roast that will affect the overall customer’s experience.

How will your roasting experience now add benefits to you make a cup of coffee if you hop behind a coffee bar?

Technically it helps me understand how different elements affect the taste of the coffee. How there are limitation that a barista will face which can be due to the Roast Profile, the Quality of Green, us not picking up the ‘Quakers’, and before that, I was just frustrated and questioned my own coffee knowledge and experience when I can’t perfecting calibrate the coffee.

How does a good grade/quality green affect the final cup? Can people expect good coffee using lower grade coffee?

Coffee quality is a roaster’s starting point. As a roaster I ask myself how I can take this coffee one step farther, how I can highlight the producers and barista too.

What do you look out for when you’re creating a blend? Balance is a very common word heard, but what is your view as a balance cup?

“Balance” to me is general market acceptance; not too boring or adventurous, a comfortable cup for everyone. Balance of Flavor, good body, good acidity. sweetness and consistency.

As a blend, it has to “Balance” the expectation of specialty familiar customer and also not specialty coffee drinker.

What will be your steps in helping a café create a Custom House Blend?

I’ll definitely be looking at who their customer-base is, who is drinking it, speak to them, get to understand what they like.

You will ask me: “Why not jump straight into a Cupping Session? Why choose such an inefficient way? Cos some of my client don’t even know what they are looking for?"

My answer, we want their customer’s opinion.

Getting cheap and cost effective coffee isn’t my goal but they are ways around it. My priority is to get a coffee the client can be proud of, and yet introduce a new dimension of coffee to them.

My approach is creating a blend from the End-User point-of-view.

What do you want to see happen in the coffee industry in the next 5 years?

More collaboration, create a more open-minded community, sharing information and coffee. Commune over coffee and talk about it, and I’ve seen that happen towards the end of last year.

Recently we collaborated with Homeground Roaster, and I was asked for the first time by them, “Hey, have you ever roasted coffee with another roaster from another company?”, and that spirit of Collaboration/Community is what I truly loved.

I want to see more people connect with the Barista, Roasters, Home Brewers.

When we closed Tiny last year, we lost not only a shop space but a community. Coffee to me is a medium that connects and create a community of people & conversation.

Is roasting the end goal for a Barista? Is it a nature progression? What is your advice?

Do what you like, do what you are good at. There are many baristas that knows how to roast and can roast really well too. But everyone has a part to play in this industry.

I love the technical side of roasting, I love the reach and influence I have as a roaster. Roasting is a lonely and repetitive job, but I love it!

But if you love to connect with people and make coffee, continue to be a barista, be honest with yourself. Don’t force yourself into a role, because the interest will naturally come. Expose yourself to roasting and do it for awhile, and then ask yourself if you love it.

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Great Coffee in Common: John Chew

Posted by Joshua Liew on

John Chew, - Head Barista at China House, Penang


Describe the perfect setting to enjoy a coffee.

There’s already nothing as perfect as a decent and easy cup of coffee.

How did you get started in the coffee business?

I do not own a cafe business for now. I got into my coffee career admiring how cool baristas appeared to be. I wanted to play with coffee machines and of course, I love coffee.

What's your relationship with coffee?

Coffee and I are just like a couple that is in love. I spend my time getting to know it better and I learned a lot since I first started 7 years ago. No doubt, we are in a long term, long running relationship.

In your opinion, what makes a good coffee?

Of course, it is a good barista to pair with good coffee beans. A good barista should know how to make his beans perform well into a cup that doesn't have indecent qualities.

Passion or money? Why?

Both are equally important. Passion and money are the keywords in sustaining the business.

As a barista, what do you think about competitors (cafes) in industry?

I never felt competitors are a category to focus our energy in a business. If there is competition, it should be healthy. We grow together, learn from each other, and share our knowledge. I visit other cafes quite often too as most experienced baristas actually love sharing their own coffee stories and knowledge, this is a form of information exchange.

How do you decide what defines a good barista?

A good barista should taste their coffee from time to time in a day, as we know coffee beans are sensitive to their environments and tend to change, making adjustments as necessary. Understand the origin of the beans and be able to impress guests with good coffee. But of course, baristas should never stop learning as coffee is a field of study and has great influence to the community.

 Wait for the right timing? Or just go for it?

Just go for it, you know you won’t always be lucky enough to get the right timing. That’s a big challenge, as you might not know what would be the result. I would say… no pain no gain.

What would you like to see happen in the coffee industry over the next ten years?

Coffee should become better accepted to masses, I think it would be a big winner for the food and beverage industry. Maybe there will be more options in how we serve it. What if we serve coffee like one of our daily vitamins like coffee tablets or capsules.   

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